Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Etiquette for Theatricals

Patrons arriving after the rise of certaln will not be seated until after the close of the act in progress at the time of their arrival. This action is taken in justice to those who have cultivated the commendable habit of being punctual.
"They Like to Make a Display"

Theatrical Managers Discuss a Rule to Squelch the Richly Dressed Late-Comers

WHETHER or not the majority who arrive at the theater before the curtain goes up shall be annoyed and have their pleasure interrupted by the minority who come late, is a matter that is attracting the attention of the theatrical managers of the city. The discussion of the subject was brought about by the publication in The San Francisco Call recently of a rule which is fully enforced in Eastern cities. 


In one of the popular theaters of Denver, the adopted rule is as follows: "Patrons arriving after the rise of curtain will not be seated until after the close of the act in progress at the time of their arrival. Accommodations will be provided for seating late-comers in the rear of the theater until that time. This action is taken in justice to those who have cultivated the commendable habit of being punctual." 

While the managers all agree as to the justice and desirability of such a rule and would be as glad to hail its general advent as they were that of the ordinance which made Captain Hottanzi famous, and relegated for all time the big theater hat to its proper place, they do not think it can be made a success in San Francisco. 

"The rule is a very proper one and I sincerely hope some way may be found to bring about its adoption in an effective manner," said J. J. Gottlob of the firm of Friedlander, Gottlob & Co., managers of the Baldwin, Columbia and California theaters. "For instance. you take such plays as were presented by Henry Miller, where the utmost quiet and attention were required for their proper appreciation. It was a gross imposition upon those who arrived promptly to have people come stringing in all through the first act, spoiling the scenes for others and distracting the players. 

"The women are the worst culprits in this respect," continued Mr. Gottlob. "In many instances this late coming is the result of false pride. Some have a beautiful new gown or wrap, and it is necessary that they should come in late so that there can be no possibility of their being overlooked by the other women.
"Yes. I am late. But look at my fabulous new wrap from Paris!"
Then there is that class who are afraid their friends present will not know they are at the theater unless they come in about the middle of the first act, and the higher the price of the ticket, the more such people seem to feel obligated to commit this infraction of the niceties of playhouse etiquette. 

It is hard to regulate such people, because if they could not do these things, the play would have little attraction for them. However, you can take these same individuals under other circumstances and they pride themselves on their politeness and good breeding. 

"Probably the only way such a nuisance can be abolished will be by the force of public sentiment. If these late-comers were convinced that the early comers they so regularly annoy, regard them as ill-bred people who do not know any better, they would soon find it fashionable to be in their seats before the rise of the curtain." "I tried that scheme a part of one evening, and nearly had a riot," said Mark Thall, manager of the Alcazar, "and I am content to let people have their own way in this matter. I am the grandfather of the managers of this coast, and through a lifetime of experience, I have evolved the idea that I don't want to pose as a reformer. 

The other fellows can do that. I believe In conducting my theater in the same manner that a first-class dry-goods house is run— keep what the people want and give it to them without playing favorites. This matter of punctual and late coming is between the playgoers, and if the early comers, who are the majority, cannot suppress the objectionable late comers, it is their own fault. 
The proud Papa who shows up late to the theater, so as to show off his four marriageable daughters.
In this matter, notwithstanding, it would be very delightful to have such a rule accepted. I propose to keep right in the middle of the road. I have had enough of trying to regulate these swelled-head, young bucks who think that because they have bought a seat or two they own the theater. They are the fellows who would block this game, for they have neither manners nor sense." 

"Such a rule could not be successfully applied to a vaudeville house," said Manager Morriaty of the Orpheum, "but if I were running a legitimate house, I would expect to make a failure if I did not protect the best class of my patrons in that way. These late comers don't care for the play. They are the kind of people who will pay $7 to hear Melba, and not arrive until the latter part of the first act. They don't understand the music and don't care to, but they know how to make themselves conspicuous and a nuisance to those who are there to enjoy the attraction." 

The New Comedy Theater has adopted the rule and put it in force successfully on Monday night. "Our theory," said Manager Kllinghouse, "Is to at all times, comply with the wishes of our patrons in every possible way, and in justice to our early comers we are in duty bound to carry out the policy of instructing our ushers to seat the house to the rise of the curtain on the first act, then to keep in waiting until each act is at an end for the seating of patrons that may enter the auditorium, who would then be seated, between acts. 

This policy is being carried to a successful issue in all the leading theaters in the East, and should be adopted by the local theaters of this city. We appeal to our patrons in this cause, as our policy in the future will be carried out as above announced." — San Francisco Call, 1898

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