Off Stage – To Tweet or Not To Tweet That Is The Question

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Atlanta Theater Fans blog - Off StageOur friends at Synchronicity Theatre recently posted a question about live tweeting during a theater performance on their Facebook wall. They wrote:

“Tweeting at the theatre … what do you think? Here’s what Brian Polack at Boston Court (a great place, where playwright Steve Yockey is having a world premiere) thinks. I agree with him. You?”

The post had me thinking about not only what it would be like to tweet during a show but also what it would be like to sit next to someone doing it. As I pondered these thoughts, I read Polack’s blog. He commented on some theaters using live tweeting during the performance as a marketing tool. While this idea may be a wonderful way to get viral marketing, I am afraid it is also an easy way to make many patrons angry.

First, if I were live tweeting during the performance, I have to wonder how much of the show would I watch. While I was tweeting the songs I like or the “wow that was a great dance number” tweets, would I miss something? What if a pivotal scene followed something I wanted to tweet? Then, my impression could be skewed, and I may end up tweeting how confusing the production is. That kind of tweet would be counterproductive to the idea.

In another Facebook post, Georgia Shakespeare responded to Synchronicity’s post and on their wall someone responded that tweeting during a performance is like texting during a performance, and I have to agree. If you were sitting next to someone texting during the performance, it would be annoying. Tweeting is no different. Not only is there a nice blue glow flashing around in the seat next door, but there is also the chance that sounds will erupt from the phone. Not to mention how distracting it would be to the actors.

In his blog, Polack, who doesn’t like the idea either, writes several rules about how live tweeting might work (You can read his blog here). Even though I think he has good ideas, I am not sure I like all of them. Here is one I think might pose the most problems.

“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.”

I am not sure any creative team would really like someone judging an unfinished product. Look at how the producers of Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark reacted when critics got tired of waiting for the year-long previews to be over. They were extremely upset and for good reason. The show presented on opening night was much different from the show that was reviewed early. For many productions, some things still may be tweaked between dress rehearsal and opening night.

Instead of live tweeting, why not offer check-ins through programs like Fouresquare or Facebook Places. These can go a long with viral marketing. Also, encourage tweeting during intermission as well as before the show and after it. I know that I get several comments when I mention that I am at a show just as a status update on Facebook. There, the interest is made without live tweets.

Overall, I think live tweeting during a performance is a bad idea. It can open the door to other things that may not be so great. Theaters already have problems with people wanting to “YouTube” their experience. Plus, the trend these days is to attach a photo to a tweet. Taking pictures during a performance will be even more distracting than tweeting alone and could bring up copyright issues.

Let’s continue the discussion. Post here or continue on Synchronicity Theatre’s Facebook page.

– Kenny Norton