Thursday, November 1, 2007

Standing Ovations

I admit it, I'm stingy when it comes to standing ovations.

I see a lot of theater. I see a lot of good theater. Rarely, though will I give something a standing ovation. This is something that often makes me uncomfortable because I'll remain sitting even when everyone around me is standing and I do sometimes worry that it sends the wrong signal--that the signal it sends is that I think the show is bad.

However, I'll usually swallow the uncomfortable feeling and remain in my seat because I want the standing ovation to mean something. I want it to mean that I thought the show was near perfect, that it moved me in such a way that I'll remember it for a long time to come.

I applaud enthusiastically for a show that is good. I try to be attentive and an audience member who helps create an environment for a good show--to give be a part of that difficult-to-describe energy that comes from having an audience who is paying attention to and reacting to a show.
But I won't stand just because the show was good.

Part of this is because I want to have something that I can do for those shows that do go above and beyond. I want to be able to show that extra level of appreciation for truly superior productions.

It's a topic I thought about during Camelot this past week. My husband and I were amongst the few people still in our seats (at least that we could see) when Lou Diamond Phillips took his bow. Richard said he might have stood if they'd left in Fie on Goodness, but I don't think I would have. But I did have to question why, when my face was wet with tears evoked by the emotionally strong ending, that I kept my seat.

The answer is that there were too many uneven moments in the production. I could see the actors and technicians moving around back stage, which tells me that not enough consideration was given to the sight lines at the far sides. I thought Matt Bogart's performance as Lancelot was lukewarm and lacking in any sort of sympathy. While Phillips and Rachel de Benedet provided subtle layers to their characters and showed incredible charisma, Lancelot had none.

It was a good show--the dancing was fun, the voices were mostly strong, the costumes outstanding, and the two lead actors were excellent. However, it isn't a show that five years from now I'll still be talking about the way I'll still talk about BoarsHead's Wit or Michigan Shakespeare Festival's Merchant of Venice.

So if you see me sitting during a standing ovation at your show, please don't jump to the conclusion that I didn't like it or thought it was poorly done. And if you see me stand, know that I thought the show ranks among the best theater I've seen.

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