Overuse of the Standing Ovation

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submitted by David Herman

I went to that know it all source, of everything WIKIPEDIA, and it tells me that a standing ovation is a form of applause where members of a seated audience stand up while applauding after an extraordinary performance of particular high acclaim. Standing ovations are considered to be a special honour. This has always been my understanding of a Standing Ovation (S.O.). Last week, we went to the Kemptville Players Inc. performance of “Blithe Spirit” written by Noël Coward in just 5 days, and it premiered in Piccadilly theatre in 1941, so it is not a new avant-garde piece of theater. I was going to say that I was surprised that the audience rose to give a standing ovation. I was not surprised, because it seems that audiences feel that a standing ovation is what you do at the end of the performance regardless of the quality of the evening.

This has me feeling disappointed for the people who spent many hours putting together their production, because I am not sure how you now express appreciation for a superb performance. It seems that the S.O. has been devalued to the point of simple applause because there appears to be no filter being applied to the level of the acting or set design or whatever gauge is used to evaluate the evening. I believe in conservative use of standing ovations. It’s the final option for an audience, you can’t do any more. Once given, you’ve told the performers their performance is far and away the best thing you’ve seen in some time. My disappointment for the actors and people putting on the performance is that how can they know if they really have done something special if all performances receive the S.O. It would seem that audiences have devalued the S.O. to the point of meaninglessness.

There are a few possible reasons for this trend. Audience members cannot see the curtain call as people are standing all around them and they feel they are missing something, so they grudgingly stand so that they can see. Some feel they are enhancing the value of their experience by the fact that the show they just watched received a S.O., so the money they spent to attend was well worth it. I do not begrudge anyone standing after a show they particularly enjoyed. I will not be standing at every performance, and I have deliberately remained seated after certain shows. I will always smile and applaud (the cast are people too, and even the bad shows involve a lot of hard work on their part), but I will not always stand. I must make sure that this is not perceived as a critique of the performance I saw last week, but rather my displeasure at the overuse of the standing ovation. In my opinion, it was a fun evening of entertainment worthy of applause but not a Standing Ovation.

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