Monday, November 28, 2011

Insanity Starts With This:

I read an article on Yahoo Shine just a few minutes ago. It has caused me such distress that I had to write about it, even though I should be in bed since I have to work tomorrow. The title of the article was enough to make me cringe:

The article goes on to state how a new theatre is being built in Bellevue, Washington that intends to allow texting and tweeting DURING PERFORMANCES!

This is a quote directly from the article:

John Haynes, the CEO of Tateuchi Center, who is overseeing its design and construction, was given the option of putting a cell phone signal block in the performance space. He thought, "That is exactly the wrong direction to go in." For a tech-savvy audience to feel at home at an arts center, Haynes decided to not just let Wi-Fi into the space but also to allow tweeting and texting during live performances.

I am so appalled by this article that I am not sure how to put it into words, but I plan on trying. I am what I consider a young person. Even if someone might feel that I am too old to be considered "young," but I can say that I do consider myself fairly tech savvy. I maintain two active blogs, two active twitter accounts, I have facebook, I email, I ditched MySpace when it became "uncool," I text more than I talk on the phone.

But I DO NOT think that I can't go an hour without texting or tweeting. When I attend a show I tend to check my phone (email, texts, tweets, fb updates) right before the show starts and then again at intermission. I'm okay with that. In fact, I've seen people attempt to text (or whatever) during a show and I find it distracting. If lights going on and off in the audience during a performance if distracting to me, I can only imagine how annoying and distracting it could be to a performer.

What are we saying if we can't be without contact for an hour (two at most)? And what are you missing while you're looking at your phone? You're missing subtle facial expressions and amazing choreography. You're missing actions that "speak" more than the actual spoken words can convey. And you are saying that the actors and actresses on stage are not important enough for you to give them your undivided attention.

Have we reached the end of "please turn off all cell phones, beepers, and other electrical/noise making devices"? I hope not. Because I can tell you it would ruin my experience each and every time I tried to attend a show. 


  1. I think a lot of good conversation can come from allowing tweeting and texting during movies and performances. I have attended churches that promote tweeting and a church hash tag during the sermon so that they can have conversation with the pastor and others later, and without allowing it during, their thoughts might slip away. It also makes them more accountable than simply taking notes. This doesn't really apply to theater I guess completely, but I can see the similarities.

  2. Texting and tweeting during a performance is breathtakingly rude. How about paying attention to the performance? To do otherwise is disrespectful to performers and audience alike. The light from the phone is indeed distracting and it’s just kind of a selfish thing to do. You’ll also miss out on the performance itself. I intend to register a protest with this center. Thank you, Cara, for posting this!

  3. I understand your concern. I've had people texting behind me in the theater and I get very angry.

    On the FLIP side...I really love tweeting photos of the playbill to "announce" what I'm watching. I like quoting the show on my facebook during the performance. And I really like the idea of live-tweeting a show (though I've never done it).

  4. Maybe if they sat in their own section, way behind me...

  5. Cara, as I mentioned in my brief email, I'm torn about this issue. I certainly know what it's like to be onstage and the glowing faces of audience members lit by the screens of their mobile devices. It can be distracting. And it was annoying as I sat in the mezzanine for "The Mountaintop" on Broadway last month and watched the orchestra section aglow with smartphones like so many stationary fireflies. (Though part of that was the former Equity member in me being rankled at people ignoring AEA rules.) God knows, I've heard complaints from our patrons and ushers alike about people using cell phones during a performance.

    At the present time, no standard of courteous behavior regarding the use of these devices has been adopted. I doubt that it has even been considered by most theaters (other than forbidding it). I say "most," but certainly not all. Some companies are beginning to take steps to encourage such things. Not many, mind you, but still...

    And part of me is thrilled by that fact. I think to myself, "Imagine the possibilities." You and I have discussed the idea of a preview/dress rehearsal/dedicated performance where audience members were encouraged to tweet - in real time - about what they were watching onstage, and about my being able to provide a "director's commentary" as the show progressed. That just seems like a wonderful way to get people – especially young people – engaged and involved in the theater in a whole new way. Imagine student matinees where audience members could not just comment, but CONVERSE about what they were seeing… with a director, or a member of the technical staff… perhaps even with some of the actors. Think how that could facilitate and enrich post-show discussions. And could the ability to follow these conversations (either in real time or after the fact) entice potential audience members to come out and see a show?

    I’m just thinking out loud here. I really have no practical idea how to make these things happen, especially in a way that won’t disturb many “traditional” audience members (not to mention staff and volunteers). Certainly, rules would need to be established, guidelines to be strictly followed. Colleen's comment about a separate section is a great idea. And there are several interesting posts on the subject here:

    Mistakes will undoubtedly be made if we actually decide to explore this idea. But despite the unavoidable difficulties, my gut still tells me to “bring on the Tweet Seats!”

  6. Thanks to everyone who's responded so far. I have another post forming in my head about the whole deal and I really appreciate the input! Keep it coming. Pass the post along if you can.

  7. Respect the actors, musicians and the patrons are attending performance and turn off the damn cell phones!!!

  8. I see the positives and the negatives. Imagine that you want to live-tweet a show for, say, a theater review blog. ;) And I do think the possibilities of conversation regarding the show are nice, and it's probably good to have reception for emergency reasons.

    On the other hand, I am sure a bunch of people will not be respectfully using their phones and mobile devices during performances, and will act like a bunch of cretinous jerks.

    Of course, my idea of making shows louder so you can't hear other people texting is probably terrible, lol. Some people get very irritated if you are on a cell phone at a rock concert, but you know what you could be doing there? Texting your friends your thoughts because you can't hear them over the music. Identifying a new song you like using a service for that. Taking a picture that you will post and promote the band later.

    I dunno, I'm so mixed on this. Orchestra phones? No. Musical theater phones? Eh, maybe not so much. Rock band phones? I think it's okay and people need to relax as long as they are not blabbing away next to your head during your favorite introspective ballad.

  9. I live in Bellevue, and I still find it strange.

  10. Amazing: