My Rule for Standing Ovations

Q: What does a standing ovation mean in Vancouver?
A: The show’s over.

Sometimes it can feel like that, anyway. And, to be fair, it’s not just Vancouver; North America is standing-O crazy. Studio audiences leap to their feet when talk-show hosts arrive on-stage, for God’s sake. To far too great an extent, standing ovations have become the norm; I’m sure that, to some people, staying in their seat to applaud would feel mean.

I’ve got a rule for standing ovations: I’ll stand up if a show has positively changed my life.

This past week, I stood up for Kim Collier’s production of Red at the Playhouse. That show reminded me of the importance of simple, visceral openness to art, and of the importance of honouring one’s capacity for profound aesthetic experience. For me at least, it’s way too easy to get caught up in survival and to forget about the ecstasy of presence.

I’m not kidding myself; I know that Red isn’t a perfect script. In some ways, it sucks up to its audience. I’m thinking of the scene in which Rothko and his assistant paint a base layer onto a canvas, for instance. In this production—as per the stage directions—they do so with opera blaring and in a frenzy. On opening night, the audience burst into applause at the end. But for what? They just painted a base coat. It’s a mundane task. In my reading at least, the playwright presents a ridiculously crude reduction of the artistic process and, eager to be in on an act of creativity, the audience buys into it.

But who cares, really? The play opened me up. And my primary response is gratitude.

About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.


  1. Im an actor from the Capilano Musical Theatre program. I just now came aorcss your site and while I commend you on your effort to inform the public on the musicals in Vancouver, you sir have missed several shows.The Threepenny Opera: A rarely done musical but stunning production design and standout performers Exit 22 at Capilano UniversityBye Bye Birdie. Also fantastic production designs as well as a fun and talented actors at Studio 58 at Langara CollegeReefer Madness, by a small local company. Small yet packed with talent , at the PAL theatre I see nothing on here.Flower Drum Song, an older, dated but gem of musical theatre history by Rodgers and Hammerstein produced by Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre which ran for 3 weeks in may/juneTitanic: musical in concert by Applause. A beautiful and haunting show that had a short 4 day run in may. NothingMaybe its time you had a few more people working with you to ensure you actually cover everything in Vancouver. I suggest getting in contact with the Ovation Award committee which I also sit on, local awards for the musical theatre companies. Please contact me and I will gladly get you a ticket for reviewing the evening.

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