To Tweet Seat or Not to Tweet Seat
And so the battle continues. This debate rages over on Twitter using the hashtags #tweetseats and #2tweetornot2tweet. The National Endowment for the Arts sort of started the whole thing by tweeting about Vermont’s Flynn Center encouraging patrons to tweet during a performance. While it looked like the Flynn Center tweet seats folks were having a heck of a good time, other tweeps began weighing in and things started going south albeit in a rather genteel way. The majority of theatre goers are NOT fans of live tweeting during a performance, especially if that performance is theatre. Then again, there were more than a few supporters of live tweeting.
A few years ago, the Spokane Symphony took on “tweet seats” (well, actually it was Facebook, but close enough for now) and did a fabulous job. They opened up a Facebook Page and those attending that night’s symphony were encouraged to post directly to the Facebook page. Great decision and smart move. Those Facebooking folks also cross posted on Twitter. And for those of us sitting at home in our arm chairs, it was almost as if we were at the symphony with the tweeters. That said, as one tweeter put it in a tweet to the National Endowment for the Arts, “it depends on the performance. Performance art or concert, prob okay. Ballet, symph, or theatre, prob not.” And I think she makes a good point. So, do most of the performing arts community in Spokane it seems.
Spokane Weighs in on Tweet Seats
I’ve spoken with Yvonne AK Johnson over at Spokane Civic Theatre who was open to tweet seats during the last dress rehearsal, right before opening night of a performance. Oh, and did I forget to mention, only in designated areas? Ms. Johnson stated that she found the idea of a glowing phone in an all dark theatre to be potentially distracting. There was also mention of issues of filming during the show. You see, during most shows, one cannot shoot video of more than 30 seconds (or something similar to that amount) of an actual production. So, do you allow someone to tweet and trust that they will not film anything?
Best of Broadway has specific rules regarding their tweet seat program (which, yes, some of our staff will be enjoying said tweet seats this Thursday, opening night and tweet seats night for Rock of Ages. What I did there was just called disclosure.) and does not allow any tweeting during a performance, no pictures, etc. However, they are huge proponents and supporters of tweet seats within the ground rules that most of the touring companies impose on them. Both Civic and Best of are looking for the same thing out of their versions of tweet seats, to use social media to create buzz around their product. Heck, good or bad, buzz is buzz, right. And, for the most part it works. At least from where I sit, however, I might have a slight bias being a) a theatre lover and b) a tweet seater. According to Best of Broadway, they are one of the few theatres in the country who are actively perusing a tweet seats program and seeing success.
So, What are The Issues?
- Every show has its own regulations meaning some shows might allow one to film or take pictures at the beginning of a production while other’s do not at any time.
- Tweeters get on non-tweeters last nerve. Think about sitting next to the glowing blue screen during Rock of Ages Every Rose Has It’s Thorn. You’d not be pleased.
- Can you really multi-task? Can you tweet and watch Les Miserables for example?
- Do you plan on checking your phone during a show just to see who responded to your latest tweet about the performance?
And On the Other Hand
- Live-Tweeting really gives you an immediate take on what someone is feeling during a performance.
- Creates more buzz than semi-live tweeting (only because it is so new and different – ish)
- Live-tweeting makes the performance seem more personal
At some point, the theatre society will have to review its rules and regulations when it comes to social media and tweet seats. That is just how it is. Things will change. Tweeting during a performance will eventually become the norm. It may take 10 years, it may take 50, but mark our words, eventually digital during a show will simply be a part of how we experience theatre.