When I first moved to NY, I had two amazing roommates, Eric Christian (dancer, singer and actor extrordinaire) and Jennifer Stetor (now Stetor Eggars... see previous description!). Jen Stet (as we called her) was in "The Will Rogers Follies", and Eric and I were sweating to the oldies in the Radio City Music Hall's Easter Show. One day, Jen posed the question to me, "Why do audiences applaud? I mean think about it, human beings slapping their frontal appendages together to give praise...it's just weird." She may not know it, but I have been fascinated by her query since that day.
The history of applause (or clapping) is apparently not of huge interest to the scientific community. In a nutshell, researchers have a few theories: 1) In Roman times, people wanted to give a mild expression of pleasure without using their voices. 2) It evolved to be a recognition of the conclusion of artistic effort (like at The Duplex when they roll the credits at the end of an episode of "Smash"), or 3) It is simply a unique human behavior.
Not that I'm any kind of scientist, but I've read studies that primates don't ever clap unless they are taught by human trainers to do so....huh!
Which brings me to the meat of this blog. I was fortunate enough to experience the rarest of all applause, the "albino elephant" of applause, the PRE APPLAUSE. It happened while I was out of town in Chicago, in the original company of "Spamalot".
I believe that if you're going to adapt a movie to a musical, it better be BELOVED source material. "Monty Python and The Holy Grail"* was a movie that I watched, sneaked down into my basement to watch again, and then demanded to have sleepovers with my friends so I could shove it's humor down their throats. I'll skip the middle part of growing up, learning that Jimmy Carter actually freed the hostages, and being cast in "Spamalot". This is about applause...
*If you are not familiar with this film, you should probably take this opportunity to leave this blog and go to the following nonexistent link to "The Real Housewives Of Dubai"_______________________ you're welcome.
Dream cast, dream director, incredible choreographer (PS. Have you heard of that little black box musical called "Book Of Mormon"? Yup, dancers have brains too!) We were in our first preview in Chicago. Again, I'll skip the middle part that involved kneepads, a burning witch, and 8 new endings.
That magical night, I experienced the PRE-APPLAUSE (cue music). When I say that, I really mean we, as in the cast. People were slapping their frontal appendages together before classic lines, before visual gags, and before known character entrances. It was something we had not accounted for, or even considered. But the magic of the pre-applause is short lived. Once you open a show, it slowly becomes the audience's, not yours. It's a strange mourning period, but that's when you find your landing pad and start to sprint. Once you get past the super fans (an unbelievable high), you taper the rhythm to meet the regular guy who paid a bunch of money to see you dance around in tights. A new challenge.
I tell 9 to 5'ers that I know, "Imagine finishing a shift at your job, and then having 1500 people stand up and...applaud." That's why we do it.
OK, more pics. This time keep in mind that we were not allowed to get haircuts in rehearsal for "Spamalot" for several months in case we needed to look medieval. I am well aware that I look like a cross between an old Justin Beiber and a young Lance Bass.
Thomas Cannizzaro, Christian Borle and me.
When you're on the bottom, you get spit on alot… in SPAMALOT.
Who's out of tune here? We staged this photo…Christian Borle sang in tune 95% of the time,
I sang in tune 50%…just cuz.
Chris Sieber, annoyingly always in tune.
Hank Azaria getting input from future "Book Of Mormon Director" Casey Nicolaw. I just love this pic. Talk about PRE APPLAUSE!