August 15, 2013

The Price Of Applause....Literally

There is a disturbing yet somewhat fascinating article in today's TIMES about Russia. No, not all the anti-gay violence and laws being passed. But it's about a sort of semi-secretive cabal that is paid to generate applause at certain moments in at the Bolshoi Ballet. Yes, you read that all correctly.

The story, from yesterday's Arts section, is about a practice that is apparently over a hundred years old where a group of 30 or so well-placed "claqueurs" can start a wave of applause when needed, to boost an actors energy (and give them a chance to catch their breath) or to just boost their ego. All for a price too. It's run by a mysterious and somewhat sinister sounding fellow named Roman Abramov, who officially the Bolshoi Ballet itself had a no comment about.

The practice was apparently common in many theaters until the late 1800s. I'm actually surprised that some savvy Broadway producer hasn't taken up the practice himself but, at $150 a pop, a group of 30 professional audience members would take a chunk out of the box office. Then again, Bway shows are famous for filling the seats with friendly audience members and friends of the production for nights when the critics show up. But something this organized and also somewhat sinister does not seem to be happening here. At least yet...