On World Theatre Day, I find myself (for some odd reason) thinking about the standing ovation — or, more precisely, the fact that the standing ovation seems to have become almost too commonplace as to carry any significance any more.
I am reminded of the word fuck. (Bear with me here.) I love the word fuck. I grew up in an era in which fuck was a dead-on expression of a certain level of extreme feeling that no other word seemed to capture. Unfortunately for me, that era seems to be gone, or at least disappearing. But that’s perfectly understandable. Language must change, after all. (Fuck itself might not have always been so vulgar, in fact.) We will always have other words to replace the words we lose. If we writers do our jobs, that is.
What we can never — and will never — lose, however, is the need for vulgarity itself. There must always be words that are somehow taboo to utter. Words that shock and shake and unshackle our civilized grammar. We need them, you see, because there will always be atrocities to respond to. The need to express great moral anger.
So… back to the standing ovation. If, in fact, the standing ovation is becoming almost as commonplace as the casually-dropped f-bomb… I wonder then what might replace it. In the theaters of the future, how will an audience genuinely moved in some over-the-top fashion express the full measure of its emotion? Will theatergoers start rushing the stage, for example, like fans storming the court at the end of a particularly thrilling college basketball victory? Will there be high-pitched, keening wails of some sort? Undergarments (or flowers, or octopi) hurled at the actors? (That one seems silly, I realize.) How will we all give voice to that genuinely rare (I believe) experience of having been transformed by a performance?
I honestly don’t know.