On Tuesday, New York Post theater critic Elisabeth Vincentelli wrote a piece called "For the love of God, stop dressing like crap." In it, she describes a few incidents in which she witnessed theatergoers wearing what she describes as "hideous" attire. She berates women who "look as if they had stepped out of a jazzercise class," men who wear cargo shorts, and people in Crocs.
My thought on the subject: WHO CARES?
I love going to the theater. I've performed all my life. Growing up, I would ask my parents for tickets to a Broadway show every year for my birthday. It was such a special treat for this small town Pennsylvania girl to travel to the Big City and see live theater. Today, as an adult living in that Big City, I see an average of one Broadway or Off-Broadway a month, and it never gets any less special.
That being said, what other people wear to the theater has never had any impact on my experience. I've never once commented on another audience member's clothing and I expect others not to comment on mine. If I want to dress up, I dress up! If not, I don't.
Theater today is ridiculously inaccessible as it is, and to tell people they have to dress a certain way to participate is unfair. Ticket prices for Broadway shows are skyrocketing. Last year, the average price of a Broadway show cost over $100. Very few people can afford to pay over $100 for a few hours of entertainment.
There are many ways in which the industry is trying to become more accessible to younger people, those who have had little exposure to theater and people with less disposable income, and I applaud them for that. There are discounts for students, special prices and perks for people 18-35, and an overall push for more diversity on the stage and in the seats.
Theater is changing. Playbills often include hashtags. People wait in line to take selfies with actors post-show, rather than get their autographs, and all of that is great! As time hurtles forward, our traditions change. Not every tradition is worth holding onto.
That being said, audiences' behavior at the theater is a whole other story. You absolutely must behave respectfully while at the theater. No, you should never pull out your phone. No, you shouldn't be talking. No, you should never climb onstage. This should be obvious (but clearly isn't). It's important to remember that dress and behavior aren't necessarily connected either. It's actually quite problematic to conflate the way someone dresses with how he or she acts. Ever heard of not judging the book by its cover?
Finally, I would venture to guess that professional actors do not care what the audience wears. They're picturing you naked, anyway! But seriously, they can't see you; the lights are too bright.
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