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Why I Don't Like Entrance Applause
By LINDA BUCHWALD
Tuesday, May 16, 2017  •  
Tue May 16, 2017  •  
Acting  •   9 comments Share This
"I clap for a job well done and, at the start of the show, nobody has done anything yet."

To clap, or not to clap -- for me there's no question

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I have some hard and fast rules when I go to the theatre: no talking, no texting, no picture taking, no charging my phone onstage. I think most theatre fans (the polite ones, anyway) agree with those. But I have a rule for myself that many don't follow: I don't give entrance applause.

I know, I know, entrance applause is a longstanding tradition in the theatre, an enthusiastic way of welcoming a star. I would certainly never shush anyone who does it. However, if I can gently convince some folks to stop by sharing my take on why I don't like it, well, I'll give myself a silent cheer.

Like most people, I don't get entrance applause for showing up to work, so why should actors? I clap for a job well done and, at the start of the show, nobody has done anything yet. I do understand that elation one feels when a favorite performer walks on to the stage. For some, I guess, that love needs to be expressed audibly. Though my adoration for certain actors is certainly reflected on my face and in my writing, I keep my admiration quiet. I'm sure my smile (and heart) grew three sizes when Gavin Creel popped out of a crate for his entrance in Hello, Dolly!.

Another reason I wait until the end of a show to cheer is that I want to hear every second of dialogue and music. The noise of clapping isn't as annoying as, say, someone unwrapping one of those ubiquitous hard candies, but it's still disruptive and breaks the mood. I've definitely missed lines because of entrance applause. When I saw If/Then, the clapping for Idina Menzel was so loud and went on for so long that she had trouble getting her first line out. Someone even yelled, "I love you, Idina!" and that really took me out of the moment. While there's something to be said for a show feeling as exciting as a rock concert (I'm looking at you, Billie Joe Armstrong in American Idiot), there's still a story to follow and a fourth wall not to break (unless that's part of the script, of course).

But the worst is uncertain entrance applause, when viewers aren't sure if a performer is famous enough to warrant it. There will either be isolated pockets of clapping around the theatre, or a delayed reaction long after the actor has started speaking. And, once in a while, it's mistaken identity applause. When I saw The Front Page, Jefferson Mays received it – twice! -- because the audience mistook him for Nathan Lane, who didn't show up until the very end of Act II. Mays deserves plenty of adulation in my book, but still, that was super awkward.

When it comes to the end of a show I enjoyed (or even a particularly rousing musical number), I no longer sit silently. If I truly loved it, I'll throw my hands in the air and clap loudly and enthusiastically. I'll even give a standing ovation -- if I feel it's really earned. But that's a discussion for another time.

Do you applaud when a star enters? Let us know in the comments.

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Linda Buchwald tweets about theatre at @PataphysicalSci. Follow TDF at @TDFNYC.

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9 Comments:
John Santoianni said:
Entrance applause is nowhere near as ridiculous as the epidemic of standing ovations going on right now. Why does every show, good, bad, and mediocre, now end with a standing ovation? This annoys me a whole lot more than entrance applause.
Posted on 5/16/2017 at 8:21 PM
Chuck said:
I look at entrance applause as acknowledgement of an excellent career - a very appropriate gesture. It's no different than applauding the entertainer prior to the actual concert. In my experience, dialogue is usually halted for that applause.
Posted on 5/27/2017 at 10:48 AM
Michael Moricz said:
For some reason, entrance applause seems more appropriate in a comedy than a drama, or in an upbeat and cheeky musical rather than a serious one, perhaps because of a subtle difference in the type of entertainment we're watching. Similarly, in a comedy, I'll often applaud as an actor exits from a particularly bravura scene, but I'd be less likely to do so on an exit from an intense, dramatic one.
Posted on 5/27/2017 at 4:31 PM
John Miller said:
I think that this happens most at what I would call "Tourist Shows," the ones that are packed with celebrities, for the sake of them being celebrities. I saw "Glengarry Glen Ross" in 2005, and there was a lot of that. My main problem is that it is distracting, and takes you out of the play. Musicals require a suspension of disbelief, so they might be easier to handle.
Posted on 5/27/2017 at 4:36 PM
Carol W said:
Entrance applause is very disruptive. It is theater, and one should enter the imaginary world of the play. What so many people overlook is that it is the character, not the celebrity, entering the stage. I feel as though people are applauding themselves for recognizing the actor, and applauding the actor for being famous. I find it very annoying.
Posted on 5/27/2017 at 5:38 PM
Ellen Tress said:
Thank you. I thought I was the only one who disliked entrance applause. I also agree with John's comment above. There are definitely too many standing ovations. If every show gets a standing ovation, what are we supossed to do for a truly great performance?
Posted on 5/27/2017 at 7:43 PM
Nancy said:
Entrance applause are annoying for all the reasons sited and also because they are usually for screen actors. What about the amazing stage actors that carry the show and are not as easily recognized? Standing ovations for EVERY show have taken away the ability to give credit for a superb show. All shows are treated the same now.
Posted on 5/27/2017 at 9:09 PM
Jose said:
Every year The Hollywood Reporter does a Roundtable with Broadway actors and always ask the question about entrance applause and the majority says they don't like it. As an actor getting into character and delivering the first line is very important and determines the show's tone for that performance and the entrance applause can break that.
Posted on 6/3/2017 at 1:50 AM
Bill Leach said:
I abhor entrance applause...it is distracting and frequently results in drowning out dialogue. I am glad somebody else mentioned the ridiculous frequency of standing ovations at the end of shows! I love to see the cast as they take their bows...I miss it many times since my view is blocked due to standing ovations...the only times I have witnessed no standing ovation is when a show TOTALLY SUCKED!
Posted on 6/4/2017 at 7:58 AM
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