I like to consider myself an appreciator of the arts. When funds allowed, a million years ago, hubby and I had a subscription to one of the many theatres in Seattle and a membership at SAM, The Seattle Art Museum. I’m not saying that we’re trained, knowledgeable art or theatre critics. Quite the contrary. We know what we like, why we like it and can say what specifically we don’t like.
Let me start from the beginning, that might be easiest. Back in high school, I believe my freshman or sophomore year I got involved with the theatre. I took the classes, auditioned for plays, performed at theatre competitions and did a lot of backstage work. When I got to college my major for two years was theatre. I’ve been going to plays for a long time and in all my years of going to plays I have been involved in more “Standing O’s” in Seattle than anywhere else. Okay, I admit, I haven’t been around the world watching theatre, but I watched plenty in California and even some in New York.
The whole atmosphere of the theatre in Seattle is different. I can remember going to the theatre in California and being dressed up and not feeling out of place. Around here you go to the theatre and see people who look like they just rolled out of bed, in their sweat pants and sweat shirts. It makes it feel…I guess it makes every play I go to feel like a high school show. I am all for theatres starting a strictly enforced dress code. I follow my own every time, so I don’t see why others can’t make the effort to put on a pair of slacks or a skirt or something.
Besides the casual dress there’s a moment in every show; when you know it’s coming to a close. I know my biggest pet peeve of Seattle theatre is upon me. The dreaded standing ovation. I can count on one hand how many shows I’ve been to in Seattle that have NOT received a “Standing O.” I should be able to count on one hand how many shows HAVE received one.
At first I began to wonder if I missed something truly amazing in the show. So the next show I went to I paid close attention. It was a good show, I was entertained, I had a good night, but then the same thing happened. People jumped to their feet applauding. Now I just wondered if people in Seattle assumed this was the way you ended a show.
Here’s why I hate being in the midst of a “Standing O.” When one occurs it’s like a flu epidemic. One or two people stand, pretty soon everyone but me is standing. I see the people next to me glance down at me still in my seat wondering why I’m not standing. So I eventually stand and clap, feeling my soul die a little.
I have stood on my own for a few excellent shows and I’ve refused to stand for others no matter how many people were standing and glancing down at me. There was one time I just sat there as the entire theatre around me bobbed up like floating ping pong balls. The show was so appalling awful, I wasn’t even clapping. It was that bad and it got a “Standing O.” I’ve been to so many craptastic shows in Seattle and most have received “Standing O’s.” I’m convinced that someone could walk out on stage, give a monologue about poop, take a crap in his hand, throw it the audience, bow and still receive one. Because people in Seattle love shit.
Now maybe I’m getting a little harsh. Like I said before, I’ve given a true ‘this play really touched me’ standing ovation. What I am against is people standing without really thinking about it. If you really loved the show, by all means stand. If your best friend, significant other, parent or whatever is in the show and you want them to know you loved seeing them on stage, fine stand. But don’t stand because your wife is standing or the guy across the aisle is standing. I’ve seen you people; standing, clapping while you roll your eyes, chat with your friends, or check your watch. Obviously you weren’t moved by the thing, so sit the hell down!
Lastly, think of the actors. These poor Seattle actors, I’m sure they never know when a “Standing O” is genuine or not. They stand there smiling and bowing wondering what they did right, what they said particularly well, or what emotion they portrayed perfectly and half the people standing probably wouldn’t be able to tell them. Please, won’t someone think of the actors?