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A Must See

Hold The Applause: Theatre Etiquette From James Earl Jones & Cicely Tyson

It is opening day of D.L. Coburn’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Gin Game, starring legendary thespians Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones, and you can forget the applause.

Entrance applause, that is.

The play – performed at the Golden Theatre since previews began Sept. 23 – officially opens  today, October 14, and the two award-winning actors are nipping the fanfare at the bud.

It’s quite understandable for theatergoers to be excited to see the veteran duo. It’s been nearly 50 years since they have shared a Broadway stage (the 1966 showcase of Black poetry with Roscoe Lee Browne’s A Hand Is On The Gate). Before that, they were among the long-running 1961 Off Broadway production The Blacks by Jean Genet. TV and film projects also have not escaped the Tony and Emmy winning actors.

Tyson and Jones, 90 and 84, respectively, would have plenty of lessons to share as a result of their long careers. Yet, a lesson in theatre etiquette is now at hand.

Of course, it should be a given that loud talking, eating, sleeping and the use of cell phones is not a good look at the theatre – as well as going on stage to charge a cell phone in a fake outlet.

According to New York Show Tickets, standing ovations and entrance applause are overdone. It admonishes to not give in to peer pressure.

Traditionally, applause for an actor when he or she first takes the stage and standing ovations at the end of a Broadway show were signs of an audience so full of appreciation and respect that they couldn’t help themselves. Lately, these reactions seem to have become obligatory, and unfortunately when standing ovations and entrance applause are done out of mere habit, they essentially become meaningless. Ultimately, how you react is up to you, but let your true feelings guide you.

Well, Tyson and Jones no doubt are more concerned with giving the best performance possible than they are with an audience’s “true feelings.”

They both agree that the entrance applause is distracting. Tyson said her role is “one of the most difficult things I’ve ever tackled.” It doesn’t help that her castmate can complicate matters. She admitted that Jones keeps her in fits of laughter. During rehearsals, she pleaded with the cast to let her get her giggles out.

For an Associated Press article, Tyson further said: “It is extremely difficult in some instances to contain myself and to remain true to the character that I’m trying to play. I really can’t allow for it to happen in the theater.”

Jones, who continues to find theatre fascinating, said: “Once we open this play, we’ll still be discovering stuff about it.”

So to respect the work of the incredible union, hold your applause until… well, you have a Gin hand.

Directed by Leonard Foglia, The Gin Game follows Weller Martin (Jones) and Fonsia Dorsey (Tyson) – two residents of a nursing home who strike a friendship. Weller shares his knowledge of gin rummy, while together they relate stories of their past and expose one another’s failures, disappointments and insecurities.

The Gin Game has a limited engagement of 16 weeks, ending in January. Tyson will not perform Dec 5-6. Get your tickets HERE.

What do you think about the request by the actors?

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