- 06, Dec 2018
- Parisian theatre
- Amanda Mehtala
Congrats! You’ve dived in and are ready to immerse yourself in French theatre culture for a night with the Parisians. You may be asking yourself: How will I find the theatre? What now? What if I can’t understand? Is there any special theatre-going etiquette in France I should know about? Heading out for a live show at the theatre in another country may seem like a daunting task, but not to worry, we’ve put together the perfect list of everything you should expect, so you can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!
Step One (the most important!) - finding the theatre and getting your tickets!
With playhouses and theatres of all sizes hidden throughout the city of Paris, you may first be wondering where to go. While many theatres are clustered in the chic 9th arrondissement of Paris, the so-called Paris theatre district, the Parisian theatre scene is less centralized than in other cities and there are amazing French plays in every corner of the City of Lights. To find where your performance is playing, your first step is to check your confirmation voucher directly. You should have received your voucher as part of the email confirmation when completing your booking with Theatre in Paris. On your voucher, you will find all the information you need, including the venue name and its exact address in Paris (see image above). All of our partner theatres are conveniently located within walking distance from one of the Paris metro stops, or alternatively you can simply indicate the venue address to any Parisian taxi driver, they’ll know where to go. We recommend arriving at the venue at least 15 minutes in advanced to the showtime marked on your voucher.
Alright, you’ve made it to your destination with plenty of time to spare, now what? Head to the ticket booth located at the front of the theatre by the entrance. Here, you will interact with one of the lovely theatre staff to exchange your emailed voucher for your official ticket. Don’t have access to a printer while you’re in Paris? No problem, you can show the email voucher directly on your smartphone as well; simply show them the voucher and they’ll know what to do! Anyone seeing a French performance featuring English subtitles will also receive at this time a specially-made show programme in English giving details about the show, the performers, and the venue itself.
Step Two - Alright, now you’re ready for your seat!
You’ve found the venue and have your tickets in hand, now time to have a seat! Seating will usually begin about 10 minutes before a performance, so should you arrive earlier than this you may have to wait a few moments. This is the perfect time to have a look around the lobby, head to the restroom, grab a quick drink in the theatre bar (time permitting), or even say hello to a few Parisian theatre-goers! Once seating begins, look for the theatre ushers, the Master of Ceremonies of sorts who will facilitate the seating process and ensure everyone is properly in their place. You will show the usher your ticket, and he or she will happily guide you to your seats.
**This is where our most valuable tip comes in, should you wish to really be a Parisian theatre-goer. While not mandatory, it is very customary to tip the usher seating you a small gratuity, generally 2-5€. We generally recommend preparing a few coins in advance so as not to be fumbling in your bags and wallets during the seating. This gratuity does not go to Theatre in Paris nor to the venue, but to the individual usher themself. This tradition has been in practice for centuries across France to ensure proper compensation of the ushers. Did you know, the French word for tip is pourboire, literally meaning to have a drink.
Step Three- Sit back, relax & look up!
So you’re in your seats and ready for the show to begin! Here, it will depend what kind of show you will be seeing.
For shows in English or featuring no dialogue at all, you don’t have any subtitles to worry about, or any French. Don’t forget to check out the theatre around you, many Parisian playhouses are classified historical monuments and feature a rich history in the ornate interiors. We simply invite you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!
If you have purchased tickets to one of our subtitled performances, you are seated in the balcony offering an optimal view of both the subtitles and the action on the stage. The subtitles will be projected directly on a screen either centrally above the stage or to either side of the action. Read through your show programme, and look up to identify the location of the subtitles. Once the performance begins, you will find that following along using the subtitles is just like watching a subtitled movie. It may take a minute or two to get acclimated, but not to worry, you will be able to laugh and cry right along with the Parisian audience without missing a word!
Step Four - the post-show applause
Alas, the show has come to an end, how did you enjoy it? Another French theatre tradition some might find surprising is their love of showing adoration, in the form of a long applause session and multiple exits and entries onto the stage, repeated bows, and even a standing ovation if you’re lucky. Upon the end of the performance, get your hands ready to clap along with the rest of the room, French audiences love applause! Ever wondered why we clap to show appreciation? Discover the history of applause!
Step Five - Embrace the language mishaps!
A deep dive into French culture such as this ensures a wonderfully unique experience. Don’t forget, that what makes such experiences memorable is always the interactions and individuals that come along with it. We ensure all our partner theatres are properly equipped and speak a minimum level of English, but you’d also be surprised how much can be communicated with simple gestures, the true art of miming! During your interactions with the ticket booth, the ushers, and other French theatre-goers, don’t be afraid to explore and communicate in both words and gestures, you’re sure to have a laugh along the way!
Some tips to be EXTRA Parisian at your French theatre night:
- DO plan your meal and dinner plans before or after the show, as French theatres strongly discourage eating anything during the performance so as not to disturb the performers or other audience members. Looking for ideas? Here’s 8 ideas of restaurants around our venues for a perfect dinner and a show evening in Paris!
- DO remember to turn off your cell phone once the lights go down to avoid disturbing the performance and other audience members
- DON’T hesitate to ask should you need any assistance in locating the metro or ordering a taxi following the show!
Comedy, musical, or more, we sincerely hope you enjoy the show. We always ensure a real variety of shows offered, so feel free to explore more than one theatre genre while in Paris to see which you like best!