Skip to main content
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Academy Award winning actor Mickey Rooney applauds at a press conference October 29, 2002, announcing plans for The Motion Picture Hall of Fame in Hollywood. The new attraction will feature exhibits and multimedia attrractions about the world of Hollywood films and is expected to open in early 2004.

FRED PROUSER/Reuters

When a star walks on it's natural to applaud and doesn't spoil the magic, says J. Kelly Nestruck. Not so, argues Kate Taylor who finds it intensely annoying and more about an obsession with fame than an acknowledgment of talent.

As Alan Thicke and George Hamilton appear in two different Toronto theatres this fall, the veteran actors will be offered an instant measure of their fame: If they have still got it, audiences will applaud the moment they walk out on stage.

How annoying.

Story continues below advertisement

The worst case I have ever seen of entrance applause occurred on the stage of what is now the Sony Centre in Toronto more than 10 years ago. An American touring company was presenting a stage adaptation of The Wizard of Oz with Eartha Kitt playing the Wicked Witch of the West and Mickey Rooney playing the wizard. As Rooney entered, the house broke into loud applause. He stopped in his tracks and waved at the folks, as though he were a costumed elf riding a float in the Santa Claus Parade.

"Why are you applauding?" I whisper from behind my clenched teeth on such occasions. "He hasn't done anything yet."

I don't object to entrance applause on the grounds it isn't proper etiquette: In the 19th-century people used to call out "Bis, bis" to opera singers to hear a beloved aria repeated. Etiquette is ever shifting.

I don't object on the grounds it breaks the illusion of theatre. What illusion of what reality could one possibly sustain in a musical that includes a talking lion and a living scarecrow? If the characters in the current revival of La Cage aux Folles or the new Canadian production Queen for a Day are going to break into song at key moments in their respective shows, I don't think anyone in the audience is going to believe that Hamilton is actually the owner of a drag club and Thicke is really a 1950s game-show host. The form itself is joyfully artificial.

Instead, I object to entrance applause because it is a nasty manifestation of a celebrity-obsessed culture that, tautologically, takes an actor's fame as a measure of his achievement rather than judging his current performance. It is kind of a consumer issue: It suggests that audiences, long accustomed to the virtual versions of stars they know from television and the movies, can be billed simply for the privilege of seeing them live and in person, like animals in a zoo. Are you really willing to pay for that mere appearance – or are you paying the performer to entertain you? And if we all applaud the fame, what currency do we have left to reward an actor's hard work or brilliant artistry?

In Rooney's case, there wasn't much artistry: That night, the actor kept flubbing his lines. Of course, Thicke and Hamilton are going to offer far superior performances. Try holding your applause until they do.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies