Based on the experience of a one-time live tweeter
About a month ago, I was winding down from my work day when I received a text from a friend. She asked me if I would do a last minute favor and live tweet during the performance of Catch Me If You Can at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) that evening. She was in charge of retaining ten “live tweeters” for this performance, but it seemed that theatre-goers were not interested in this new venture, and she had gotten zero responses. Four hours before curtain, she was issuing a last-minute plea to her theatre-going friends via text messages.
As a theatre-lover, I figured live tweeting would be an interesting experience, and so I agreed. I picked up my complimentary ticket and was told to “keep my phone low”. I found my seat labeled as a “tweet seat” in the very last row of center orchestra. As other theatre patrons entered the theatre, many noticed the “tweet seat” signs posted in my row, and a few asked me what a “tweet seat” was. I explained and they seemed disinterested. Two elderly ladies walked by and one said to the other, “Tweet seat? What the hell is that”? and proceeded to give me a dirty look before making her way down the aisle. Fabulous.
The Cons of Live Tweeting
1.) It’s distracting to the tweeter and takes away from his or her theatre experience. I don’t care if you can type 200 words per minute into your iPhone- the act of typing and tweeting takes your attention away from what’s happening on stage. Before you know it, you’ve missed a good joke or a critical moment in the story line that leaves you momentarily lost. And when you’re not tweeting, you’re thinking up your next tweet. I saw Catch Me If You Can twice on Broadway and knew the story line very well, but I did not enjoy this performance because it was constantly interrupted by the need to tweet. Tweeting really does ruin the theatre experience for the tweeter. I guess I’d rather just sit back and enjoy the show.
2.) Cell phone lights are difficult to hide. We were told to keep our cell phones low to avoid disturbing other theatre patrons. Some of the other tweeters dimmed their screens as well. Just because we were seated in the last row of the orchestra did not mean that there were no theatre patrons around us. There were people seated across the aisle directly to my left and I’m sure they could see the lights in their peripheral vision. I felt very badly for them. I also felt guilty because I usually take theatre etiquette pretty seriously. There’s nothing worse than the glare of a cell phone in a dark theatre (well, except for a cell phone going off or an unruly theatre patron...). Theaters will have to be creative and careful in the way that they seat tweeters in the future or paying customers will be complaining. (I can only speak for PPAC on this note; I do not know how other theaters seat their tweeters).
3.) My followers were not engaged. During this two and a half hour show, I tweeted about 42 times. My tweets were also posted to my (Broadway) blog’s Facebook page. A few followers commented on the posts, but I honestly did not feel that people were all that interested! This could be because a) I wasn’t tweeting in a way that interested people or b) I was tweeting about a show that is not currently running on Broadway and many of my followers are tied to NYC theatre. Who knows?! But live tweeting elicited very little interaction from my followers, which was disappointing for me.
The Pros of Live Tweeting
1.) Supporters of “Tweet Seats” will argue that the theatre experience is “enhanced” by tweeting because you are given the opportunity to share and communicate your immediate reaction to followers. At the start of the show, I admit that even I felt the endorphin effect of live tweeting. It’s kind of exciting and fun, despite the element of distraction.
2.) Whether people want to admit it or not, live tweeting is a smart marketing move. Publicity is critical to the success of a show and producers need to be creative and keep up with the times to maintain theatre’s viability. This includes the acceptance of social networking as a necessary piece of marketing theatre.
So where does this one-time live tweeter stand on the subject of “Tweet Seats”?
-Pretty neutral and understanding of both sides.
-Live tweeting is not for me (see my list of cons).
-There are many theatre-lovers out there who WILL have “enhanced” theatre experiences in a “Tweet Seat”.
-Theaters need to assure that etiquette is maintained by seating tweeters in a location where cell phone lights cannot be seen. The back of the theatre at PPAC doesn’t cut it.
-I support anything that supports the success of theatre.