Instructions to the Audience, from “The Frogs”
(by Stephen Sondheim)
Please don't cough.
It tends to throw the actors off.
Have some respect for Aristophanes
Please don't squeak.
We haven't oiled the seats all week.
You wouldn't want to miss a single word of Greek,
It's hard enough for us to hear each other speak
If you see flaws, please,
No loud guffaws, please,
Only because, please,
There are politer ways.
As for applause, please,
When there's a pause, please,
Although we welcome praise,
The echo sometimes lasts for days…
Don't take notes
To show us you know all the famous quotes.
And when you disapprove, don't clear your throats
Or throw your crumpled programs, coins and coats
Or tell your neighbor scintillating anecdotes.
And please, refrain
From candy wrapped in cellophane.
If we should get rhetorical,
Please don't curse.
Wait til it's allegorical,
And in verse!
If we should get satirical,
Don't take it wrong.
And if, by a sudden miracle
A tune should appear that's lyrical,
Don't hum along.
When we are waxing humorous,
Please don't wane.
The jokes are obscure but numerous…
When we are waxing serious,
Don't squirm or laugh.
It starts when we act mysterious.
And if you're in doubt, don't query us.
I'll signal you when we're serious.
(It's in the second half.)
Please, don't swim.
The theater is a temple, not a gym.
We may be in the middle of a sacred hymn,
Don't say, “What?”
To every line you think you haven't got.
And if you're in a snit because you've missed the plot
(Of which, I admit, there's not an awful lot),
Do not intrude, please,
When someone's nude, please.
She's there for mood, please,
And mustn't be embraced.
If we are crude, please,
Don't sit and brood, please.
Let's not be too strait-laced –
The author's reputation isn't based
So please, don't fart –
There's very little air and this is art.
And should we get offensive, don't lose heart.
Pretend it's just the playwright being smart.
Eventually we'll get to the catharsis, then depart.
(Italics represent spoken lines. The repeated words in parentheses are chorus lines.)