DEAR MISS MANNERS: What does etiquette say about performers demanding audience participation at rock, folk and children's performances? I understand that this would not happen at the symphony.
I escorted two children to a singer-songwriter's performance, for which we were charged a small fee, and found that the artist was not only asking, but demanding that all of the adults present sing along and do various hand and arm motions at her command. This seemed like a more severe version of what happens at some larger rock venues, when an artist may call out a question, and then demand a louder answer if it is given too softly the first time.
At the children's performance, the problem was exacerbated by the fact that the singer-songwriter made threats to expose anyone who declined to participate.
Does etiquette give an artist such total authority over an audience? Is there a way out for anyone who wishes to sit (or stand, as appropriate) in the back, listening quietly, particularly if one is merely there to accompany young children?
I didn't want to force the children to leave, nor did I want to be singled out for attack by the performer, so I obeyed her commands, but I wonder if Miss Manners could provide me with an alternative if something similar should happen in the future.
GENTLE READER: Do not be too confident that you will not be asked to do this at the symphony. The interactive concept has spread, keeping pace with the decline in general ability to pay quiet attention to others, even those whom one has paid to be of interest.
Whatever the venue, you are not required to participate -- you are the audience, not the performer -- but Miss Manners suggests you attempt to look amused and distracted rather than resentful or sulky. The latter will only encourage the performer to redouble his efforts.