How Do We Express a Job Well Done?

A few weeks ago, an article was making the rounds on some of the theatre discussion boards about audience applause and standing ovations.  At the time, I had my own very strong opinions about standing ovations and how everyone should be using them.  In my personal opinion, I think the standing ovation is very over used.  Applause is nice and very welcomed.  Just because someone doesn’t stand, doesn’t mean they didn’t like the performance. 

To me, a standing ovation should be used when an audience member has seen something truly remarkable.  A piece of theatre, or any performance, that really moved you.  But it seems nowadays, the standing ovation is used at almost every performance I attend.  And when it’s overused, it loses its effectiveness.  If everyone stands every time, how is the production to know it has done something truly exceptional?

I shared my opinions with some of my friends, both performers and just regular theatre patrons.  I had my eyes opened a bit in listening to their reasons for standing for applause during a curtain call:

They want to show respect for something they wouldn’t do themselves.  For some people, it’s terribly difficult to get on stage in front of a group of strangers and be someone they’re not.  And sometimes, that’s a LOT of lines to memorize.  Audience members want to show their appreciation for people who can do that.

They may also have a special relationship with someone in the cast.  Many folks in the audience come to support their friends or relatives who happen to be on stage or work back stage in any capacity.  To these folks, that special connection makes them want to show their gratitude all the more.

They want to acknowledge the hard work and time the performers have put in.  They know that a lot of personal time and sweat has been put into these productions, especially in a community theatre production where the cast and crew help build the sets as well as perform.  Standing shows that they understand some of the personal sacrifices people in the production have made.

I do understand the reasons above for wanting to give a standing ovation.  To me, the above things come with the territory and extra special recognition isn’t something that is needed to appreciate that.  Personally, as a performer, regular applause is adequate appreciation.

But what struck me about what I heard from people who stand on regular occasion was the passion with which they held their arguments for doing so.  This was their way.  This was what they wanted to do.  This is what they felt was right, deep down, to say, “Hey, great job!”

The other thing that moved me, and this was what really got to me and made me start to rethink my position, is that they felt they were being put down for the way in which they chose to say, “Thanks.”  They had to defend what they were doing.  You shouldn’t have to defend the way you show positive appreciation towards a performance.  We invite these people into our theatres and we’re going to put them down for how they express their gratitude?  This isn’t right.  They shouldn’t be ashamed for giving us 2-3 hours of their time, and their money, and then being told how to express thanks.

So, while personally, I still will not stand for every performance I see, I will no longer discourage folks for standing up at the end of a performance.  Let it be your own choice.  Don’t be ashamed to stand.  Don’t be ashamed for not standing.  Applause is perfectly acceptable.  But if you are moved to stand, by all means stand.  This is the chance for the audience member to participate in the performance and they should be able to do so as they see fit.

What are you thoughts on the subject? Comment below and let us know.

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