1. Keep it to yourself. We're not suggesting you don't tell everyone you know about a great piece of theater, just that you wait until after that great piece of theater is over before you share your wisdom. Let's say you give Macbeth a chance this fall (and you should: Seattle Shakespeare Company opens its season with the bloody tragedy on Oct. 18. Call 325-6500 for ticket info.). When Act V, Scene 5 rolls around and the bereaved lead calls life "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing," you may not take the moment to sagely mutter "Mmmm!" or "Ahhhh!" in acknowledgment of your deep kinship with Shakespeare's timelessness. Guess what? You're not that smart. No one will be impressed by your keen awareness of a classic. Extolling the obvious virtues of Art that have been extolled for the past 400 years is what jackass critics get paid to do.
2. Embrace your inner child. Or entertain a real one. It's vital that kids are encouraged to eject the Barney video and attend theater, and it wouldn't hurt you to pull out of that Vanity Fair cover story and remind yourself of the purity of those young arts experiences, either. We're lucky to have first-class venues in town for such enrichment; few sounds are as good for the soul as a roomful of kids cracking up with unbridled glee. Let junior ride along on The Fantastic Voyage of Marco Polo (Northwest Puppet Center, 523-2579; opens Oct. 5), a world premiere Chinese puppet adventure on a water-filled stage, or enjoy an adaptation of the Newberry Award-winning classic Johnny Tremain (Seattle Children's Theatre, 441-3322; opens Sept. 14). Stick around for the post-play discussions at the Seattle Children's Theatre—the things kids think to ask the actors are priceless.
3. Live a little. If you're the kind of person who can supposedly only enjoy the mainstream, get over it. If you're the kind of person who can supposedly only enjoy the experimental, get over yourself. There is life beyond Neil Simon, and, honestly, you can find vitality outside of the fringe. Seattle is a haven for both ends of the theater spectrum and everything in between. Surprise yourself. Intiman's new artistic director Bartlett Sher has been the source for some rather strikingly original productions ever since his inaugural production, Cymbeline, and there's no reason to expect anything less from his fall staging of Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters (Intiman Theatre, 269-1900; opens Oct. 3). On the independent side, you might want to explore The Shades of Parkland (Vodvil Theater, 329-9198; opens Nov. 1), an intriguing "vaudeville opera" from the adventurous Curtis Taylor.
4. Sit down! Sure, you enjoyed yourself. Yes, it's amazing that the actors learned all those lines. Neither of these things, however, means you must rise to your feet and applaud at the end of the play. Not many moments in the theater caused as much psychic damage last season as watching patrons give the musical adaptation of Saturday Night Fever a standing ovation simply for not imploding under the stress of its own combustive awfulness. A standing ovation, ladies and gentleman, is for an experience so enthralling you can't not stand up because your entire mind, body, and soul requires you to stand up—there isn't a moment of thinking about whether or not you should do it. This may only happen a handful of times in your life. This will probably not happen at any revival starring someone who used to be in a television series. And that's OK.
5. Music makes the people come together. Musicals are good for you. Really. They celebrate the kind of ecstatic, communal release that we're all too ironic to allow ourselves anymore. Nothing crashes harder than a bad musical theater production, but few experiences soar as high or as joyfully as a good one. Attend an old favorite or gamble on a show you've never seen. The upcoming season is full of classics, including Fiddler on the Roof (Kirkland Performance Center, 425-893-9900; opens Oct. 18) and the Lerner and Loewe fantasy Brigadoon (Village Theatre, 425-392-2202; opens Sept. 20). Be choosy, definitely, but try an evening with a few peerless melodies. We think it will do you good. Well, all right, maybe we just wanted to quote Madonna.
6. Stick around. If you truly enjoyed the evening you just spent in the theater, then hang out in the lobby, wait until the actors come out, and shake their hands to tell them how much you admired their work. This exchange of positivity is good for you and for them, and is often out of reach of the people officially giving them feedback, the press. Reviewers usually don't get to do this in person, no matter how much they love what they see. Reviewers are apt to get a scowl and the evil eye from an actor who remembers they once panned his one-person show in which he writhed naked and screamed about his Catholic upbringing.
7. Hey, schmoe, turn your damn cell phone off! Oh, yeah, and could you not unwrap that little mint during the death scene? No matter how many theaters now have a pre-show announcement begging patrons to act with half a brain and take care of both of these matters before the show begins, some jerk is always living in denial that the request refers to him. Come on, people, get a clue. Tortuously removing the crinkly wrapper on your hard candy, deluding yourself that if you do it slowly no one will hear, is an idiot move. Ditto for neglecting to quiet your cell phone. If you are so important you must be reached at any cost, get a vibrating pager. Or stay home.