Wow, did I go over 140 characters or what?
I just read that some theatres, including at least one in Boston, are considering selling “Tweet Seats”, places in the theatre where people can tweet on Twitter. During a show. Did you get that? A place where people can pull out their phones or iPads or whatever and tweet while the show is going on. Really? I guess the idea is being flouted by the marketing folks as a way to “bring in a younger demographic” and “allow the audience to experience the play in a new and refreshing way”. To which I say—bullshit. Tweeting has no place in the theatre. During intermission—sure. After the show— certainly, especially if the tweets are positive and may bring in more audience members. But while the show is going on? WTF.
There are so many reasons why this is wrong that my mind is swimming. The obvious reason is how annoying this will be for the rest of the audience. I mean, we have all been in the movies and had some idiot pull out his phone to check his email or see what incredibly brilliant thing his friend just posted on Facebook. That blue screen that immediately draws our eye to it and lights up the surrounding seats. It is annoying and rude, to say the least. Now imagine you have paid not the $10 for the movie but $75 for a seat in a theatre. Yeah—I would be super pissed off if I had dropped that amount of dough and had someone do that. But that is what the marketing geniuses are proposing. The only way that this would possibly work would be for the tweeters to be in the back row of the audience, with no non-tweeters around them. But even then, if I am sitting in front of the tweeters, I will be seeing that blue light out of the corner of my eye and will be hearing fingers on keys, so segregating them like that might not work after all. And what about the actors? I know that when I am onstage, I am often hyper-aware of what is going on in the audience. We onstage know when a phone rings or someone has a tough candy wrapper to tussle with. So how can people not think that we will see the lit up faces of people using their phones to tweet? We will. It will be distracting and annoying to us as well.
And while it is understandable that the theatres might want to pull in a younger crowd, “Tweet Seats” are not the way to do it. First off, I for one am sick of the notion that a lot of people (young and older) have today that everything that pops into their heads is worthy of being posted the moment you think of it. Trust me, it isn’t. We all have those friends who post things like “Off for a mani-pedi!” or have their phones post that they are now the mayor of their local Starbucks. As my dear departed grandmother might say, “Who gives a rat’s ass?” What is so vital and interesting and necessary to post during a show that you can’t wait until intermission? “Uh oh, MacD is gunna kick MacB’s ass 4 sho!”? Or “ Dayum, Stanley K. is hot in that wifebeater!”? And who, exactly, cares about what you are tweeting? I am not going to sit at home, watching my Twitter feed (yes, I don have a twitter account), waiting for a play- by-play of, well, a play. If I am interested in the play, I will go see it. Or I will ask you later how it was. And when I do, that is when you can tell me how hot Stanley K looked. I don’t need to know while he is yelling “Stella!”
The idea that allowing tweeting will allow a new theatrical experience (assuming that means a good theatrical experience) is ludicrous. How can you concentrate on what is going on onstage when you are looking at your phone and thinking about what clever thing to write? You can’t. Theatre is built up of moments and often missing one means losing the momentum that many people have been working for weeks to create. Actors, directors, designers—they have all been busting their asses to make the play you are watching perfect, making every moment shine—for the audience, mind you—but you are missing all that by having your nose in your phone, tweeting about what you just saw, all the while missing the next few moments because of it. If theatres want to bring new and refreshing ways to experience theatre, then do some new and refreshing plays. Find some new work that wows you and your audiences. Imagine new spins on the classics and make a night at your theatre new and vibrant and exciting. Don’t be afraid to try new things out. Be bold. Be brave. Trust us. Trust us that we will give the new and different a chance. We don’t all want to see the same shows over and over. We don’t all wantto see what was last season’s big New York hit. Look around. There are talented playwrights everywhere who are coming up with fresh ideas all the time. Make tweeting a part of a talkback after a new play. Commission someone to develop a play that incorporates tweeting as an integral part of the production. But don’t allow all the twits—er, Tweeters—to ruin a night in the theatre for everyone else. It’s rude and unnecessary and just a bad fucking idea.
Wow, did I go over 140 characters or what?
A note from OMPF Admin: The OMPF does indeed participate in live tweet events for festivals, which are being streamed in partnership with New Play TV. When we do engage in a live-tweet performance, the people tweeting are stationed in the back of the house, away from the audience. When this happens, this is a special case. We do this in an attempt to balance participating in the ongoing online dialogue, while not taking the audience out of it. OMPF’s policy is a phones and devices off during all performances for audience members.
The First Boston One-Minute Play Festival will take place Jan 7-9, 2012 in partnership with Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. 70 new plays by 35+ Boston and New England Playwrights. For tickets and info, click here.