the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

A Little Night Music

the original Playbill from the 70’s

Yesterday, Sophia and I went to the South Coast Rep in Orange County to see Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music.”  The musical, one of Sondheim’s more popular shows,  is based on “Smiles of a Summer Night” by Ingmar Bergman, who just died in July.   This was a first class theater production, something that usually doesn’t go hand-in-hand with the term “Orange County,” home of the Country Bear Jamboree and Medieval Times. “  We really liked it and would recommend seeing it.

“A Little Night Music” is a beautiful musical from the 1970s, more of an operetta than a traditional song-and-dance show, and it is most famous for the song “Send in the Clowns.”  I really love Sondheim’s musicals.  I remember seeing “Sweeney Todd” when I was younger, and it still is the best Broadway show I ever saw.  Mamma Mia doesn’t deserve to appear on the same stage.  (read Billy Mernit’s take on Sondheim)

Before the show, Sophia and I met up with the super-talented Secret Agent Josephine and  her cute daughter, Baby Bug at a hipster vegetarian restaurant.   I had met SAJ at her recent art show, but Sophia couldn’t make it to the show, so I promised to introduce her eventually —

“You Must Meet My Wife” from A Little Night Music

There was another matter at our hand.  I had bought a print of SAJ’s work and she had promised to sign it for me.  


She even went one step further — she wrote a personal poem on the back of the picture frame. 

My Ode to Neilochka

To my dear Neilochka
What would I do without cha!
You IM’ed with speed
In my time of need
You said, “Don’t be scared!
Who cares about dog hair?!”
And you were right
The show was outta sight!
I’m glad you were there
Even if you just wanted to touch Whoorl‘s hair
I can’t think of no other I’d want my art to go to
So, thank you, THANK YOU!

Cute, huh? 

SAJ and Sophia (photo completely stolen from SAJ’s site)

It was amazing watching a mother writing, eating, and entertaining her child all without missing a beat.   What a juggling act.  How do you new mothers find five minutes to even blog?   SAJ did ask me at one point to take a “walk” with her child while she finished writing her poem.   Baby Bug and I walked to the front counter together.  I have very little experience with young children, and I was terrified that I was going to do something wrong, like accidentally lose the baby in some soup vat.  Instead, Baby Bug pretty much ignored me until I leaned over and made a funny face at her, which immediately caused her to run over to her mother, crying.

All in all, it was a great day — meeting a blogger and baby AND seeing some theater.  There was only one bump in the road.  During intermission, Sophia and I had a heated discussion over an important piece of theater etiquette.  I open it for discussion:

Imagine your theater seats are in the middle of the row.  The row is filled with theater-goers at their seats.  You say, “Excuse me,” and start making your way to the center of the row.  Is it better to walk in facing the stage, with your ASS facing everyone in the row, or should you slide in, facing the row, sticking your groin under the nose of each seated patron?   Which is the proper etiquette? 


  1. Heather B.

    I have a special request: can we please go to the cool hipster vegetarian restaurant when I come to LA? Pretty please? I’ll try to be nice and sweet like SAJ but I can’t promise anything.

  2. butterfly

    I would say…it depends on which side you had “used” most recently. Assuming you took a shower and put on fresh clothes for your evening out — if you had a #1 or #2 break before hitting the road, you would want to face toward or away accordingly. Also, if you had a quicky before leaving home, same thing. If, however, you released something from both areas — you are shit out of luck…I would suggest a blazer-over-the-arm-crotch-guard or large-purse-shield interface between you and the other patrons as you pass. That said, if you are still shower-pristine, you can put whatever side you are most proud of in people’s face, your call! 🙂 I hope this ass-crotch etiquette lesson has been helpful. – V

  3. wendy

    She’s right…It depends on if you have a ice rack or a nicer ass. I’d probably pick the ass….not that it is nicer,per say, but because I tend to trip a if that happened, I’d land in their lap..face up..and “damsel in distress”ish..rather than face in the crotch ish.

  4. mckay

    being a bonafide former season ticket holder at the south coast rep and former actress, the etiquette is butt to the back, crotch facing the stage. i know this by several sources. need proof? watch the emmy’s when someone wins.

  5. claire

    I tend to agree with McKay. It’s easier to keep your balance and lean further away from the people you’re seated with by facing the stage. Besides, your “excuse me” should be their cue to stand up if they care.

  6. Danny

    My vote is definitely facing the stage, ass in their face. To do otherwise could be considered unwanted sexual contact in some circles! Facing the stage you can lean as far as you possibly can into the seats in front of you and pretend that your ass isn’t touching them. But facing them you’re almost forced to make eye contact–it’s just too weird! No I’m dying to know which one of you said which.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a stage production of “A Little Night Music,” just that God-awful movie starring Liz Taylor.

  7. Neil

    Danny — I read that the movie version has been called the worst movie adaptation ever.

    And I was the one who said ass in face. Sophia said the opposite. And she sticks to her guns. She said in Europe they don’t stick their behinds in people’s faces and that we are “uncouth” Americans to think that it’s polite to pretend that we’re not really there, while showing everyone your ass as you are passing them. Are there any Europeans out there who can back up Sophia’s theory that Europeans do this differently? I don’t buy it.

  8. whit

    It depends on whether or not you packed your sock. If it’s looking good give’em a gander. Slow and easy for the ladies.

  9. Not Fainthearted

    Speaking of Sondheim…..
    (because I, too and befuddled by the whole topic of exit etiquette)

    Did you see that Tim Burton is directing a film adaptation of “Sweeny Todd” due out around Christmas? With Johnny Depp as Sweeny, Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett and Alan Rickman as Judge T?!!??

    I saw the poster on Friday night.

    It’s supposed to include Sondheim’s music and the reports are that the cast sings their own parts (even Depp.)

    I don’t know what exactly to make of this. Sondheim is tough to perform musically even for accomplished singers. Will having these people singing be so distracting technically/musically that I focus on that instead of the plot? How will the show be “Burtonized?” Will it be as disappointing as so many other film adaptations of really good Broadway shows have been? (i.e. “A Little Night Music” or “The Fantasticks”?)

    All important questions for our times, don’t you think?

  10. sizzle

    ooh i need to know about this- good question. i always face toward them. maybe for the same reason whit faces them with his packed sock. i do have a rack that runneth over. best to use it to my advantage, no?

    looks like you all had fun!

  11. Working Kitten

    Hi Neil, as requested I’m a European giving you my take on this. I live in England so though I am European, I know it doesn’t count quite the same as being on the continent! Anyway, I have never once made my way to a seat mid row facing the people I’m passing. For me its always face to the stage, ass to the patrons. As has already been pointed out, when I’m saying excuse me politely, they have the opportunity to lean away from me or stand up and I lean as far foward as I can, same in the cinema as in the theatre. I can also tell you all my friends who I’ve ever attended shows with do exactly the same. To be honest before this post I’d never thought about there being another way to do it. I think it would be a bit odd personally to be showing my nether regions in their personal space . . . Sorry Sophia!

  12. August

    Oooh, I’m a huge fan of SAJ even though I don’t read her blog as much anymore. I barely have time to write my own. She’s so talented though. It’s super cool that you guys met her. Meeting fellow bloggers is so fun.

    I have no idea re: how to enter a row. I guess I must usually be early. I usually stand when others need to get past me so I never have to deal with peoples “big fat bahookies” as my kids so endearingly call peoples bums, in my grille.

  13. Noel

    The proper way to get to your seat is to fly. Which reminds me: my new musical Such Good Friends plays September 28-October 6 at the Julia Miles Theatre on W. 55 in NY, NY. (Details: click my name)

    And everybody knows any place with soup vats set in the floor is no place for a baby.

  14. teahouseblossom

    I love A Little Night Music!

    I’d say it’s more polite to face the people whose knees you are knocking out of the way; that way you can put a proper apologetic expression on your face while you’re inconveniencing them.

  15. aviva

    I grew up in Ireland, so I have the same situation in regard to the continent as the previous Euro poster…

    However, in Ireland it would be considered excessively rude to turn away from the people, for the reasons Sophia mentioned. Perhaps this is because the Irish are much more friendly than Americans. Here it seems to be an embarrassment/inconveniencing of others, where as in Ireland it is just a part of life! Smile at the people and move past, with a knowing expression about the lack of room.. nobody is staring at your crotch! On the other hand, showcasing your bum seems a bit lewd. However, as said, I can’t speak for everyone!

  16. churlita

    If I didn’t lose either of my babies in a vat of soup, no one will. I’m the spaciest mom on the planet.

  17. Lisa

    Good question- I think Fight Club brought it up, too. I vote back to the stage so you can make sure you’re not whacking people in the face with your bum or purse or something. Yes Neil, watch your purse.

  18. Caitlinator

    I absolutely love Sondheim. My favorite is “Into the Woods.” Burnadette Peters.

    I always say enter facing the stage. If you trip on someone’s feet, you’ll fall ass-first into the lap of the person you’re crawling over, but if you’re facing them, you’re likely to clunk heads and cause a concussion or two. No need to bring medics into the equation too.

  19. Nance

    Yikes. As a rule, don’t put babies into soup. As far as the other thing, if your seats are in the middle, get there early and avoid the whole mess.

  20. sputnik

    It’s quite an uncomfortable question. I attend quite a number of stage events (and have two kids who perform), and now I’ll never think of this the same. Thanks for the anxiety. However, I’m certain I would fall into people’s laps if I were creeping face-first across their feet. I’d say as long as you don’t fart, butt first is okay.

  21. therapydoc

    chasiva v’chatima l’tova to the both of you

  22. Michael

    I usually do the ass side when making my way up aisles.

    btw the wife has a $100 Visa card contest going on over at her place.

  23. Carolyn

    Thanks for entering my contest Neil.

  24. sassy

    For me it all had to do with the size of your arse. If it’s small to medium, face the stage, but if it rubs up against the people already seated, let your booty face the stage. If it’s a really big’un, arrive early and spare us all.

  25. Marilyn

    I’ve always been told it’s rude to face away from them. If you face toward them, they’ll be looking at your face anyway… at least nobody would look below my neck if they could help it.

  26. Dagny

    Never really thought about it but I guess I’m an ass toward patrons kind of gal. For exactly the reasons Danny stated. Who wants to make eye contact with those other folks? Well, unless they’re really hot.

  27. patois

    Depends what you’re in the mood for, I guess.

  28. melanie

    depends on if you showered that day. i say if you are going to fall on them, maybe face first is better than sitting on them.

    Nice poem, and kudos to the moms!

  29. jlurker

    ok all.
    From Emily Post, 1922:

    In passing across people who are seated, always face the stage and press as close to the backs of the seats you are facing as you can. Remember also not to drag anything across the heads of those sitting in front of you. At the moving pictures, especially when it is dark and difficult to see, a coat on an arm passing behind a chair can literally devastate the hair-dressing of a lady occupying it. 24
    If you are obliged to cross in front of some one who gets up to let you pass, say “Thank you,” or “Thank you very much” or “I am very sorry.” Do not say “Pardon me!” or “Beg pardon!” Though you can say “I beg your pardon.” That, however, would be more properly the expression to use if you brushed your coat over their heads, or spilled water over them, or did something to them for which you should actually beg their pardon. But “Beg pardon,” which is an abbreviation, is one of the phrases never said in best society.”

  30. Neil

    Thanks, jlurker. Emily always knows.

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