Audience Etiquette

Attending a live performance is an important and exciting part of learning about the arts. For many students, class field trips may be their first experience in a theater or performance hall. They may not be aware of what is expected of them in terms of audience etiquette.

This classroom activity, provided for the KET Arts Toolkit by the Kentucky Center, can be adapted for a variety of grade levels and used in anticipation of field trips to concerts, theater performances, or dance performances, or even in-school performances by visiting artists.

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Activity time: 15 minutes


Make a copy of the chart below for each student. (We’ve also provided a printer-friendly handout version for you to duplicate which you can download below.)

Ask students to place a check mark, or make a note, in the chart space underneath each type of performance to indicate whether the behavior in the first column is always OK, sometimes acceptable, or not acceptable.

Using this handout, discuss as a class audience traditions in sporting events, movies, theater performances, and various types of concerts. Note the differences in traditions between different types of events.

Discuss why it’s OK to talk during some kinds of events and not others. Discuss special times to get up and walk around, such as intermission. If relevant, discuss special types of performance where behavior might be different from the usual, such as “participatory theater” performances.

From this discussion, come up with a list of acceptable behavior for the type of performance the class is going to see.

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Audience Etiquette Checklist

Audiences have different traditions in the ways they enjoy different kinds of events. We eat, talk, or cheer loudly at some events but not at others. Fill out the following table showing the different kinds of audience traditions. Is the listed behavior always acceptable, sometimes acceptable, or never acceptable at each kind of event?

Type of event

Behaviors Sporting Event Movie Live Theater Rock Concert Jazz Concert Orchestra Concert Ballet Opera School Per-
Cheer during action or performance                  
Stand up or walk around during action or performance                  
Give a standing ovation                  
Applaud at end                  
Clap along in time with music                  

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More suggestions for a successful trip to a live arts performance:

  • Discuss in advance what students can expect: what the performance hall looks like; whether there are likely to be ushers. Ask others students who might have attended a performance in the space to describe what it was like.
  • Discuss whether there will be a program and, if so, what type of information can be found in it.
  • Get ready for the performance by discussing the story, if it’s a play, opera, or ballet; the type of music, if it’s a concert; and the performing group or acting company. Offer ideas to help students identify, understand, and analyze what they will see and hear.

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K-12The Arts