Curtain Calls


{Header image by Lorenzo Gaudenzi and used under a Creative Commons Share-Alike license, via Wikimedia Commons.}

Note: this article was previously published in the August 2009 issue of KC Stage Magazine (link no longer active).

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in the curtain calls I’ve been witness to in the past year or so. No, I’m not talking about what I’ve heard call the ‘obligatory’ standing ovation (although that’s a problem, too; standing ovations should ‘stand’ for something, pun intended). Rather, I’m talking about what I’ve nicknamed ‘the long-ass curtain call’.

As an actor myself, I understand wanting to take that bow and feel the applause wash over me. It’s a heady feeling, like mixing Coca Cola and coffee. But as a director and an audience member, I often feel sorry for the folks near the end, as these long-ass curtain calls make me not really care about these actors. My hands are tired, and I just want to stand up and get moving.

While community theatre is the biggest abuser — I remember a show that had a cast of over 20 that gave everyone a separate bow that took at least a minute to do — I’ve also seen this happen at the professional theatres, most notably Broadway Across America’s shows at the Music Hall.

photo of a curtain call
Photo by 玄史生 and used via a Creative Commons Public Domain license, via Wikimedia Commons.

As a director, I have to wonder: are curtain calls even blocked anymore? I remember while attending Park College’s theatre program being taught exactly how to take a curtain call: walk on at a medium pace, take a short beat, bow, take another short beat, then walk back off at the same pace. If you’re not the first one out, start walking as you see the person before you at the bottom-most dip in the bow. If you’re bowing with multiple people (which should be required on shows with 10 or more actors), like in the final curtain call, the group bows watching the person/s in the center to lead.

As a friend said to me, your curtain call should be your thank you. It should end the show: not be a complete encore. So, for the love of my hands, directors, think about your curtain calls — and keep them snappy.


If you’re in the Kansas City area on September 11, 12, 18, or 19, come see a relatively short curtain call at the end of Shakespeare in the Parking Lot IV: Much Ado About Nothing, stage managed by yours truly.

This comedy by William Shakespeare proves once again that love is a battlefield. The story concerns two pairs of lovers, one due to be married in a week and one that would be considered anything but. Claudio and Hero are young, facing heartache on the way to happiness. Meanwhile, Beatrice and Benedict have the ‘merry war’ of the sexes, trapped by their love and apparent disdain. Surrender your heart to this age old romantic comedy – and see why there is … much ado about nothing.

Performances are September 11, 12, 18, & 19 at 4:30 pm, and tickets are only $5. This is a fundraiser for the Alcott Arts Center (180 S 18th St, Kansas City, KS — it is NOT ADA accessible) — the people running it bought the building to keep it from being turned into a minimum security prison and turned it into an arts center back in 2001.

Leave a Reply