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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Depreciating value of standing ovations

Last night I went to see “Shrek” The Musical, and despite an incredibly mediocre performance, the audience gave the cast and orchestra a standing ovation during the curtain call. The value of “Standing O’s” is depreciating at an exponential rate. What used to be something rare and hardly given is now being handed out like candy anywhere there’s a stage or podium. It’s happening everywhere: politics, sporting events and performing arts. According to Wikipedia, standing ovations derive from when military personnel in Ancient Rome would return from battle, having exceeded expectations with a triumphant victory, spectators would stand to acknowledge their accomplishments. “Shrek” was not a triumphant performance. Politicians’ speeches nowadays could hardly ever be defined as “triumphant.” Yet we stand, every…single…time. Wikipedia also notes that these standing O’s occur when approximately 1/5 of the audience stands up, and then a domino effect occurs: other audience members feel compelled to stand as well. Compelled, also known as not wanting to be the one jerk that can’t get up onto his or her feet. Out of sheer principle I stayed seated for the majority of the ovation last night, until the guilt took over (or “I’m a believer” started playing). I think the root of the problem related to the devaluation in standing ovations comes from the 1/5 fraction standing first. It’s a certain personality that stands first… the kind that wants to think: “I started this movement – this movement of humans standing at the end of this crappy performance.” And until that 1/5 stops, standing ovations simply won’t be worth what they once were.