Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tweet Seats

A little over a month ago I blogged my horror that anyone would ever consider taking out a cell phone to text or tweet during a live performance. I've always been horrified at people who talk, sing, leave phones on to ring, and other things during a performance. It's distracting. It's rude. It often seems to happen to me. In fact, I can't remember the last performance I sat through that I didn't hear anyone talking around me.

However, after reading the initial post about tweeting during a performance, the subject of "tweet seats" was brought to my attention. From what I've read and been told, tweet seats are a type of controlled tweeting. Specific seats are set apart at performances and are typically in the rear or side of the theatre, in order to limit the distraction to the actors and the other audience members. These tickets are often at a very reduced rate, and the tweeting is usually accompanied with a specific hash tag so that they stream of tweets can be followed.

I'm sure that there could be beneficial results from allowing fans to tweet about a show while it's happening. Personally, I write blogs about the shows I see so that I can remember what I've seen and to show my personal respect to the production. I certainly hope other may look to what I write to help them decide what to see, although I encourage everyone to come to their own conclusions about any show.

As print newspapers are quickly becoming a thing of the past, and critics seem to be getting a bad name more times that I'm sure they would care to admit, I find myself looking to the average theatre-goer for advice on what to see. I find other bloggers, others who tweet, and friends who I know have seen shows to find out what they think of a show.

As easy as it would be to blame critics for a show's closing (i.e. Bonnie & Clyde), it's just as easy to see a show loved by the critics come to an early demise (Lysistrata Jones). It's unfair to say that the critics' opinions are the final say in what survives...but it's also unfair to say that they aren't what makes a show survive.

In everything, it can be too easy to make a decision based on a "professional opinion" when what I really want to know is what my peers think. I find this often in the medical aspects of my life (see my diabetes blog). Sure, I want my doctor's opinion, but when it comes down to it, I want to know what other people living with diabetes say. We read review of hotels...by actual people who stayed there. We read reviews of people who have purchased products before we buy the product ourselves. Why wouldn't that apply to theatrical events as well?

I think that more and more theatres are seeing how much we depend on the opinions of our peers. And they are beginning to do things like have tweet seats and as several shows in New York have done, have blogger nights (in which tickets are free, and often there are meet & greets with actors and/or pre-show drinks).

Social media is definitely the wave of the future. As I wrote just the other day, twitter is the new fan mail...and maybe it's also the new way to get reviews on shows. I seriously doubt that critics will ever completely go away. They are paid to see the technical aspects that a casual theatre-goer will often miss. But having a nice balance of where you can get your information seems to be a positive thing.

Do I think that the idea of tweet seats could be seriously misused and abused? Yes. But I think under controlled circumstances, it could be a great marketing tool for shows and theatres that is essentially free for them and cheap for people like me.

I'm curious to participate in a tweet seat event. I probably wouldn't do it all the time, but occasionally it might be a nice way to share information on what I'm seeing that doesn't involve a full written review on my blog.

What is your opinion on tweet seats? Is this something you would participate in? Why or why not? What do you think might be something to help "control" the situation? Or some tips to make a tweet seat event a successful event? I need feedback people. I crave it. Help me out.

P.S. You can follow me on Twitter if you'd like. ;) Find me @cgtheatregeek

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