The Standing O


“Stood there, applauded that: Does the standing ovation really mean anything any more?” asks J. Kelly Nestruck of the Globe and Mail.

It’s time to face the facts: The standing ovation is dead in North America. Yes, the standing O is finito.

Theatregoers get up on their feet and clap at the end of plays more than ever, it’s true – but that’s exactly it: The gesture is no longer exceptional. You’ll find people standing and applauding after great performances and less-great ones and sometimes even after lousy ones.

Audience behaviour is constantly evolving and I personally prefer to stand at the end of a long show, if only to stretch my legs. I almost always rise as soon as the person in front of me does, if he or she blocks my view of the curtain call, anyway. The alternative – sitting grumpily and staring at a stranger’s backside – seems unnecessarily willful. The only time I stay seated, ironically enough, is when a show has so completely bowled me over that I feel unable to move.

There are those artists who do recognize that standing, clapping spectators are now merely standing, clapping spectators – sometimes they are wildly enthusiastic, sometimes they just want to beat the traffic – but who can’t stand the shift in semiotics. They would prefer audiences stay seated unless they’ve really had their socks knocked off.

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