After the pandemic shut down theaters and performance spaces worldwide, society spent months being unable to practice their audience etiquette skills. Now, despite the considerable amount of time that has passed since the world reopened, stories have leaked from venues all over the nation about rude audience members whose manners have fallen into neglect.
The Athens community is lucky enough to consist of entertainment venues where the audience is there to truly experience art, thus resulting in minimal audience disruptions. One of these venues is the Athena Cinema, 20 S. Court St.
Spencer Caputo, a fifth-year student studying interior architecture, has been working at the Athena Cinema for a year and a half, and lauds his workplace for being an environment that welcomes positive audience members.
“People who come here are really respectful of movies,” he said. “People are better at staying quiet and being off their phones … but you definitely still have the people that will come … and have a conversation (during a movie).”
Similar to The Athena, Donkey Coffee is a local preference for people who enjoy the arts and want to experience it in a supportive and receptive environment. Olivia Tenoglia has been working at the 17 W. Washington St. coffeehouse for approximately seven months, and has worked during live events.
“(The environment is) largely supportive,” she said. “People come to support people and to have those exchanges of art in informal ways.”
When asked about both the best and worst audience behaviors, Tenoglia had a few different instances come to mind.
“The worst thing I see consistently is folks who don’t realize that it’s open mic night and are taking up the space when people are coming to see the performances,” she said.
Tenoglia said the best common courtesies she sees are when audience members pay attention rather than talking or completing homework, listen respectfully or even come up and speak with the artists after their shows.
Dave Deivi has been coordinating the Open Stage events at Donkey Coffee for a year and a half, and has a unique perspective from which to comment on audience etiquette.
“I always start off each Open Stage reminding the crowd here at Donkey that we are consistently told by performers … that this is the most attentive, most supportive audience that this community has, and I just remind them that it’s a privilege to be thought of that way,” he said. “In the instance that people come in after I have that conversation with the audience and are sitting back and just talking and are sort of oblivious, I don’t assume that that's something nefarious. It's just that they are not used to the atmosphere that we try to cultivate.”
Deivi recalls the occasional instance where he has to speak to audience members about being disruptive.
“Nobody has given me attitude, some of them may (agree), get quiet for 20 seconds and then talk again,” he said. “Then, I come back up to them … and then they usually either leave or think, ‘Yeah, maybe I’ll try that out.’ I would rather have them leave in a huff than have the person on stage feeling neglected or ignored.”
These two venues attract different types of audiences, but another local staple, Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium, assembles a third. This audience is generally polite.
Peyton Irwin has been a ticket clerk at the auditorium for over a year.
“We’ve had a couple scenarios where … people had a little bit too much to drink and then something came up,” Irwin said. “People are normally really respectful.”
Irwin reiterated the sentiments of the other venues’ employees when asked about common courtesies that are welcomed and encouraged.
“Honestly, just thanking us,” she said. “Being kind and smiling and thanking is always a good thing to (do).”
In general, audience behaviors in Athens seem to lean on the courteous side, although there will undoubtedly always be the occasional person who doesn’t seem to understand the preferred etiquette of an audience member. All three said by simply being attentive during an event and grateful to those who host it, being a respectful audience member is entirely doable.