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A CurtainUpEssay
To Nap, Or to Clap?


In an article on the subject of napping for the Toronto Star (October 29, 2006), Kurt Kleiner declared himself firmly on the side of the after-lunch nap even though his wife considers it the sign of a basic character flaw. While Kleiner makes his case entertainingly and with plenty of examples of famous historic nappers, he omitted a whole class of nappers: people for whose eyelids seem to droop within minutes of the lights darkening in the theater.

I've seen some Broadway show nappers nudged awake by embarassed companions who can occasionally be heard to whisper "You didn't spend all this money to sleep!" Some, like Winston Churchill, seem to thrive on catnaps and perk up on their own after the first twenty minutes and later insist that they closed their eyes to pay closer attention to the words.

But nappers aren't strictly Broadway babies. Off Broadway and regional theaters have their share of what I call protest nappers. In Shapespeare's day the groundlings had no upholstered seats in which to hunker down for some zees. They therefore threw orange peels and whatever else was handy at the actors who displeased them.

Unless theater nappers are snorers—and believe me, I've sat near my share of cringe-inducing noisy nappers— they usually don't disturb their fellow theater goers the way people who forget to turn off their cell phones do. That's probably why no one has come up with a pre-show announcement that wittily urges people to not only turn off their gadgets and unwrap their candies, but to take a quick stretch so that they'll stay awake during the performance.

Are these napping theater goers mostly tired businessmen or senior citizens? Don't bet the box office receipts on it. I've seen enough of my fellow critics with their chins resting on their chests to know this is not something limited to paying customers. I'll leave it to you to guess whether a little snooze will make them more inclined to give the play whose first, middle or last act they dozed through a thumbs up.

In fairness to the playwrights who keep writing, the actors who keep acting their hearts out, and the behind the scenes folks who see to it that the show will go on, there are still plenty of people for whom even a less than perfect show is too stimulating to miss even a minute. After all it's live entertainment, not something on a screen. And if things go well, there'll be enough food for thought and discussion to keep you wide awake well after the curtain's come down and the actors have taken their bows.

broadway musicals: the 101 greatest shows of all time
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.


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Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide


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©Copyright 2006, Elyse Sommer.
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