When Should the Curtain Rise? How Starting the Show On-time is Good for Theatre

For some, time is the ultimate measure of respect.

There are people who make and adhere to schedules. They are prompt, operating on the belief that to be on time actually requires a commitment to being early.

There are also people who float through life showing up when they want, convinced that the world will accommodate them.

One area where scheduled start times and actual start times not lining up is taking a toll is at the theater.

Is it because the actors aren’t ready on time? I have rarely run into this in all my years as a performer and director.

Case in point – I even might have broken a whole host of traffic laws on one occasion when I was forced to speed from the Mexican border to make it to Los Angeles in time for the curtain to rise on-time for a production of West Side Story. I literally came from another country, and we started on time. That’s what actors do. We find a way to make it happen.

The delayed start times I’m seeing now come from audiences not being in their seats on time. And, it’s getting worse.

I am now seeing a disheartening trend towards holding the curtain longer and longer for latecomers. I understand that things like widespread traffic or weather emergencies might affect large droves of ticketholders necessitating a delayed start from time to time.  But outside of that, I think it’s time to start enforcing a responsible start time.

To that end – An Open Letter to the Chronically Tardy Theatergoer

Arriving at a play on time should be a priority for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it shows respect for the audience, the performers, and the production team. It also helps to create a sense of anticipation and excitement, and it can make the play more enjoyable for everyone involved.

Respect for the Audience

When people buy tickets to a play, they expect to see it start on time. Arriving late is disrespectful to the rest of the audience, as it disrupts the flow of the play and can make it difficult for people to follow the story. It can also be frustrating for people who have made a special effort to be there on time, such as those who have traveled a long distance or those who have taken time off work.

Respect for the Performers

Performers also deserve to be respected by starting the play on time. They have put a lot of hard work into preparing for the show, and they want to give their best performance. When the play starts late, it can be disruptive and make it difficult for the performers to stay in character. It can also be demoralizing, as it can make them feel like their time is not being valued.

Respect for the Production Team

Further, the production team should be properly respected by starting the play on time. They have worked hard to make the show happen, and they want it to go off without a hitch. When the play starts late, it can add to their stress and make it more difficult for them to do their jobs. It can also lead to problems such as technical difficulties and missed cues.

Creating Anticipation and Excitement

Starting a play on time can also help to create a sense of anticipation and excitement. When people know that the play is starting soon, they are more likely to be focused and engaged. This can lead to a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

Holding the curtain too long can kill the mood just as badly as a date who dines on raw onion sandwiches.

You Will Have a Better Time!

Finally, arriving at a play on time can simply make the play more enjoyable for you as an audience member. When you are in your seat and ready on time, there is no need to rush or worry about being late. This allows you to relax and enjoy the show. It also helps to create a sense of flow and momentum, which can make the play more immersive and enjoyable.

Results in the Best Performances

Actors, singers, and dancers are like athletes. They train and prepare to perform at a peak level. A professional sprinter who is warmed up and ready for a race is going to perform far better if they aren’t left at the starting line for 10 minutes waiting in uncertainty.

Obviously, there are many reasons why it is important to start a play on time. It’s also understandable that there may be exceptions from time to time, such as an expressway being shut down, or a violent unexpected storm hitting the area. In those cases, a delay is understood. But delays shouldn’t be the rule.

If you are planning to attend a play, please do your part by arriving early. It will make the experience more enjoyable for everyone – including yourself. Be aware of the traffic conditions and allow for extra time if necessary.

You bought the tickets. Obviously you want to support the arts – which everyone should do. We love that you support the arts. Another way of showing support is by being on time.

And I politely suggest that theaters be conscious about steering away from the inclination to hold the curtain for the stragglers. It’s getting to be a little too much.

I understand that running a theater is a business. You never want to disrespect any ticket buyer by starting without them, but not starting reasonably close to the announced performance time is a bit disrespectful to those already in their seats.

What do you think? What’s the best solution?

Peace. Love. Trust.

Rikki Lee Travolta

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One comment

  1. Absolutely EXCELLENT article!!!! This has been a major frustration for awhile and seems to be happening everywhere on a regular basis!!!

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