Not Standing For It!

December 17, 2022

Directed by: Mark Bucher

  Boulevard TheatreMilwaukee’s premiere independent theatre company, continues its 37th season with a free presentation of “NOT STANDING FOR IT!,” an exploratory workshop of an original piece collectively crafted by Milwaukee writers, performers, educators, & personalities.   This Milwaukee premiere will be workshopped in a unique interactive writers’ lab on Saturday, December 17 at 3pm at Milwaukee’s iconic Bay View gathering place, the The Sugar Maple Tavern (441 East Lincoln).

This low key,  fun event will showcase monologues of nearly one dozen local artists, who have contributed solo speeches & theatrical pieces that address and explore audiences’ recent tendencies to greet each and every performance with immediate standing ovations.

       The impetus for this unique theatrical literary workshop began as a series of Facebook posts initiated by Boulevard‘s Artistic Director Mark Bucher.  Bucher maintains a popular FB page that enjoys nearly 5000 friends & contacts who regularly visit and support his page.  Naturally, Bucher often shares posts about the Boulevard Theatre, but he also often shares posts about other local theatrical events, as well as posts & comments about current national theatrical events and trends.

In mid-October (11/13/22), Bucher posted an opinion post that commented on Milwaukee audiences’ clockwork-like proclivity to reward nearly, or possibly all, curtain calls with immediate standing ovations.  TheLACWEre was an immediate flood of responses on FB about the overgenerous responses of Milwaukee audiences.  Nearly 400 responses were received (including both written comments and the ubiquitous emojis).  And these comments ranged from total agreement to vehement disagreement (and everything in-between).  The sheer number of responses testified that a chord had definitely been struck and that there could be some sort of script or theatrical event engineered out of this wellspring of opinion regarding standing ovations.

       Bucher was also engaged by the expansive range of comments and reactions; many of these shared stories and anecdotes about the social pressure felt and experienced at immediate standing ovations, especially for just average performances — or even for subpar theatrical work.  What registered from the many varied responses included commentary that hinted at being extremely uncomfortable with coerced submission to stand with the “majority.”

        Many commentators shared that they only stood due to the societal pressure of seeing and witnessing the “crowd” standing. One comment that exemplified the issues most simply? > “I stand up because I don’t want to stand out.” {For a quick exploration of this social phenomenon, visit this link/post on YOUTUBE:}.
Other respondents felt that it would be wrong to even suggest limiting or circumventing standing ovations, citing that it would be attempting to control the crowd’s or individuals’ responses to theatre and that such attempts to expand patron awareness might drive patrons away from attending live performances.  This particular faction championed people’s abilities to react in whatever manner they wished at any public performance.

        However, reactions that followed those pro-ovation posts discussed some patrons’ resentment at suddenly not being able to see the curtain call or final bows, as now former open sight lines were being obscured by standing patrons. The issues raised by both the original posts and the ensuing reactions slowly hinted at an examination into crowd dynamics, societal pressure, and even the psychology of mob rule.

        And the role of choice (to stand or not to stand, to remain standing but then missing out on a key element in the performance, etc.) in such unplanned, unexpected crowd/group dynamics became a hotbed of debate. Some posts and comments asked if some patrons have the right to block or obscure sight lines, as well as inquiring of the options of more vigorous applause or crying out the now-defunct “Bravo?” {For further examination of this particular point, please visit :…/e0bdcb94-3bf9-40e9-9f11… }
 It became readily apparent that the discussion of a “forced ovation” is very timely, as America is currently in the throes of mob mentality in the realm of –of course? — politics. And this mindset that the majority holds all the cards while denying the minority any “play” has carried over from politics and into our public debates, our school board meetings, and our interview programs throughout all media.  It appears that now all public discourse and events can quickly devolve into shouting matches, vocal bullying, and “might makes right” mentalities.

       Slowly, over time, this unexpected project began to emerge with greater clarity and increased focus.  It garnered a working title (NOT STANDING FOR IT!) and has now evolved into this first step of a process that –through such public workshops and interactive labs as what will occur on Saturday, December 17? — will see this project develop into a full production (possibly in the latter end of the Boulevard Theatre‘s 23rd season).

       But at this juncture, NOT STANDING FOR IT! is currently a series of monologues and interior conversations as experienced and presented through the characters of audience patrons who may – or may not? – have attended the same (imaginary) performance. Over 150 writers, actors, artists, and local denizens of MKE’s creative community were contacted to participate in this locally crafted project. Nearly two dozen individuals have come through and submitted their contributions. ALL of these submissions will be shared on Saturday, December 17th (3pm) at The Sugar Maple Tavern (441 East Lincoln). This event is free and open to the public. Due to the intimacy of the The Sugar Maple‘s back room area, seating and participation is limited to 30 guests and – depending upon the Covid numbers in the Milwaukee community at that time? – masking may be enforced.

       Some of the creative contributors are still sharing their monologues about attending performances and their “characters’ ” reactions to continual ovations (both positive & negative).   As such, sharing any list of writers and contributors participating in NOT STANDING FOR IT! would prove both generally insufficient in promoting the event and moderately dismissive of those who are still in the process of applying to this truly unique workshop (yes, contributions are still coming in).

       But while the final list of writers is being finalized,  NOT STANDING FOR IT! can boast that a host of local performers, writers, educators, and friends of the local arts scene have answered Bucher’s call to contribute and participate; to say nothing of the diverse selection of local creatives who Bucher approached to participate in this rare and unique event.  His original invitation went out to an expansive array of nearly 200 artists whose varied backgrounds encompassed all social, economic, ethnic, gender, gender/sexual orientation backgrounds.

As with all Boulevard Theatre auditions, productions and events, vigorous efforts were made to craft a thoroughly inclusive artists’ panel that represents the actual MKE community.  NOT STANDING FOR IT! continues Boulevard Theatre‘s commitment to the greater Milwaukee community by showcasing local artists and writers, as well as offering this unique and welcoming literary forum for FREE to all patrons and participants.

While admission is free, depending upon the levels of community Covid transmission on 12/17, some pandemic protocols may be observed (guests remaining properly masked during the complete performance).

       Patrons can reserve their seats by contacting Boulevard Artistic Mark Bucher (   Seating is limited & latecomers may not be admitted.   Three Milwaukee County bus lines (the #15, #53, and the Greenline) are within one block of the Sugar Maple.   Neighborhood parking, while available, is limited.   Guests are advised to schedule additional time to park their car.  Arriving early allows for a lovely walk to the Sugar Maple and then the chance to enjoy a libation in the Sugar Maple’s inviting, welcoming front lounge.  Again, it is unlikely that the Boulevard will be able to accommodate latecomers.  Walk-ups (without advance reservations) may not be able to be accommodated.

Read the article by Shepherd Express here: