The Big O
Can you name the one thing that all public performances seem to share nowadays? Think back to that show you saw on Broadway, the amateur production at your local community theater, your child’s performance in a school musical, a concert at the college. Give up? Hint: what happens when the performers take their bow? YES! It is! A Standing Ovation!
The Big O (as I refer to it) has become ubiquitous. Doesn’t matter if the leading star flubbed his lines, if the child in the chorus was seen picking his nose or one of the violinists was out of tune. Doesn’t even matter much whether the performance was top-grade or not. Every audience gets to show their “appreciation” by standing up and applauding. It’s part of the “audience participation” rite of those in attendance. Once upon a time, this kind of action was reserved for the crème de la crème: the extraordinary dialogue in a Tennessee Williams play, the witty humor of Neil Simon, the grandiose aria in a Puccini opera, the exceptional acting of the leading man. Not any more. The Big O is now given to the meek, the mediocre and the many.
And why should I care? For one, it blocks my view of the performers, whom I very much like to see. It’s not unlike reading the credits at the end of a film. I get pleasure from the joyful camaraderie at the end of the show and their smiles radiating into the audience. Sometimes, they even favor us with a reprise, for which the audience remains standing and from which those of us brave enough to keep our seats are blocked from viewing!
A second reason I care is that because of the above, I am often forced to join everyone in participating in the Big O. This backs me into making a stronger statement than I intended. After all, oughtn’t there be some criteria for the Standing Ovation? Do we simply bestow it upon every public performance – the good, the bad and the ugly? Can’t we bring back a tad of honesty to the theater….in the form of a critical and discerning eye?
Until that happens, I will (try to) applaud while in my seat when appropriate, and stand when the production warrants it. And if the rest of the audience insists on giving the Big O to everything that happens on stage, I guess I’ll just have to get used to it.
Marilyn Ferdinand (editor of blog “Ferdy on Films”): If you give performers a standing ovation just for getting through a performance, you’re just encouraging them not to be the best that they can be. They won’t feel truly complimented, and they won’t respect your opinion because you obviously have no powers of discernment—unless, of course, they wish to believe that everything they do is extraordinary.