How To Attend The Theatre In New York City

[I’ve attended 17 Broadway and Off-Broadway shows in New York City, so I think that makes me an expert on the subject.  Right?]

Photographic Proof or Bragging?  You decide.
Photographic Proof or Bragging? You decide.

The more I go to New York, the better I get at going to Broadway shows – because, believe me, there are certain things about going to a Broadway show that everyone must know!

1) Don’t dress upEveryone knows that only out-of-towners dress up for a play, and you don’t want to be viewed as an out-of-towner!  Imagine my horror when I wore a nice dress to see Macbeth (I didn’t have room to pack my ball gown, so I had to settle for a business/casual dress).  I thought I’d be okay, but I overheard someone say that “only tourists dress up for the theatre”.  The jig was up – I had been found out!  I could feel their eyes on me – judging me because I was … *gasp* from out-of-town! 

So remember to put on your torn/dirty jeans and shrug into a t-shirt or frumpy sweater.  The last thing you want is to be is a *shudder* tourist (or someone who wants to look nice).


2) Stop drinking water/liquids at least 1.5 hours before showtime.  If you have a very tiny bladder make it 2 hours or more.  Theatre shows can run long and there isn’t a pause button, so make sure you won’t have to go to the bathroom during the show.

Of course, if you went during the show at least the line would be short.

See, something nobody talks about is the bathroom situation in NYC Theatres.  There are theatres in New York which do not have enough bathrooms for all of the attendees – especially of the female variety.

The Theatre where I saw Sonia and Vanya and Masha and Spike is considered one of Broadway’s smallest theatres – seating only 800.  It only has 5 stalls in the women’s room.  By comparison, the theatre I work at in Halifax seats under 500 and has 2 women’s rooms, each with 5-6 stalls.

Just for fun, let’s do a little Bathroom Math!  The night I was there the theatre was full, but let’s round down to 700 attendees, just to make it fair.  So, that’s 700 people in one building.  The majority of attendees appeared to be women, but we’ll be fair again and say that 50% of the people in the building were women – giving us 350 women in one building.  Now, let’s say that 2/3 of the women went to the bathroom before leaving the house.  That leaves us with 116 women who will need to use the bathroom – which seems to be an appropriate number for the night that I was there (judging by how long the line was).  With only 5 bathroom stalls that means 23 “cycles”.  If each woman managed to get in and out in 2 minutes, that’s 46 minutes that the bathroom will have to be occupied for all the ladies to get a turn.

Now here’s the fun part – they didn’t open the doors to the theatre until 30 minutes before the show started! 

Do the math – it’s not on your side, ladies.


3) You Don’t Have To Line Up.  As mentioned above, many theatres do not open their doors until 30 minutes before the show begins.  A lot of people choose to get to the theatre early to line up outside – but I wouldn’t recommend doing this, especially if the weather’s bad.  You have your ticket and a reserved seat, so you can go 20 minutes early, avoid the line, and still make it to your seat on time. 

Well, unless you want to go to the bathroom beforehand…


4) When you get inside the theatre go directly to the bathroom.  If you have to use the bathroom before the show, show up early and go directly to the bathroom as soon as your ticket is scanned (see: Bathroom Math above).  Don’t worry – your seat will still be there when you’re finished.  If you’re lucky there will not be a line up, but if there is you want to make sure that you’re near the head of the line.  Also, go to the bathroom on the Orchestra/Stalls level, as sometimes they’re the only bathrooms in the theatre or have more stalls than the Balcony/Mezzanine.  I lined up at 20 minutes to show time and barely had 3 minutes to get to my seat.  I don’t know if the 20+ women in line behind me made it to their seats on time.

You know what, just find a coffee shop nearby and go to the bathroom there instead.  But be nice – buy a bottle of water or some of those black & white cookies that are so awesome.


5) Be aware that the audience will clap.  I’m not talking about applause at the end of the show or for a really good joke/monologue.  If the show you’re seeing has a famous person in it the audience will clap as soon as that person walks on stage.  The person doesn’t even have to do anything other than appear – they could phone it in for the rest of the play (thankfully most of them don’t). 

If you want to blend in clap along with them, otherwise you might look like an outsider (I choose the outsider route).  Just don’t start clapping for the non-famous people or people might look at your strange.


6) …  F*ck it – just enjoy yourself.  You’re at a Broadway (or off-Broadway) show, after all.  Laugh when you want to, clap if you feel like it, and give a standing ovation if you think they deserve it (even if nobody else does).  Just pretend that you’re from New York and I’m sure nobody will care.

And for the love of god, never go to the bathroom at intermission.

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