Why I Don't Like Entrance Applause
Tuesday, May 16, 2017  •  
Tue May 16, 2017  •  
Acting  •   32 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


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.


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

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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
Cathay Brackman said:
I am appalled at the automatic standing ovation. I'll always applaud sometimes more vigorously for a solid performance. And I've been know to cheer. But I'll only stand for exceptional performances or productions. As for entrance applause--only for a top performer and only a polite acknowledgement. I cannot believe some of the AWFUL stuff I've seen that gets standing ovation.
Posted on 8/19/2017 at 8:48 AM
Val C said:
I'll never understand entrance applause. The actor has just shown up. You don't even know if they'll be any good. However a standing ovation at the end of every single show is even more irritating. I'll stand if I loved the show but audiences these days don't care if the show isn't great. It's as if a standing ovation is part of the experience. I grudgingly end up standing simply b/c I can't see
Posted on 8/19/2017 at 8:49 AM
Bea Heaney said:
I totally agree with Mr. Santoianni's sentiments. We have reached a point where a standing ovation for a truly great performance is relatively meaningless.
Posted on 8/19/2017 at 8:49 AM
Kai said:
No one gets applause from me until they've done something -- then and there -- worthy of applause. Simply showing up doesn't count, no matter how illustrious the actor. EVEN WORSE, however, is when the audience applauds the (often recorded) "turn off your cell phones" announcement.
Posted on 8/19/2017 at 8:52 AM
Judy Weinstein said:
Standing ovations have been ridiculous and meaningless for quite A while now. We have been noticing it and commenting on it for at least 10-15 years, and to our mind, it started at BAM. Every show, as someone already said, good bad mediocre gets a standing ovation. Why? A standing ovation should be for an exceptional experience/performance. Plus, I can never see the curtain calls anymore.
Posted on 8/19/2017 at 9:11 AM
Daniel P Quinn said:
Standing ovations only really occured on opening nights or at the opera and ballet, when warranted as do boo's. On Broadway people are happy to stand up out of those seats in a Broadway house. They are not "standing ovations" just people standing up. The roar of approval at a real one is unforgettable, as I lost my voice at the NYCity Opera for Norman Treigle and Claudio Abbado at LaScala.
Posted on 8/19/2017 at 9:11 AM
Allison said:
I would love it if someone gave me applause every time I showed up for work! What a better world it would be if we could together find the joy in lifting up one another for simply existing. It would be nice if there was a universally understood moment for the actors to pause for the reception of a welcome clap. This, of course, would need to be allotted for in the overall production.
Posted on 8/19/2017 at 9:39 AM
Nick Sedelnik said:
I never do entrance applause, and I am appalled by all the unwarranted standing ovations. I equate these with the overusage of the word 'awesome'. The Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, the pyramids---they are awesome. An exceptional per-formance in the theatre warrants a standing ovation. I've also heard the most prosaic set get applause when I curtain is raised to reveal it.
Posted on 8/19/2017 at 10:26 AM
Carol Gladstone said:
I agree with John Santoianni about standing ovations. Sometimes I wonder whether the audience saw the same mediocre play I just viewed and what they would do at a truly outstanding performance. As for acknowledging star status, I have no objection to applause for luminaries such as James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, and, yes, even Bette Midler. Many plays draw an audience based on the performers.
Posted on 8/19/2017 at 10:42 AM
Steve B said:
Coming from New York to New Hampshire in 1995 I was taken aback by the ubiquitous standing ovations delivered for the most mediocre performances. At first I thought it to be out of appreciation that someone would put on a performance in the boondocks. Now I believe it is a result of the every child gets a trophy rule. As long as you’ve done your best, it’s perfect.
Posted on 8/19/2017 at 10:49 AM
Mary Montegari said:
Entrance applause is so distracting - I too have missed dialogue because of it. It must be distracting to the actors not just to the intended recipient but others on stage. Thank you for commenting on this. Standing ovations are almost "required" now a days. If I have to think about standing then it usually isn't what I should be doing - as opposed to the times when I almost leap up & cry "BRAVO".
Posted on 8/19/2017 at 11:18 AM
John Lowell said:
I also hate the entrance applause,even worse is the standing ovation for a poor performance. I feel this is a result of the national TV shows where the producers urge the audiences to stand at the beginning and end of a show so they are now programmed. I saw a few shows in May and Glenn Close (Sunset Blvd)was the only one who deserved the standing ovation which she got.
Posted on 8/19/2017 at 11:49 AM
Sue said:
I do not give applause at entrances and neither do the British
Posted on 8/19/2017 at 11:59 AM
Bette Stetson said:
No entrance applause please and SIT DOWN and applaud if you wish at the end of the play or you will be mistaken for a real rube.Nobody likes a rube.
Posted on 8/19/2017 at 4:28 PM
Frank Copeland said:
I absolutely abhor standing ovations. They were supposed to represent a very rare and exceptional performance. They have become meaningless.
Posted on 8/19/2017 at 4:49 PM
Sima said:
I applaud at the entrance when it's someone who has achieved a lot in the past. I show appreciation to who they are. If they do a good job on the show I just watched I applaud but if they did a great job I will stand up clap and cheer. I have never found that the audience gives standing ovation if it's not deserved. ????
Posted on 8/19/2017 at 7:42 PM
G.T.B. True said:
I began attending Broadway performances in the middle 1950s of the last century. I learned that entrance applause for a star performer was a tradition with a protocol. The applauded knew how long to pause before beginning to speak;the audience knew when to stop.Today's yowlers believe they are entitled to join the performance. Their noise is intended to draw attention to themselves.
Posted on 8/20/2017 at 4:24 AM
Joe said:
Yes they have lost their meaning. I usually stand just so I can see when everyone in front of me stands. I will say I was happy to stand at Dear Evan Hansen, Bette in Dolly and Glen Close in Sunset Boulevard.
Posted on 8/20/2017 at 5:04 AM
Theresa Marmo said:
I think that the standing ovations after every play are ridiculous; I don't know how or why the practice started. Applause before don't bother me; people recognize actors and show their recognition. It doesn't have any great meaning.for me; Especially from TV shows that I never watch and don't recognize mean 0 to me.
Posted on 8/20/2017 at 7:54 AM
Clarissa said:
Applause in ny theatres is intrusive and, I believe, reduces the real respect for truly great moments in a production. Standing is even more intrusive and a form of bullying by the goodies. It's ignorant. Admiration doesn't need that much inclusiveness
Posted on 8/20/2017 at 7:59 AM
Donald Patriss said:
Entrance applause is especially disturbing when the play has already begun and then the star enters interrupting the play and bringing the theater goer back to reality. But - standing ovations are becoming too frequent and when people have to stand in order to see the actors they often have to hold items that were on their lap. This makes it impossible to clap.
Posted on 8/20/2017 at 8:49 AM
John Trosky said:
I only stand for a concluding applause for particularly exceptional acting (rare). Unfortunately, these days, the standing "O" has become less than trite. I've seen audience members stand for some of the worst drivel imaginable. I guess that you could forgive some of the tourists in town and we seem to be inundated with them, who never get to see live theater.
Posted on 8/20/2017 at 11:57 AM
Carol New said:
Standing ovations are meaningless! The only reason I get up for a standing ovation is so I can see over the over-enthusiastic people in front of me. Unless I do, I see nothing. If I were seated in the front row, I would never, or hardly ever, stand!
Posted on 8/24/2017 at 8:50 AM
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