I’ve been thinking about applause a lot recently. As a regular theatergoer, pre-pandemic, applause was fairly commonplace in my day-to-day life.
Applause was by no means canceled during the pandemic. It was an integral part of showing thanks to the essential workers. It was piped into the empty stands of sports arenas. However, it was noticeably absent in the arts.
At times, this felt like another subtle way in which the arts were labeled as non-essential. I like to think it was a conscious choice in the arts community. The silence was a way to show reverence for the audience, and hold their space.
Countless livestreams and late night shows left a sometimes uncomfortably silent void, a constant reminder of what had been lost and, perhaps, taken for granted.
As theaters have reopened across the country and around the world, the audiences and the applause have slowly returned. I’ve been fortunate enough to be in a few of those spaces, and it’s not like it was before. It’s better.
There’s palpable joy and hope that is heightened by the feelings of loss and sadness. The return of audiences and applause to theaters isn’t a return to normal, it’s a rebirth and a long-overdue communal catharsis.
Of course, we are still in the middle of a pandemic. Masks are being worn and proof of vaccination is often required. There will undoubtedly be setbacks as we find our way forward. Still, we’ve made it through a lot, and that most certainly deserves (at least) a round of applause.
Be Kind. Be Brave. Stay Awkward.