DRTCC Blog

OPINION: When Common Courtesy Takes A Back Seat

Saturday, April 07, 2012

There is an issue that has somewhat divided DRTCC patrons. An issue that affects everyone who attends a show at the Theatre. From the comments we receive from patrons, it is an issue that appears to be as controversial as climate change or marriage equality. It is something that many believe impacts on their freedom and discourages their pursuit of happiness. Something that has received requests to re-design the Theatre, involving substantial construction work and great expense. But, what will it take to resolve this issue once and for all? Is it a matter of fact or simply a matter of opinion (which we know are two vastly different things)?

So far, the twenty-first century has given us very little in the way of human progression. If anything, society has taken a number of backwards steps from the peak of the nineties (although, this too is open to opinion). Few people are willing to help each other, even to the point that if someone does offer their fellow person a hand, it is perceived as extraordinary. Courtesy has been largely forgotten due to the speed in which we live our lives. Even a simple “please” or “thank-you” has become something of folklore.

This issue has come from you, the people. Twenty-first century society. Following every performance we receive a number of comments from those who have been in attendance. The opinion seems to be that there is not enough leg room in the Theatre.

Patrons have offered a number of solutions to this concern. One being that a centre aisle be established. Disregarding the professional advice that no centre aisle is legally required for up to 120 seats in a row (ever been to a stadium?) and that The Joyce Schneider Auditorium would lose at least 70 seats (the best seats in the house as they would be centrally located), substantially increasing ticket prices, it would cost Dubbo ratepayers a considerable amount to remove the seating and establish the centre aisle.

So, let me ask you this question: do you sigh excessively and object when other patrons try to get past you while you stay seated in your seat? Do you refuse to allow them the politeness that you would expect if you were in the same situation? There are two apparent sides to this issue. On one side are those who don’t like having to stand every time someone wants to get past them. On the other side are those who hate when they have to struggle past people who refuse to stand to allow easier access. I’m sure most of you have seen the issue from one of these perspectives and many of you from both.

Now, I don’t know how long your legs are, but I am sure you are no Robert Wadlow (the tallest person in recorded history). Myself, I am no short spout. My height is in excess of six feet and I have not once had an uncomfortable experience sitting in the Theatre seats. There is room to cross your legs. There is a little room to stretch. But having said that, the Theatre is not a lounge room. At DRTCC you get a similar Theatre experience to that offered at the Sydney Opera House. Those who have been to that venue will remember that there is no centre aisle and that their seats are spaced apart comparably to those in The Joyce Schneider Auditorium.

To add to my case I often attend the Theatre with my seventy-something year old grandmother and she has never once commented that the seating is in any way uncomfortable or inhibiting.

Courtesy is holding a door open for someone who is entering behind you. Offering to make a cup of tea for someone else when you are making one for yourself. And standing politely to let someone past when they have a little further to walk to get to their seat. Even if it means standing two, three, four or more times. When my seat is toward the end of a row, I have never once had a problem politely standing to let someone else through to their seat. Actually, I enjoy the social interaction with the passer-by. After all, a stranger is just a friend you are yet to meet. And to the other 15 people who also need to get by to find their seat I extend the same courtesy. I’m sure that you would expect this gesture when you are standing at the end of a full row trying to get to your spot in the middle.

So you see, this issue has nothing to do with the way the Theatre is designed. If there was more leg room you may say that there was too much room to we could’ve added more seats. Dubbo City Council, and for that matter all building contractors around Australia, have strict building regulations and codes to which they must adhere. It was not something that was scribbled on a restaurant napkin without much thought. Many venues were inspected, including the Sydney Theatre Company at Walsh Bay, prior to even coming up with a design for The Joyce Schneider Auditorium. I wonder if the staff of Sydney Theatre Company ever have their patrons commenting on the state of their seating?

A theatre experience is commonly prefaced with the line “sit back, relax and enjoy the show”. But for a public setting I think that line should be amended to acknowledge the social interaction that forms a large part of attending a performance. So, the next time you come to a show, remember this line instead: “come together, meet, greet and enjoy the experience”.



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