Withering Glance: Theater etiquette for one and all

  • Article by: RICK NELSON and CLAUDE PECK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 8, 2012 - 7:45 PM

Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.

Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.

RN: My wish list for jolly old St. Nick has a single request: An end to pre-performance curtain speeches. God bless us, every one!

CP: One finds one's seat, awaits the lights out, the drama of a rising curtain and the start of a performance. And then instead, a fundraising appeal. Total bringdown. That is anti-theater, and never a good idea. Sounds like you are just winding up, however.

RN: Most of my Crimes Against Aeschylus originate from the audience side of the footlights.

CP: Surely none of your fellow humans has done anything to annoy you?

RN: We've met, right? Just last month at the ballet, the prospect of residing in Oak Park Heights at state expense was the only thing keeping me from doing bodily harm to the man seated next to me. I prefer listening to Stravinsky, not the sound of someone chewing every last piece of ice from their jug-sized vessel of Coca-Cola.

CP: We went to the late show of "Life of Pi" on a Sunday, and I was so happy to see that there was not a single other person in the theater. That means no one to park their big head right in front of me, no one to provide running commentary to his hard-of-hearing seatmate, no waiting for the large bag of popcorn to be noisily munched until empty. Did not like the ham-handed movie, btw.

RN: I saw "Lincoln" last weekend -- loved it, btw -- and there were several loud toddlers in the audience. Who hauls a 2-year-old to a serious, nearly three-hour movie? Some old coot -- and it wasn't me, I swear -- finally yelled, "Quiet!" I wanted to kiss him.

CP: No one has kissed this old coot in a moviehouse for years, but that's just me whining. Again.

RN: A major pet peeve of mine, particularly at classical-music concerts -- remember those? -- is the dreaded unwrapping of the cough drop. Invariably, the cougher believes that a slow extrication will be less intrusive, but that only means that the annoying crinkling will go on. And on. And on.

CP: It's like Chinese water torture. You presumably have a view on late seating. A dim view, that is.

RN: That's what intermission and lobby closed-circuit monitors are for, and I say that with love and as someone who is perpetually five minutes late.

CP: I always remember your sage putdown of those who insist on clapping at the ballet after every major leap-and-spin combo: "People, this is not figure skating." When may one applaud at a dance performance without inviting your scorn?

RN: When the dancers take a bow. In an old "Live From Lincoln Center" video of Balanchine's "Theme and Variations," there's a moment when Gelsey Kirkland and the orchestra simultaneously -- and yes, thrillingly -- stop on a dime, provoking some gigantic queen to scream "Brava!" It singlehandedly set the gay rights movement back several decades.

CP: What can I say? I was moved to tears.

E-mail: witheringglance@startribune.com Follow on Twitter: @claudepeck and @RickNelsonStrib

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