love a good performance. Dance, opera, theater, any kind of entertainment
that I have to get somewhat dressed up for interests me. I've
been to many performances of each genre and there is one disturbing
trend I've noticed over the last several years.
nothing to do with the performances themselves. Most of what I attend
is reasonably well done and professional. The real problem lies
with the audience.
back when, performing arts where an indulgence of the reasonably
educated and somewhat well off. Reasonably educated in the sense
that they had a deep appreciation for the performance they were
attending. Some study had gone into the genre and years of attending
performances had honed the audience's knowledge of the art.
however, going to a performance of any kind is not necessarily reserved
for the genteel performing art connoisseur. Anyone with a full wallet
(or space on their credit card) can attend a performance. The performing
arts retain some of their upscale flavor making it a popular choice
among those making their first pass at cultural enrichment. Going
to a movie, after all, doesn't sound as good as going to an opera.
shift toward performing arts for the masses is not a problem. Several
dance, opera, and theater companies have enjoyed record revenues
in the last 5 years. The coffers swell and the arts earn more respect.
I see no problem with that.
of the small problems, however, is that the new inductees into the
world of performing arts can't seem to differentiate between what
is merely mediocre and what is truly exceptional. This is can be
seen clearly at the end of every performance I have attended over
the last 2 years.
performance, good, bad, or ugly received a standing ovation from
the audience. Every one.
ovation means one thing and one thing only; the performance was
well beyond what is normally seen in that particular genre. The
performers moved the audience through the sheer mastery of their
people would agree that this is a rare event. Many performances
fall under the "very good" category. Very few fall under the "exceptional"
category. From my own observations over the last 2 years indicate
that either I am an artistic dunce or that people will award a standing
ovation for any old thing.
toward the latter. I suspect that many of the new people attending
the performing arts have little background in art, literature, music
or theater. The weekend getaway, the before performance dinner,
and the after performance drinks are what are really appealing.
The performance they see is the best they've ever seen because they
have seen only a few plays or operas or simply haven't the wherewithal
to dissect what is being presented to them. It's all good! The tap
dancers danced quickly (never mind that the steps were simple and
quick rather than difficult and slow), the singers sang beautifully
(never mind that the musical was not particularly challenging, the
actors acted beautifully (never mind that the lines fell flat at
certain points). It's all good so stand up and clap!
this cheapens the performance. This does not personally affect me
(except for the fact that I rarely see the entire cast on the stage
taking their bows; I can only see the backs of people at that point).
It does, I think, rob the performers of something truly special.
A standing ovation is an indication that they had done exceptionally
well. It's a reward from an audience that they seek to please.
performance you do, whether good, bad, or ugly, is awarded a standing
ovation you either get a swelled head or become insecure because
you're never sure if you did really well or not.
time you attend a performance, really ask yourself whether or not
it is really worth standing for. If it is, then by all means, present
the performers with what they deserve. If not, clap with enthusiasm
but stay firmly seated.
© 2000 Stephen Van Esch. All Rights Reserved
Van Esch is a writer and instructional designer living near Toronto,
Canada. He is the owner and CEO of the Text Pound.
discuss this article on our discussion