This is BrainLog, a blog by Dan Sanderson. Older entries, from October 1999 through September 2010, are preserved for posterity, but are no longer maintained. See the front page and newer entries.

November 2003 Archives

November 3, 2003

Seattlites have some delightful habits that I'm rather fond of, especially with regards to interpersonal interaction. No true native makes conversation in elevators or on the bus, but everyone is always polite and even generous when interaction is necessary (we thank our bus drivers, or at least I do). We'll even entertain the chatty outsider, though deep in our hearts we're praying for an early end to the conversation, even looking for escape routes. Slightly frustrating but along the same lines, when a Seattlite says we should do dinner sometime, it's genuinely heartfelt enthusiasm for your company and the potential for a future occasion, but it is not an actual invitation, and no actual event will be planned-- even between close friends. And a Seattlite will never show up at your house uninvited.

Seattlites always give standing ovations at the theater, opera or symphony. Standing ovations are common to people of smaller towns not used to having regular access to performing arts; Seattle is no exception to that category, and it's a forgivable habit. What is utterly inexcusable, however, is that many Seattlites exit the theater before the first curtain call. The soonest indication that there is nothing more of interest to see, people are gathering their coats and trudging up the aisles. This isn't a football game, dammit, it's Mourning Becomes Electra!

Perhaps Seattlites should be forgiven for this abhorrent behavior as well, as it is easy to assume people are early risers at the opera for the same reason as at football games: to beat the traffic. Seattle is notorious for its traffic problems, with rush-hour-like jams throughout the evening and at unusual times during the weekend. But the fourth quarter exodus begins when the verdict is mostly decided, and the players have their victory or defeat in hand. At the theater, your dutiful applause and presence during the curtain call, no matter how polite or strained, is the only victory the players have, and nothing is decided until the curtain falls and the house lights are raised. Leaving without applause is like throwing a tomato, and I don't think that's what you mean.

I'll be the first to admit that there are theatrical traditions that are simply incommensurate with Seattlites' practical sensibilities, as they are with practicality in general. Leif Ove Andsnes's coming and going after the completion of his scheduled program quite befuddled the Seattle audience that was just as eager for it to be over as it was to hear more. By the fourth encore, Leif was rather apologetic that he kept making us sit down again-- those of us that were still present, anyway. The uninvited Chopin prelude was enjoyed (far more than simply tolerated), but the exits were clearly marked. Future pianists visiting Seattle are encouraged to do their encores all at once.

The Electra curtain call was obnoxiously long, but it was their final performance and Marvin David Levy was there to take a bow, so that should have been expected. I'm guessing nobody stayed for the 11pm post-performance lecture; I would have, but I needed to get home.