Don’t Tweet Me, Bro

Live-tweeting.

This subject first came up a few months after I first learned about Twitter. Some theater in NYC was encouraging audience members to tweet during the performance and the tweets would be projected on a screen (or something like that, my memory is a bit foggy).  That was three years ago give or take a few months.  I paid no real attention to the subject and never really formulated an opinion on the subject.  Until recently.

I’ve noticed several live-tweeting events occurring over the past several weeks.  These have been during workshops or previews of some shows around LA.  I’m ready to form an opinion.  I should say, I’m ready to tell you the opinion I’ve formed on the subject.  I hate it.  I want it to stop. I want theatre companies to stop encouraging it.

For some reason this topic is controversial.  I keep hearing the question asked “Are you for or against live-tweeting during performances?” I don’t get it.  I don’t understand why this is even a debate.  It is incredibly disrespectful to everybody involved onstage, backstage and in the audience.

The point of live theatre is to experience theatre LIVE.  Every single person involved in the creation of a production works tirelessly to take an audience from moment to moment from lights up to curtain call.  To intentionally take your attention away from what is going on in front of you and give that attention to Twitter instead is disrespectful to the playwright, actors, designers and directors.

To those of you in favor of live-tweeting during theatre please answer this question: What is going on while you are tweeting?

I understand that tweeting is awesome.  I do it constantly, but it has no business going on during a theatre performance with some exceptions:

1)   If the act of tweeting is an integral part of the experience of the production in some meta-tweet-theatre sort of way

2)   If your life has been threatened and only live-tweeting will save you.

That’s about it.

As far as tweeting as a marketing tool, which is an argument I heard, or read or just made up, I think it’s interesting, but rings incredibly false.  For one thing, if you stack your audience with some tweeters to help promote your show AND you have a paying audience in there at the same time, you could be negatively impacting their experience.  The audience is the point of the entire endeavor, right?  Their experience should come first. You can cram your tweeters into the back row or push them off to the sides all you want, but that doesn’t mitigate their presence.

For theatre producers and live-tweet enthusiasts: If you want the production tweeted as some sort of marketing/promotional event, here are some rules to follow that I just invented because I think I know the answer to everything:

1)   Do it when there is no audience in attendance.

2)   Do it during a dress rehearsal instead of a straight-through performance.  This will give the tweeters the break between scenes while the director, actors and designers are working on things so they can tweet without missing anything.

3)   Keep it to an hour or less. Nobody wants their twitter feeds filled up for two solid hours.

4)   Tweet interesting, honest and relevant thoughts and observations. We can see straight through the polite praise.  Your tweets will ring true if they are, well, true. Don’t tell us how wonderful and lovely the production is because we won’t believe you.

5)   Producers: Give your live-tweeters carte blanche. Allow them to be as honest as they like, just as you would a critic.

6)   Announce to everybody in the room that live-tweeting is going on. If it is a dress rehearsal, all of the actors and design team in the room should be aware what they say and do may be communicated to the outside world.

7)   Don’t do it because you see other people doing it.  Learn about Twitter first. Become part of the Twitter community.  If you do, you will learn that Twitter is actually a terrible marketing tool. Your followers can see a marketing tweet a mile away and they will ignore it.  Twitter is a communication tool.  Yes, there is a difference.

These rules just rolled off my head as I angrily typed this screed.  There could be several others.  Feel free to add some to the comments or you can send them to me in a tweet.  @BostonCourt is my handle.  Just don’t do it during a show.

Brian Polak is the Marketing & Communications Manager (and designated tweeter) for Boston Court Performing Arts Center.

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31 responses to “Don’t Tweet Me, Bro

  1. A great post. Thank you.

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  2. Absolutely. Thanks for posting!

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  3. I’m one of the people encouraging the experiment of live-tweeting as well as participating. The conversation surrounding the idea has been a bit one-sided in favor of it (conveniently on Twitter), and thank you for being so honest and clear in not just your opinion, but the reasons. In no particular order, I’d like to address those items with which I disagree strongly or mildly as well as provide some solutions.

    First, these are all experiments. Few vital inventions were gotten right on the first try, and more than we know came about because of pure accident. Regardless of mixed feelings, non-mixed feelings and all of the above, encouraging experimentation will cause many to trip and many to fall, but some to stand up with a clearer idea of which path to walk. For a close-to-home example, I rarely walk out of a T@BC show singing its praises or outright hating it, but always leave with a myriad of feelings and opinions because quite frankly, you take risks. You are also one of the very few theaters I will jump to attend regardless of or because I do NOT know the playwright/creative team. Your (Brian) and Michael’s presence and honest conversation in the community is another huge factor.

    -Cluttering the stream. When I conducted some InterTweets, Interviews taking place over Twitter, by the second one in two weeks, I felt the same way that Michael Seel did, and I was the one conducting them. He expressed that he would have to unfollow @LABitterLemons (the account I was using) until the Intertweets stopped. Cluttering the stream is an important hurdle when dealing with various audiences on Twitter who use the service for extremely different purposes. After his comment, I took a step back and asked what about the interview format works over Twitter and what might not. Since I haven’t answered those questions yet, although I have thoughts, I haven’t attempted another InterTweet. That’s another blog entry.

    For live-tweeting performances, after participating in “Twelfth Night” and “The Insidious Impact of Anton,” I decided I would use my Twitter account that is specifically for Outreach and experiments in these technologies (@OutreachNerd), rather than my stream that tackles the arts, outreach, civics, Lord of the Rings, Atwater Village and beer (@cindymariej). That is one solution, but doesn’t address the respect issue.

    -Respect for the work. I personally don’t think it is disrespectful. This is all a matter of opinion and of course, I respect all opinions on the matter. Live isn’t sacred-and I know I”ll get hate email for that one. For varying reasons, in the thousands of times I’ve sat in a theater without tweeting, my mind sometimes wanders while watching a live performance in ways that disrespect the work before me, by that definition. Sometimes it is because of poor craftsmanship or being two steps ahead of the story or distracted. Sometimes it’s just because I have a deadline and my mind is not willing to stop working. Sometimes, as in the case of “Heaver Than…” last weekend, it is because some quality of the story reminds me of something I’m currently writing and offers a new path or solution; the disrespect possibly inherent in my mind mind wandering during the show is actually the greatest artist-to-artist honor I can imagine: inspiration. I didn’t consider it disrespectful that I took a pen from my purse and subtly wrote a note on my program to consider later. I adored the 90 minutes I spent there later that evening when I wrote two hours nonstop based on the inspiration gleaned from the show.

    Under the right circumstances, many of which were provided above or in other conversations surrounding this conversation, live-tweeting does not have to be inherently disrespectful. That being said, everyone involved should know.

    On the topic of real-time discussions: I’m typically discouraged when theaters who use Twitter very well don’t have their account or show hashtag readily available for non-live but current feedback. By readily available, I mean on the program, on a sign in the lobby, etc. What an amazing way to collect real-time feedback for those audience members who do not know the theater’s staff well enough to communicate directly?)

    -Marketing vs natural opinions. This is huge. How can we truly attempt this without being honest? In the cases where I was involved, I felt completely at ease to be truthful, but the more critical thoughts didn’t occur until later or after the show. In last night’s MacBeth live-tweeting, there were very interesting opinions being bandied about, and had I the available time, I would have participated in the conversation more.These are the same reasons I often can’t discuss a show in the lobby directly afterwards, unless there was nothing redeemable.

    After seeing “Twelfth Night” and feeling more open to be honest because of the live-tweeting experience, I actually began a conversation on my blog and Facebook on the play in general, which lead to some wonderful discoveries (mostly on the blog) as to how audience members view stories.

    During Insidious Anton’s tweeting, I was more sensitive because it was a final dress rehearsal, but being a theatre-maker, I can perceive the potential in a final dress. I didn’t find it necessary to omit my (mostly negative) opinions on projection design as setting, (By the time I tweeted it, I had seen a montage that made it work for me, but those first twenty minutes or so were distracting. I am used to ignoring projections as setting now, unfortunately.)

    By the nature of who these theatre-makers asked to attend, they started the experiments with a bit of a Control Group. I understand that. In order to take it further and actually see how it can be less Marketing and more … Natural? Organic? Honest? All of the above?…some should try more. The next step, if we look at the actual potential goals of these experiments, would be to invite people with more varied backgrounds and thus more varied followers. I do have to say that more than one of the “swing” audience for LA theatre contacted me later asking how to buy tickets to both shows I tweeted. By the “swing” vote, I mean those who enjoy theatre but don’t necessarily attend without a thumbs up or encouraging word from people they know.

    Those are the main things I wanted to address, mostly because the conversation is a great one to have and gets at the nature of how we are using these online resources in helpful or harmful ways. I believe that depends entirely on which audience you’re targeting. Lately I’m considering that promotional materials must be different for different demographics. It can sometimes be the same for social media: I follow some organizations on Facebook but not Twitter because they don’t give me anything new. I unsubscribed from many mailing lists because I get the same information via these other networks. Many influential tweeters use a separate account for live-tweeting events and such for this very purpose.

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    • Thank you, Cindy. You make some great points. I’ll address the respect issue first: The point I hope to make is that attending the production for the purpose of live-tweeting is disrespectful because of the action you take as a tweeter. Every time you tweet you disconnect from the work and the work is still going on. Actors are acting, words a playwright wrote are being said, the director’s work is continuing in front of you, but your eyes are diverted and you miss it for a moment.

      I don’t think it’s a fair comparison to having your mind wander during a performance. The difference being in the action you decide to take in those moments. If when your mind wanders you decide text your friends or knit or play suduko, you are being rude. I’ll give you the exception of the spontaneous decision to jot something down that pops into your head during a play. That’s not such a big deal, but some of your fellow audience members may find it distracting and suggest you wait until after the show.

      I’m all for experimenting. I think when this idea was first brought up I said “It will be interesting to see how this works out.” I think I’ve seen enough evidence to form an opinion. I suggest the theatre world find a new thing with which to experiment.

      As far as the stream-cluttering, that is an issue I have heard being complained about. I haven’t experienced it that much. In the times I did, I ended up ignoring that list and hashtag for a while.

      And this is on the money. I agree ” I’m typically discouraged when theaters who use Twitter very well don’t have their account or show hashtag readily available for non-live but current feedback. By readily available, I mean on the program, on a sign in the lobby, etc. What an amazing way to collect real-time feedback for those audience members who do not know the theater’s staff well enough to communicate directly?” We should be doing a better job of this.

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  5. I agree with Cindy when she says that we’re still in the nascent stages of live tweeting. We still need to hone it, experiment and find out if there is an iteration that can be truly useful to both the theatre and new audiences.

    The last time this conversation came up on #2amt the question arose as to whether the actors on stage were distracted by the live tweeting, so I decided to ask two actors I know who recently did a show at a theatre that has a live tweeting program.

    I asked my friends the following questions: 1) In general (at any theatre) have you ever been distracted by someone using their phone during a performance (not the phone ringing, but a patron texting or online)? 2) Specifically at X theatre, have you ever been distracted by someone using their phone during a performance, i.e. on one of the evenings designated for tweeting.

    Here are the replies I got: “The answer to both questions is Yes. We can see a whole row of faces lit by there phones. Thankfully their comments were positive. :o)…Its funny, the front row at the theatre can be far more distracting [putting their feet on the stage]…It’s all in the fun of the theatre. As long as folks are having a good time I’m happy” and “It looks like [actor #1] covered everything. It’s especially true in the smaller houses. Distractions are a part of the performance. If someone has to get up to go the bathroom, you can see them get up, walk down an aisle, go into the lights and leave the space. It is noticed and is a distraction. But it’s a part of the game!”

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    • My concern is with intentionally disconnecting from a performance in order to tweet. What is going on while you are tweeting? The answer is: Something, but you’ll never know if you’re tweeting.

      As far as it being a distraction, my concern is more with the audience than with the actors. It is a distraction for an audience no matter where you try and stash the tweeters.

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      • Angry Patron (James)

        The thing about it is that they haven’t fully disconnected, they are doing the opposite in a way, by further engaging the piece, by curating whatever thought or impression they may have. The thing about tweeting is that it takes only a couple of seconds to do in the first place. I suppose it’s then up to the audience member to recognize when they need to pay attention and when they can shoot off 140 characters. If the play is engaging enough then maybe they never find an opportunity to tweet, which also isn’t a bad thing. Still, like Cindy mentioned, you can’t force the audience to keep their eyes where you want them to be the WHOLE play. I would much rather they tweet about the play and stay in that frame of mind then have them doze off and think about what bar to go to after the show.

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  6. Thank you for starting this conversation. I have to say I am of the opposite opinion as to why live tweeting is a debate. I am bewildered by the outrage. I work for The Antaeus Company, and should state that everything I am about to say is my own opinion. I am not speaking on behalf of the organization, as the views on live tweeting are mixed here as well. But here are my thoughts.

    Nothing about this experiment (and it is an experiment), is intended to be disrespectful. All tweeters are coming to a “preview” of a Workshop production. Actors are working script in hand, in the middle of their process. The festival itself is a testing ground artistically and should be from an outreach/marketing perspective. Phones are silenced and dimmed. Tweeters are sitting in the back row of the audience where the only other audience members are attending the show for free. Tweeters are given a dramaturgical hand out to assist them in avoiding only commenting on performances, and are given carte blanche to say what they want. We have imposed no restrictions on what the tweeters say.

    I find the way we, the entire theater community, regard what it is we do with perhaps too much reverence. Twitter is a free tool for under-budgeted theater companies. A tool that is used by younger generations who are notoriously less inclined to attend a live performance. I love the theater. I am an Ovation Voter, Actor and I work for a theater company. But theater has, in my opinion, three purposes: to share an opinion, to create community and to entertain. While I am an advocate of the arts and believe in its higher purpose, to treat live tweeting as though it was an actionable offense is just silly. The Groundlings in Shakespeare’s time engaged the actors in conversation and threw food on stage. Live tweeting is offensive in theory, but not in practice.

    I have taken a small sample from both audience members and actors on stage, and while my findings are still incomplete, thus far no one has been bothered by their presence. What we find to be more intrusive are the non-tweeters phones going off during the production. You do make an interesting point about limiting the time of their tweeting. That is a constructive criticism that is worth considering and implementing. It is no one’s intention to annoy our followers. When we started the experiment here, we anticipated some backlash. And if the experiment is a failure we won’t do it again.

    As an arts advocate, I want to find new ways to engage people to see the work that is being done. Storytelling needs an audience. The world is constantly changing, and I don’t think it is a bad thing to want to include your twitter community in the experience. What we do is noble, but it isn’t martyrdom.

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    • Some great points. I wonder if Antaeus would be interested in allowing live-tweeting during a full production of a play? I think the environment in which you’re trying this now is more conducive to it than a full scale production (whether it be a preview or a night during the run.) And it’s a really smart choice to give the tweeters dramaturgical notes. In the end though, it still seems counterintuitive to what is happening on stage. Like I keep repeating, something is happening in front of you while you tweet, but you don’t know what it is.

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  7. Angry Patron (James)

    I think there has to be something significantly engaging about tweeting your impressions of a performance as it is happening in real time. I haven’t done it so I can’t speak from experience, but if I was allowed I’d love to! I’m not in favor of uncontrolled device usage, I’m not saying I’d prefer to randomly see little boxes of light flash up everywhere in the theater as I’m watching a play. However, as far as marketing or promotion ideas go, there is something I have yet to see implemented. Why not reduce your ticket price to half for 1 or 2 performances of a run where tweeting during the play is allowed, or even encouraged? First at the box office window they have to show you that they follow the theater company on Twitter (great little gimmick to get followers). Then you give them the reduced price ticket. Then you give them a hashtag to use in their tweets and they have free range to say what they please. You can watch the stream and get instant feedback from your audience AS the performance is going on. It’s like reading the audience’s mind. How cool is that!!! Would it be annoying for patrons? Well if they know what they’re going into then they’re accepting the tweeting terms and in exchange you grant them the reduced price. If anyone’s willing to do this I’d be glad to participate. It’s exciting new terrain, just further exemplifying the push toward more active audience participation.

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  8. I see a huge cultural divide on this issue between the young and the, eh-hem, more seasoned theater types. The young are certainly not always right, but the youth audience is coveted by every theater and social media (Tweeting) is one way to reach them, especially for a theater that does great classical (i.e. skews older) work like Antaeus.

    I also think that a lot of knee-jerk ‘Tweeting during a production is terrible’ reaction comes from remembering all the times a cell phone has rung in a quiet theater. A ringing during a key moment of a play phone IS terrible, but the live tweet nights I have read about are not that. Not even close.

    Most theaters allow reviewers to take notes on paper during productions. Is that more or less distracting than Tweeting? And the reviewer taking the notes is THE person the theater usually wants paying complete attention – but no one suggests note taking is bad.

    Photographers are often present during dress rehearsals or early performances to get promotional images that the theater uses to bring in a crowd on a later date. That seems quite a bit like live Tweeting (it even involves the demon electronics), but no one complains about photographers.

    Finally, I guess, on some level – the person Tweeting during a performance really IS paying somewhat less attention to the performance. 2% less? 5%? Doesn’t seem to me that ruins or even significantly changes the dynamics in a theater. An actor shooting a TV commercial for Pepsi is likely distracted from enjoying his/her high-fructose corn syrup beverage by the bright lights and dollying camera – but the point of this commercial shoot is NOT for the person on camera to like Pepsi, it is to convince others to do the same. Live Tweeting is not done so that the audience members tapping out their thoughts can get more out of the play, it is to get more people into the theater tomorrow or next week. Is that such a bad thing?

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    • Reviewers taking notes during productions are distracting. I wish they wouldn’t, but they are going to do what they’re going to do. That is a slipperier slope than the tweeting.

      Photographers are distracting if they are working during a performance with an audience in attendance. We hold separate photocall specifically for this purpose (and we end up with better photos this way).

      You are a bit off re: the age issue. I’m not an older/seasoned theatre type. And I am a tweeter. Check out my stream @BostonCourt. I tweet constantly.

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      • Reviewers taking notes is distracting, especially since on press night they’re everywhere. So I wonder if the reason why tweeting during a performance is polarizing is because we haven’t defined its parameters. The one live tweet program I’m familiar with restricts first the number of tweeters in their audience, they come for the expressed purpose of watching and tweeting. The theatre also only allows live tweeting once a week. The live tweeters are given guidelines for behavior: dim your screen, turn off volume, use the theatre’s hashtag and say whatever you want and the theatre RTs it. The live tweeters sit in the back row. They’re not peppered throughout audience–I know it’s a bit off topic because your post focused on how tweeting takes the tweeter out of the theatre experience, but it’s good to consider how other patrons are affected (if they are).

        Finally, what does it mean to experience theatre? Is there only one way? Do we all have to be quiet? I’m reminded of a story an actor told me about how her mother was hushed by other patrons when she laughed during the play. As if reacting and interacting isn’t allowed. When we talk about the difference between live theatre and television/film we often mention the live audience. I guess what I’m trying to say, not so coherently, is that I think we should question our definition of what it means to experience theatre, that we should be open to inviting our audiences (new and old) to participate in the event–not only by paying attention and focusing on the piece. And if that means laughter, screams when they’re frightened, cheers when they’re excited–then why not.

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      • I don’t personally like the idea of dictating how anybody should enjoy theatre. But, I will say I do want each patron to have the opportunity to enjoy theatre THEIR way. So what I do to enjoy it (cough, laugh, chew tobacco, tweet, sigh) shouldn’t do anything to impact how they are trying to enjoy it. Laughing is great. Though there is a line between laughing and obnoxious.

        Also, I would never allow interacting unless that is a specific part of the expectation. If you go to an improv show, interacting is expected. I have gone to several spoken word shows and they have encouraged interaction and participation.

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      • Sorry if that came across as if your were being called old or a Luddite. Not my intention.

        I guess I would ask if you have witnessed (or heard first hand) about the negative effects of live Tweeting during a show? Maybe I am myopic, but I haven’t.

        Your concerns above are not inaccurate – just theoretical. Since people are trying this out, right now, as we type – I’d rather wait for actual data instead of calling something a ‘fail’ before it has had a chance to succeed/fail.

        Live tweeting plays is not gonna change the world or even the theater world. A theater deciding to do it or not is unlikely to be ‘moving the needle’ all that much but it sure seems worth a try. If the ‘try’ creates poor results – then stop. If it works – push forward. New results require new approaches and all that …

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      • Thanks, but I don’t feel insulted or anything. No need to apologize. I appreciate what you are saying.

        I am not sure if I have ever experienced the negative effects of tweeting specifically, but I have experienced the negative effects of audience members doing anything other than watching the play. I have seen, and been distracted by, many people manipulating their phones (reading something, typing something – perhaps tweeting?) I have seen people using their phones to take pictures on multiple occasions and just the other night I saw an audience member videotaping a play. When you add a grey area to the “Turn off you cell phones during the performance” rule by allowing SOME people to tweet you potentially open up Pandora’s box full of other distractions. You can’t tell an audience to turn their phones off and then allow some of them to use their phones.

        I would also prefer people not eat food or candy that is noisy or kick my seat or talk to the person beside them or do all of these things like the guy sitting behind me last night did. Now I’m starting to sound like an old curmudgeon.

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    • I wouldnt consider myself seasoned. I have been on twitter since 08. I have to pipe in to agree that tweeting while actors are on stage, is a form of disrespect. The purpose of theatre is to engage the live audience with what is happening inside the theatre. Thatoneguy, you agree that tweeting is pulling the audience out of the experience, but only think its only a small percentage of the whole experience. In good theatre, each specific moment will never happen again. It should always be fresh and new. So the tweeting is hurting the audiences experience. Also with the person, that gets distracted by the light popping on. How many times have people complained about how a long or sloppy scene change, pull the audience out the play? So now we intentionally pull our full attention from the purpose we are sitting in a theatre, to share our thoughts, that in reality could wait till intermission or after the play. If I want entertainment, I have a huge TV for that. If I want to connect to another person in an artistic way, I go the Theatre. Anything that pulls me away from each moment of that experience is damaging to the whole art form.

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      • So you, theatremonkey, are under no obligation to Tweet during shows. Most all of your concerns about the lights from the devices coming on and so forth are addressed by other commenters above – and all of this live tweeting takes place in a preview of a workshop performance. I repeat a preview of a workshop performance. Isn’t this THE opportunity for experimentation and trying something new?

        Workshops (and even ‘real’ productions) do shows without directors, or with non-period-correct costuming, or any number of strange, odd-ball things. Some work and other don’t. Many of these experiments are rightly never tried again, but to call simply trying something ‘disrespectful’ seems kind of hyperbolic and overly-dramatic. ‘Disrespectful’ is sort of a conversation ender.

        Once again, the goal of the Live Tweeting is not to entertain the tweeters, but to get more people to come to future shows and experience some of those moments that will never happen again that we all cherish.

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  10. I have participated in Antaeus’ tweet nights and I have to say that it actually increased my enjoyment of the play.
    The Doctors Dilemma was a Shaw I wasn’t familiar with and discussing it live with the people who were tweeting made me understand and enjoy it more than I would have otherwise. I didn’t miss anything while I was tweeting. I found the experiment similar to sitting and watching a movie at home with friends. We were able to discuss what was going on without disturbing anybody.
    I know nobody was disturbed because I didn’t even know when people in my row were tweeting because everyone was very stealth and had their lights turned down low.
    It seems to me that many of those with a negative reaction to this are imagining horrible situations where rhinestone bedazzled blondes with valley accents are clicking away on their phones in the front row while chewing gum and tossing popcorn to the dog in their purse. While that may be more interesting than a lot of LA theatre it isn’t what’s going on. Quiet respectful people are quietly and respectfully creating buzz about a show to an audience that wouldn’t know about it otherwise.
    It seems like that can only be good for theatre.

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    • Is it really creating buzz? The only buzz I hear is about the tweeting and not the show.

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      • Is it creating a buzz and selling tickets? Good question, but it is probably too early to tell as of yet. All the more reason for everyone to take a breath and *see* if there is any benefit or just theoretical (but not really witnessed by anyone in the flesh) negatives.

        I wonder who might have a hand in all the buzz being about the tweeting and not the shows …

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      • Touche.

        I’m looking at this from the point of view of a tweeter and a marketing person. If this was a valuable marketing tool I’d be all over it. I see it as a sort of yelling into an echo chamber. Who is being reached exactly? And is this an audience that is not already reached through other channels? The impact is also temporary in the extreme. The audience you hope to reach must be engaged in the moment the tweeting is taking place and that is a time when most people are out doing things. Twitter usage goes down during this period of time. So there’s a lot less bang for the buck.

        And let’s say the live-tweeters are honestly speaking their minds and criticizing elements of the piece in real time. As a Twitter user I don’t trust what they are saying because I know two crucial things:
        1) While the tweeters are tweeting there is at least a momentary disconnection from the piece so as they comment on a moment or share a thought another one passes them by
        2) Plays are not written for real time criticism. Something may see clunky at one point in the play only to make sense later. That is why a critic watches the play in it’s entirety then goes home and writes about it. I mean, you could watch the opening to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf and think “damn, Martha is a real bitch. What an unlikable character” only to later think “oh, now I understand why she was that way in the beginning.” But you already tweeted the earlier tweet. The damage has been done.

        This is in addition to the other gripes I have on the subject. I don’t agree that it is too early to tell. I think it is just late enough to tell. And ultimately, all of this is just my opinion. Who cares what I think, right? People are going to continue to do it because they want to, they like it, they find something positive in it ,etc. And that is fine. It doesn’t invalidate my opinion. It’s just an opinion.

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  12. 1. I’m an actor. It annoys me when kids are on their phones for student matinees. But it’s a pesky thing and not the end of the word. It’s 2011. Maybe we should update Uta Hagen to say: ACTORS, YOU HAVE TO BE MORE INTERESTING THAN A PHONE. Ok. I’ll stop.

    2. The live-tweeting experiences that have been most valuable to me as an audience member are on epic scales: the season finale of Lost, major live award shows on TV, major sporting events, the death of bin Laden. This is when strangers are constantly re-tweeting each other. I’m perusing the hashtags. I find it highly engaging and infectious. I fear this won’t happen with the theatre—not for a while (maybe these big National Theatre Live events…maybe…?). Commercials help.

    3. I cannot speak to experimental shows where a tweet is going to change the course of a show. I’d be interested to attend, but I haven’t been able to or seen anything like it (please, send me links or share your experience with that. I’m all ears.) Still, I’d probably sit and enjoy it as an improv-type experience rather than something more emotionally gripping akin to “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” It’s like having a extra dirty gin martini with leftover Little Caesars. I truly love both of ’em, but not together.

    4. As an audience member, my hope for any show I attend is that I want to be sucked into the world of the play. I want to forget that I’m in a theatre. This is immensely difficult to achieve, but I’m not about to ruin my chances by fiddling around on my phone.

    5. When I am compelled to tweet in response to some kind of art/entertainment (like a movie) all of my comments can be done afterwards. I can’t figure out this need to share a bit at that very moment in time in the theatre. It doesn’t make sense to me. The exception is when you go back to comment #2.

    6. While many of my followers/followees are theatre artists (or general arts folks), they are scattered all over the country (and the world). So the stakes for my tweeting about a show that I’m attending at Houston Shakespeare Festival isn’t very high. None of them are in Houston. I just saw Taming of the Shrew last week; it was a great production. But I didn’t feel the need to share: “Whoa, the hair! This production is awesomely 80s” (it’s true) The reason: I don’t know if anyone in my twitter feed would have cared. That said, I probably write a lot of drivel no one cares about on twitter. But when it comes to commenting on theatre, it’s only enjoyable if I know that at least more than 1 person is listening.

    7. What I think theatre companies could possibly spend their efforts on is getting their followers to start following each other. If they can facilitate Joe in row F to talk with Emilia in S about the show, that could be something awesome. (And you can’t achieve this by just retweeting whatever Emilia said the next morning). Hashtags are going to help. Perhaps thought-provoking questions and signs/screens throughout the lobby can help too? I dunno, I’m just brainstorming here. The key, I think, is that Joe and Emilia were at the same performance.

    8. Another thing: I want to talk with more individuals, artists, and employees on Twitter. That’s when stakes elevate to a more interesting interaction. If I know that whoever played Kate or the sound designer is on Twitter, then I know that I can ask them a question or praise, etc. And it doesn’t have to be instant during a show. This delves into a whole other can of worms, of course. Theatre companies, if you’ve got a staff/artist twitter list or directory on your website, that’s AWESOME.

    9. I think Twitter is wonderful. It’s my favorite social media site. It’s great to see it intersect with theatre, but ultimately, I see its value in helping to connect audience members and artists together as a result of the show they’ve shared. Just the show. Not the tweets. I can’t quite wrap my head around the need (or value) to tweet while George is coming down the stairs with a rifle, aiming it a Martha.

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  13. Pingback: Rant&Banter : Episode # Uno « ANGRY PATRONS

  14. One of the things I love about sitting down to watch theatre is the opportunity to just STOP. Sit and stop for two hours. No phone calls, no tweets. Just me and this EXPERIENCE.

    Staying connected via the phone is not giving yourself the opportunity to fully enjoy the EXPERIENCE of being there. Yes, I think it’s rude to the actors, yes, I think it’s rude to the person sitting next to you but a lot of how I feel about this is, “can’t you just disconnect from it all for two hours?” Does every single thing in our world need to be translated into a freaking tweet for people to be interested in it these days? I hate sitting at a dinner with someone and wanting to connect with them and they want to tweet about this EXPERIENCE they are having with me but oh wait, they’re not having it with me while their head is in their phone.

    I know it’s 2011 and theatre needs to evolve in certain ways and I’m sure I need to evolve in certain ways, but not this way. You can’t be moved and affected and have an EXPERIENCE when you don’t give it your full attention. And I’m not talking about jotting a note down or thinking about your grocery list – our minds constantly wander – theatre doesn’t demand a non-wandering mind. What it should demand is people not mentally checking out of what’s in front of them in order to “connect” with a bunch of people at the other end of the phone.

    You chose to see some theatre so SEE IT.

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  15. These negative comments continue to be about what people imagine is going on instead of about what is actually going on.
    I don’t think anyone has ever argued that everyone should always be tweeting when they see a play. If someone has argued that then that person is free to never come to a show I do.
    There seems to be a lot of slippery slope pearl clutching and I frankly don’t see what the big deal is.
    Yes, electric light doesn’t have the same quality as candles but if we update the foot lights then our dresses will stop catching on fire. I haven’t looked at a mailer from a theatre in years (except to see if they included a picture of me), I don’t look at newspapers, email blasts usually get deleted or spammed. Frankly the only way I’m seeing theatre is if they get to me through compelling social media or if I’m guilted into it by the cast. This experiment is a great way to get to me and I remember the Reagan administration. So it is probably a great way to get to younger (glup) people too. Outreach takes many forms and this one is totally legit.

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  16. Jeeze, for a bunch of Twitter fans you guys sure are loquacious.
    Speaking strictly as an audience member–not a theater pro like many of the commenters here–put me down as a no. I don’t know how the lights and the clicking keys affect the actors, but even if they’re a row or two behind me they distract *me* and make it more difficult for me to have an immersive experience or, if I’m not enjoying the play, think about what bar I’m going to after the show.
    I’m totally into live-tweeting television shows, sporting events, marketing presentations, etc.–but that’s because those types of events don’t require the attention of live theater and audience members (whether tweeting from home or in person) already have plenty of other distractions.
    Oh, and one other thing: Get off my lawn!

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