How Do You Survive the Intermission Restroom Stampede?

Show-Score | By Amy Sapp | Jun 27, 2017
We're all familiar with the rush to the restroom between acts of a show - but are you familiar with these tips and tricks? Here's your go-to guide to beating those lines and being the first back in your seat.
Theater-goers waiting in line for the restroom. Theater-goers waiting in line for the restroom. | By Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Every theatergoer knows this moment: Act one ends. The ushers emerge from the darkness. The air fills with static as hundreds of people rise with a single purpose.

The intermission restroom stampede is about to begin.

More than once, I've been swept away on a tide of patrons racing to relieve themselves before act two. I'd like to avoid the chaos, but sometimes staying in my seat just isn't an option. Sometimes I need to make the most of those sweet fifteen minutes myself.

I've been thinking about how to navigate the throngs. How about you? What are your strategies for having a good bathroom experience at a Broadway show?

Here are few of my personal tricks. Please share yours in the comments! (And don't forget to read our recommendations for the most beautiful ladies' rooms on Broadway and beyond.)  

Step One: I make mental notes.

 When I walk into a theater, I always take a mental snapshot of the bathrooms closest to my seat. Often times, theaters have several bathrooms on multiple floors, and larger houses like the Broadway or the Shubert are especially well outfitted. I seek out these oases before curtain call, and I encourage you do to the same!

Step Two: I move immediately

 If I even think I might need a restroom, I use the last few moments of act one to prepare for my dash down the aisle. It's important to start a bathroom trip right away, since landing in the back of a lengthy line may cost you a few minutes of the show. On a recent trip to see the musical "Bandstand", for instance, my plus one decided to rush to the men's room two minutes before a curtain call. Unfortunately, he was not quick enough; I spent an act sitting alone while he watched from the aisle, unable to squeeze his way back into our row without disrupting our fellow theatergoers. (By the way, if you haven't seen "Bandstand", you really should. Put it on your Show-Score wish list, and you could win tickets!)

Step Three: I trust the restroom attendants.

These hardworking individuals are my knights in shining armor. I cannot tell you how many times a master attendant at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre has shuffled me in and out of the restroom line at "Waitress" with record timing. These attendants are trained and willing to make my theater experience enjoyable, which is why I always tip them. They are fighting the clock on my behalf!

Step Four: I look for allies.

I am often at my crankiest when I have to wait in a theater restroom line (or when I need a snack, but that's an entirely separate article). Fortunately, I often find sympathetic fellow theatergoers who are in the trenches with me. It (slightly) eases the pain when I can joke about listening to the show from the stalls.

Step Five: If the show is quiet, I wait until I get home.

Last month, I saw "Dear Evan Hansen", and in one crucial moment, the theater fell silent as the main character sobbed onstage. Just as sniffles were rippling across the room and the music was quieting down to let us linger in our feelings... someone flushed a nearby toilet. It was hilarious... but who wants to be known as a notorious Broadway flusher?

What's your best intermission story? How do you survive the crowds during that all-important break? Tell us in the comments!

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