Pat Clark

I don't want to say I told you so -- mostly

We took a little heat around here a few months ago when we ran a package on theater etiquette during our previews to the opening of the Gallo Center for Arts.

Some even wrote disgusted letters to the editor over what they perceived as a suggestion that Modestans are too backwater to know how to act.

Incidentally, I, ahem, wrote the package.

Fast-forward three months to several reports, more letters to the editor about and firsthand witnessing of ill-conceived behavior by some people during Gallo Center shows.

Arts writer Lisa Millegan not only has witnessed said behavior during her coverage of Gallo events but even had one frustrated arts patron stop her last week to ask if The Bee could run a story on, that's right, theater etiquette.

Among the actions noted:

An infant who babbled on during a show (spurring a surprised actress to stop and ask the audience, "Did somebody bring a baby?")

Clapping between movements during a classical piano performance (despite subtle gestures from the pianist attempting to deter it)

Glaring lights coming from cell phones as audience members text message (why even buy the ticket if you're not going to watch the show?)

And -- most shockingly of all -- a woman actually talking freely on her cell phone during a theatrical performance

Oh, no she di-ent.

Oh, yes, Lisa assured me, she did.

Despite the above sightings and suggestions by letter writers, I do not think Modestans are backwater. I think there are multitudes of people all over the region who brim with etiquette. What I do think is that there are a few others who simply don't realize how their actions affect those around them. And they are in every town and city, no matter how small or how big.

People everywhere publicly chitchat on their cell phones, for example, and do so in volumes far louder than they would use if they were talking to a person standing next to them. Not everyone seems to realize how it sounds outside their own personal space.

And, in all fairness, if you aren't a regular patron of classical music, you wouldn't know about the not clapping between movements thing. Certainly, no one is suggesting that only regular patrons attend the Gallo events.

But text messaging and cell-phone chatter during a show? There's no excuse. Even if there were an emergency, a person could quietly slip out of the theater to take care of matters.

The etiquette stories never were intended to suggest Modesto is teeming with ill-mannered people, by the way. They were intended to offer pointers to people who'd never been to live shows and to ease any anxiety they might have over the hows and whys.

So, let's leave it with this: Just because YOU know how to act at the theater doesn't mean everybody else does. Some might need a few pointers.

And still others might need their cell-phone service cut off.

Speaking of rude, we had a 30-minute-long testing of the fire-drill system here at The Bee on Monday. Evacuation instructions repeated over and over, ad nauseam, plus blaring alarms and flashing lights that gave us all a little insight into the wild times at Studio 54 without the great beats or Andy Warhol.

For 30 minutes. Straight.

Of course, I was grateful for the nod to our safety, but I decided it was, nonetheless, a good time to take a break. Sadly, the affront on my car radio made me wish I'd stuck with the repeating evacuation instructions and strobes: John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" as performed by ... wait for it ...

Wait for it ...

Celine Dion.

Oh, no she di-ent.

Seriously, who let her do that? That's just wrong. Even more wrong than taking an infant to live theater.

But it's not more wrong than talking on your cell phone during a performance. That one, I have to give to Celine.

To comment, click on the link with this story at www.modbee.com. Scene editor Pat Clark can be reached at pclark@modbee.com.

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