Theater Etiquette and Other Moral Quandries: The Cough

If you have a cough, do you still go to the theater?

Superman? by Christophe Huet

In all likelihood, going to the theater for you is a bit of a to do—an event that you have shaped part of your week around, or, at least, your day. In all likelihood, the theater you’re attending does not have so lenient a ticket-policy that you can simply trade for another night once your cough has subsided. At stake is the cost of a ticket you have already paid for, in addition to missing a show you want to see. Are you really likely to buy a second ticket?

But what about the people around you if you do go? And the actors onstage? Do you worry about disturbing them? For some, there is no question: they do not worry about disturbing them, just like they don’t worry when they talk during the show, or let their cell phones go off, or unwrap candy in the middle of a scene. But those people do not read this blog. Because I have banned them. For life.


But most of you worry. So what do you do? Do you go, down a shot of cough syrup before taking your seat, unwrap a couple suckers before the curtain rises, have your cup of water ready, and hope for the best? Or do you skip it.

Today, we were faced with this dilemma for the closing performance of Marcus. My wife has a new gig at a design firm, and part of the orientation process was to catch the company cough. It is a persistent little bugger, and not one easily quieted. The show is closing, so this would be her last chance to see it; at the same time, this is closing and the idea of being responsible for the coughs shooting down from the balcony into the actors’ eardrums as they give their farewell performance to this beautiful show . . . well, not something either one of us was ready to accept. So we didn’t go.

But, I had already seen it. And we didn’t pay for the tickets. And, honestly, going into the city on the weekend is one our least favorite things to do. There were a number of factors, is what I am saying. But the deal breaker was the cough.

What would you have done?


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