June 10, 2009 in Features

High school performances are places to encourage arts

Judith Martin
 

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When attending a performance of, say, a high school musical, what are the rules about standing ovations? They seem to be occurring more and more frequently for what I’d consider an adequate, but certainly not spectacular, performance.

I know people are proud of their offspring and want to show that, but my goodness, a standing ovation? My husband and I feel mean-spirited just sitting when everyone has heaved him-or-herself out of the chair to “ovate.” I must add that those who do stand appear to do so with some lack of enthusiasm. Any thoughts?

GENTLE READER: That pretty much everyone attending a high school musical has a young relative involved in it. If you merely wandered in because you were in search of a spectacular performance of “The Fantasticks,” you are asking for disappointment.

Mind you, Miss Manners has sat quietly through many a standing ovation at the professional theater and the opera, clapping normally if she thinks the performance a good one, keeping her hands in her lap if not. She agrees with you that ovation inflation has made it impossible for audiences to express their enthusiasm for a performance of rare excellence.

And although she is incapable of uttering a “boo,” she relishes being in audiences that are discerning and emotionally involved enough to register even negative opinions.

But high school? Or any amateur performance? It is there, and not in the costly professional theater, that the audience’s kindly duty is to encourage the performers. Or at least to reassure them that they have not made fools of themselves.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Last month, my friend informed me that she was pregnant with her first child. Soon afterward, she began including me in a group that receives a weekly e-mail regarding the status of her pregnancy. It includes a few comments from her, followed by a description of the baby’s development, including a diagram like one you’d find in a textbook.

While I am happy that she is excited about having her first child, I find that this is a little too much information.

Should I just let the e-mails continue or is there a way I can politely say something so that I can be excluded from these weekly e-mail distributions?

GENTLE READER: Let us hope that your friend does not take to tweeting. Minute-by-minute accounts of pregnancy are something that only prospective fathers and grandparents should be expected to bear.

What you are getting is also lacking in charm and general interest, but Miss Manners believes that once a week, you could take a minute to 1) hit the reply key, 2) type “Congratulations,” and (3 and 4 in rapid succession) hit the send and delete keys.

Pregnancy is, by its nature, a self-preoccupied state, but it often leads to the opposite state.

Write to Miss Manners at MissManners@unitedmedia.com.


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