Boo This Post

Terry Teachout, meditating on a rare outburst of booing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, wonders if classical music and theater are being diminished by a superabundance of standing ovations and a scarcity of negative feedback. What if theater and orchestra audiences behaved more like blog commenters? Not too long ago, they did; in 1849, to pick an extreme example, a full-blown riot broke out over a production of Macbeth in New York City. Let’s reach for a middle ground in the comments section here, please. [%comments]

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  1. Marc says:

    I only join in the standing ovation if a play truly deserves it. Part of the problem may be that the general population may be so ignorant of what makes good theatre that they just follow along like sheep.

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  2. Aaron says:

    That’s a shame. I’d watch Mary Zimmerman stage the Boston phone book.

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  3. Otto says:

    It appears to me that there’s a deep desire to applaud theater. Living in the sticks, the only opportunity I’ve got for opera is the Met HD-Live broadcasts at the local movie theater. I’ve stopped going to those due to all the people in the audience who applaud, even to the point of doing a mini standing-O, apparently not realizing that the video feed is NOT bi-directional. On the negative side, though, I have yet to tell any of these screen-applauders to shut up, so I can understand how audiences would be loath to boo performers.

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  4. Julie says:

    My church has this problem. Every year at Christmas and Easter, they turn out the most horrendous musicals, but everyone keeps raving about how good they are.

    Problem is, it’s hard to boo in a church. But I wish, at the very least, that they would not rave about how amazing they are right from the pulpit.

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  5. IA says:

    Marc – while I’m not usually against the “people are like sheep” theory, but your assumption that the non-ignorant have a criteria of what “makes good theatre” is ridiculous. Ignorant or not, people have different opinions in case you didn’t know.

    And this brings me to my point – in blog comments I can criticise another commentor…. So if Marc was sitting next to me in a play and not joining the standing ovation, can I turn around and start booing him?

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  6. Quill says:

    Curse the unwashed masses for enjoying theatre! Curse them!

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  7. jonathan says:

    The problem with booing is that the performers on stage often don’t deserve it; they didn’t write or direct the mess. And when you applaud, some of the clapping is for the material, some for the performance. We don’t have a mechanism for booing the material while cheering the performers – or vice versa.

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  8. ceolaf says:

    I literally cannot remember a play that I have attended in NYC — and I’ve attend around 10/year for the last decade — that did get a standing ovation from at least some significant fraction of the crowd.

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