Lou Harry's A&E

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Arts & Entertainment, etc.

On your feet (or not)

April 6, 2012

I used to rarely give standing ovations, reserving them for performers and performances that truly knocked me out.

Derek Jacobi in "Breaking the Code." Warren Zevon at Philly's Tower Theatre. The original cast of "Sweeney Todd."  Richie Havens at a tiny bar in Sea Isle City, NJ. John Cullum and company in "You Never Can Tell." Isaac Stern with the Philadelphia Orchestra...

But for the rest,  including many perfectly respectable presentations, I stayed seated, politely clapping during the curtain calls. Standing up for the good, I felt, would give me nothing to do when I ran into the truly exceptional. And standing up for the shoddy would encourage more of the same.

Lately, though, I've changed by habits.

These days, I'm now more likely to join the on-the-feeters. That's not because my standards have dropped or because the productions and concerts have improved, but because 1.) with all around me standing, I can't see what's happening on stage and, 2.) staying in my seat while all else stand would make me seem like a grump.

But am I compromising by doing that?

On the blog Uncensored John Simon, the noted grump/critic comments: 

"Are audiences particularly stupid? Or did they spend so much on their tickets that they must resort to this device to prove to themselves that the money was well worth it? Or are they lusting for some sort of participation in the creative process and deluding themselves that this is it? Or are they just trying to show off with how much smarter they are than their still sedentary neighbors? What they certainly don’t realize is that they are devaluing the standing ovation, and often adding insult to injury by their shrieks or howls, or whatever you call the throat complementing the feet."

I think it's all of the above...plus a healthy dose of honest appreciation for the hard work of those onstage.

Still, I get a bit of a thrill when an okay production gets an appropriate, seated reaction. We don't complain about good-enough TV or good-enough movies. What's wrong with acknowledging that we've witnessed a good-but-not-great play or a good-but-not-great concert.

And I'll still stay seated if the work is below okay.

Your thoughts? (I'd also like to hear from performers. My question: Are you take it as an insult these days if you don't get a standing ovation?)

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