Why the standing ovations?

My wife and I have a limited budget but we do try to see at least one live show a year whether that be a play or a stage musical.

What gets me is the audience always gives these standing ovations at the end when often the show is “meh” or frankly very lame and I feel ripped for my $40 ticket.

Quite frankly I think this is hypocritical and gives the actors and directors a false sense of how really good the show was because you see them gushing in all the applause, holding flowers, and thinking they just won a Tony when really the show wasnt so good.

Is nobody honest out there? I mean we talk about if movies are good or bad, why not live theater?

Do people just get caught up and stand and clap because others are doing it?

You shouldn’t come to Montreal. Everything here gets a standing ovation.
I think it’s more common in some places than others.

I always see the standing ovation as a “thank you for your performance and effort in trying to entertain us tonight”, not a comment on the performance or script itself. Its just a social courtesy.

And seriously, can’t you tell from the applause what the audience thought? I can. The difference between a pro forma ovation and an actual one is very very obvious.

They do it to validate their own purchase.

It’s like when people go to see a ventriloquist in Las Vegas, the reviews always say"he’s very talented", as if the reviewer knows from ventriloquism.

Where it really comes from is “I have to come up with some reason why I spent $100 to see a ventriloquist.”

IMO that’s what applause is for. A standing ovation should be reserved for extraordinary performance.

I agree, but the annoying ovation seems to have become de rigueur.

That’s when we head to the parking lot. Beat the crowd.

YOU don’t have to be a hypocrite and stand up when everyone else is. You can be like the two old coots on the Muppet Show, Statler and Waldorf, and sit there and snark. Or, just start making your way out of the building, to beat the traffic, like half the audience already is doing.

That sounds more like a snub.

And seriously. The audiences seem to go wild with standing ovations so they do seem sincere.

Now heres what I think. Theater people seem to be a community and often actors, directors and others involved have friends and family in the audience who HAVE to do standing ovations so everyone just goes along.

More likely it’s a generation informed by behavior at rock concerts, where the band always returns … after the audience stands and cheers and yells and whistles for five minutes.

Although I don’t think you’re wrong when you say that a small fraction starts standing and everybody else rises as peer pressure. I’m just not sure if that’s from the theater community since I see it happen at national touring productions, not just of theater but of dance and music and other arts.

The actors know exactly how well they did and how the audience responded, far better than the audience knows. The standard ovation at the end has just evolved as social behavior over time, to the point where it is expected as proper behavior. It wasn’t always reserved for extraordinary performances - or expected for them either. Theatrical accounts talk of first night audiences who didn’t stand because they were there to be seen as much as the actors. Matinee audiences were famous for never standing, no matter how good the performance was. But some standing O’s were obviously manufactured by friends or toadies, so they didn’t count. The true exceptional performance is so rare that an alternative way of showing appreciation had to evolve.

The cast knows damn good and well the difference between a courtesy ovation and a genuine one. And courtesy ovations are humiliating and dreadful when you’re standing up there knowing this wasn’t your best work but pretending you’re just as delighted as the audience is pretending to be, so I don’t do them. If I’m not so moved that I’m literally leaping to my feet, not caring that my Playbill just slid off my lap and under the seat in front of me, then I’m staying respectfully in my seat.

While it’s possible that in some areas, especially for community or college theater, the audience members may have a high proportion of friends and family, that’s not the case in professional theater. Most of them come either to the previews or to the last week of performances. I do agree that family and friends have a lower threshhold for an acceptable courtesy ovation, but courtesy ovations still happen without a large number of friends and family present.

I saw more courtesy ovations 10 years ago than I do now, at least in the theaters in Chicago and environs. Nowadays I see them more at performances when the single ticket holders outnumber the subscription ticket holders. I think they mark the audience members as rubes, to be honest. They don’t spend much time actually in the theater; they’ve only seen ovations in movies and done them to make the band finish the show at concerts, so they think it’s part of the tradition in live theater.

And some day, it probably will be, but I’m still going to fight it.

If we allow the courtesy ovation to take over, then what are we left with to show our enthusiasm and genuine excitement for the really great performances? Applause is courtesy. Ovations are not.

I don’t stand unless I feel I’ve seen an exceptional performance. And that doesn’t happen too often. In fact, I’d say it’s never happened at a community theater production, despite the reaction of others around me. And very rarely at professional performances.

Some years back, I saw Carol Channing doing Hello, Dolly. She’s a legend and I was impressed that at her advanced years, she still got up there. But in reality, she was an old lady who did a fairly mediocre job. I’m sure in her prime, I’d have been among the first on my feet, but that night, I left feeling sorry for her. Still, the rest of the audience leapt up - maybe just a tribute to her longevity?

Of course, a show that I found lacking might have really turned somebody else’s world upside down (or vice versa).

I don’t go see a lot of live theatre, and the ones I’ve seen were mostly all local theatre groups. All of them were well done and I was quite entertained by them, and I enthusiastically stood and applauded at the end. If somebody else in the audience thought it was lacking for some reason, oh well…

I see quite a bit of live music. I’m not a big fan of the perfunctory milking of the audience for applause before the encore, but it’s an expectation that pretty much everybody has. Not much point grousing about it. Most of the shows I see, the audience is already made up of mostly big fans who are geeked about being there, so the enthusiasm is built in already before the performance starts. Sometimes the music is great, sometimes it’s meh. If it’s truly awful (something I’ve experienced a couple of times) I’m not around for the end anyway.

And in some cases (like noted above about Carol Channing) there’s a subpar performance by an aging star, but we were all thrilled to be in the room with them anyway and the big standing O at the end is as much an appreciation of a body of work as anything. I just had that experience with Aretha Franklin a few months ago. She doesn’t have the pipes she once had, but c’mon - we got to see the frickin’ Queen of Soul!

… (redundant)

Ovation inflation.

Do people really pay $100 to see a ventriloquist? How bored are they?

Yeah, I’ve notice definite ovation inflation in the past decade or so. I don’t stand unless I feel it’s appropriate, normally. Although once or twice I felt weird about being the only one not standing up.

But I never leave during curtain call, that’s so rude.

When I stand to clap, it’s just because I’ve been sitting there in a probably-uncomfortable seat for an hour or two, and I need to get up and stretch, and the show is over now so I can do so, and I’m probably going to be leaving the venue shortly. I’m not sure how it became established that this is supposed to be a more emphatic form of applause.

In the past decade or so? Ovations have been practically mandatory my whole life, and I’m 45.

I think it’s polite - if everyone else is doing it - I’m not going to sit there cause I thought you didn’t hit the correct note in act II.

I have found theater to be pretty moving - even when I’m not really sure I think I’m going to like it.

So maybe it marks me as being a rube, but I don’t care - if they seem like they were putting their heart into it - I’m more than happy to play along.

I forget the comic I heard once say “If you treat every performer the way you’ve treated me tonight - I promise you will never have a bad show.”

While it isn’t the same thing as comedy - and I have never performed either - I have done public speaking - and I do a much better job when I feel like the audience is engaged. I think the same thing applies in theater.