By James Haro
What the what, LA?
I feel like such a fuss has been made about nothing at all! It’s kind of hilarious to be honest. The comments I’ve seen going this way and that, myself included. One in particular made me chuckle. I won’t give credit to the author of this gem, but it goes something like this: “…if you put down that stupid little toy, you might have a chance at experiencing some actual life.”
I’ll let that speak for itself.
Anyway, the point of this post is to put my two-cents in on this matter now that I’ve come back from the land of Live-Tweet-Dom. Tuesday night I was invited by Antaeus to partake in the unforgivable act during their Classics Fest showing of a re-writing of Oedipus, just to see what it was all about. I met with the lovely Kendra Chell for coffee before hand and we chatted about the ridiculousness of this whole reaction to live-tweeting thing. We walked to Deaf West. The house opened. I went and sat in the back with the other live-tweeters and we took to our devices like a band of rebels, setting out to partake in a mission the LA theater community deems unfit to carry out. I hyperbolize of course, but you get the idea.
First, let me play devil’s advocate. No one is saving the world by live-tweeting. This isn’t the cure for cancer or a grand revolution. Will the integration of internet based social tools and theater lead to the further development of audience interaction? Possibly. Are there tools and methods that have yet to be seen that will rock our socks off? Probably. Is live-tweeting either an abominable threat or a long awaited for savior? No. Is it fun to experiment with? ABSOLUTELY! Should anyone care that it’s presence is steadily growing? Certainly not. Am I asking and answering my own questions to make case appear better formed? …Maybe
As is demonstrated with our friend who left the comment above, ragging on live tweeting is much like ragging on young people and the length of their hair and that damn rock n’ roll they’re always listening to, and that world wide web they’re wasting all their time on. I’m not saying theater must change forever to allow phones to go off as they will during a performance. My argument is that in a controlled environment, much like the one I stepped into where the audience and actors are in on the game, the allowance of Twitter in the theater is as pleasant and healthy as regular sex. If you over do it then the fun is lost, but if you space it out just enough you’ll reap it’s benefits. What benefits are there? Well, the best part about the experience I found was seeing what my fellow tweeters were saying. It’s literally the act of reading their thoughts, and to be honest I was disappointed not more was tweeted (with the hashtag#cf11). Was I engaged in what was happening on stage? Of course I was, it was the only thing I was tweeting about. Did I miss some of what was happening on stage? Well visually yes, but very minimally, and that is that, nothing that wouldn’t have happened if I were looking in my program or started thinking about apartment searching. Colin Mitchell of Bitter-Lemons had this to say which I found interesting:
“…it seems that most in favor of this thing called “live-tweeting” are simply asking about trying it during dress rehearsals – which is still kind of weird to me considering that the reason you bring an audience in to dress rehearsals is to see how they react to the work that you’ve done up to that point – if that audience is busy going to their smart phones every few minutes it seems like kind of an exercise in futility, right?”
No, quite the opposite. Their reactions are now solid, tangible expressions of thought. The best part is, you get the information just as it’s formed. They don’t have the opportunity to forget it over the course of the rest of the play. It’s recorded, fixed with a date and time mark.
Another remark he made was a tad strange:
“…I find the idea of allowing any other activity but paying attention and responding during a play to be, well, bizarre. Would it be okay for a student in college to be listening on headphones while a professor is lecturing?”
The whole point of live-tweeting is to respond during the play. And the student analogy is moot. If a student were writing notes about what he found interesting about the lecture, would that be okay? Would it help in the retention of the information that was being presented to them? Live-tweeting, boom.
One of the musicians from last night’s performance came over to us after the show. He asked what we were all about, and we explained that while the show was going on we were tweeting observations about the play and quotes from the play in real time. Did he seem offended that not every infinitesimal grain of our attention was solely fixed on his efforts? Not at all. In fact, after we explained our purpose, he said, “That’s pretty cool.” I actually received and saw tweets from the actors backstage during intermission! THAT’s what I want more of. I thought it would be an amazing exercise if while the chorus of the play had no action going on, they could tweet into the stream their reactions, in character, to what was happening on stage.
There are some interesting avenues these social media tools can lead us down, and I don’t believe the progress should be quelled. Live-Tweeting should not be condemned or exalted that much. If you want it in your theater, have it in your theater. If you don’t, you don’t. This exhaustion of dialogue (with my voice included) seems like such an unnecessary pissing match about who holds the better idea of what theater needs to be, or what it should or shouldn’t become. We’re all guilty of it sometimes, and it’s normal, because we love what theater personally does for us and we don’t want it disrupted. We may also argue that theater is only theater if it’s experienced a certain way. But theater is experienced in many different ways by many different people. To designate one end all be all version of it destroys what we’re in the business of doing. Theater is allowed to evolve, and theater is allowed to stay just how it has been for millennia. Different companies do different things. Can we just leave well enough alone?
Come on, LAthtr, bring it in for a big hug!
…There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?
James Haro is a Los Angeles native currently attending Drexel University in Philadelphia, seeking his BS in Entertainment and Arts Management, Theatre Concentration. He co-operates a blog at AngryPatrons.com and produces/co-hosts the podcasts on ANGRY PATRONS RADIO. Episode #Uno of Rant&Banter is NOW UP! (Click here) OR, subscribe to us on iTunes.