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Pros and Cons

As Long as They’re Seated Behind Me: Theater Introduces “Tweet Seats” for Social Media Addicts

As a life-long amateur musician who gets snooty when people clap between the movements of a sonata, I’m probably not the best person to be receptive to any kind of electronic introductions to a performance or screening. Usually when we hear about theater owners making concessions to people who leave their phones on, it’s in regards to a movie theater, with all their wooing of the modern audience and needing to wring profit out of every possible moment. But this case is of a repertory theater’s production of Carlo Goldoni‘s 1743 Servant of Two Masters, and while the restrictions placed on these Tweet Seats will probably keep them from annoying other audience members there’s just something about the principle of the thing that makes me hope it never happens at any theater I go to.

Says the Guthrie theater’s announcement:

A limited number of seats in the McGuire Proscenium will be designated as “tweet seats” allowing social media fans to tweet live during specific performances.

“Tweet Seats” available for four consecutive Thursday evening performances, beginning December 27

I’m going to go ahead and assume (or at least hope) that those seats will be in the last row of the balcony, so as not to irritate the folks behind them with the blazing light of their screens. Knowing that some particular performances will sanction social media use will also allow folks who’d rather not encounter that sort of thing to choose other shows. The Guthrie appears to feel that allowing folks to tweet during the performance goes right in hand with the elements of improvised comedy in their show. Guthrie External Relations Director Trish Santini: “This cast is an incredible ensemble of comedians, and night after night they’re riffing and improvising – it’s the kind of show that makes you ask, ‘Did they just say that?’ Usually they did – and tweeting should be a great way to talk about it.”

Not for me, thanks. Or at least, I can wait until after the house lights come up. What do you guys think?

(via Jezebel.)

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  • Anonymous

    As a board op who runs lights during shows, this drives me insane. It’s difficult to see if your light intensity is consistent with the designers vision with an army of blue screens in the audience. Plus what’s the point of experiencing a live show if your attention is only half present?

    On the flip side, I understand that social media is crucial for fringe festivals and indie theatre to get the word out. It’s also a great way to attract a younger audience that can evolve with the technology and embrace it, including its use in actual productions. There are some shows out there that feature screens on stage that people can text confessions and comments to. It seemed a lot like Much On Demand to me, but if it gets people interested and engaged in the experience it’s worthwhile.

  • Sarah Bauer

    I happened to be there the first night they tried this. I was aware that the tweet seats were going to be implemented, but didn’t know it had started that night. The balcony in the theatre only has one row and is above the booth, so I was completely unaware of any phones during the show. I asked the light board operator after the show if it distracted her, but she said since the balcony was above her, she couldn’t even tell they were there.

    So this particular theatre’s set up allowed for the tweet seats to happen without distracting other patrons. But is it a stupid idea? Yes. Definitely. I work in theatre and I don’t see a need to let audience members be constantly connected to their phones during a show. Isn’t part of the point of live theatre to get away from the world for a while and immerse yourself in the production? Can’t you wait to update your twitter until intermission? If you can’t sit still for an hour and a half at a time, stay home and watch Netflix.

  • Nikki Imberger

    Two words. Special Hell.

  • Mark Brown

    Indeed. I believe that texting/tweeting counts as talking for these purposes.

  • Anonymous

    To be honest, I’d be surprised if we don’t see the premium pricing/seating eventually being used for people who want to get away from tweeters.

  • Bill Norris

    cant they just leave their phones off for 2 hrs….. and if theyre seated outside in their cars in the parking lot they can tweet all they want

  • Strangelove

    “As a life-long amateur musician who gets snooty when people clap between the movements of a sonata”
    I’ve been to concerts where people start clapping long before a movement has ended and I feel like committing genocide when it happens.

    I think these things are really harmful. We’re getting more and more used to frequent distractions. People can’t watch an entire play/movie/opera/etcetera without constant internal or external interruptions (sending text messages, reading new text messages, checking for new text messages, trying to remember when was the last time they checked for new text messages, and the same with emails and social networks). This kind of things affect our concentration and therefore our ability to learn and understand, and they prevent us from enjoying our activities. At least that’s what I’ve observed in the people around me and by personal experience. For instance, I’m incredibly more productive and have better academic performance since I deleted my Facebook account. I think of sending and reading messages or browsing as an activity on its own and not something in between other stuff I need or want to do.