Tweeting At the Theatre
July 16, 2010
Since SF Playhouse allowed a few audience members sitting in a specially-designated area of the theatre to send Twitter messages during last Tuesday evening's performance of The Fantasticks, an interesting debate about whether this activity should be allowed in the theatre or not has been going on on the Berkeley Repertory Theatre's Facebook page.
It seems that opinions are wildly divided on the subject. The detractors say that people should have their attention on the stage at all times and tweeting can wait till the intermission or after the show. The people who think tweeting should be allowed point out that it has the potential to engage and bring in new audiences. Bill English, SF Playhouse's artistic director, said in the message thread on the Berkeley Rep Facebook page that the activity is no different from critics scribbling in notebooks all the way through shows, which I think is a very valid point.
I suppose I'm on the fence about the question. On the one hand, I find lit phone screens to be a distraction in a darkened theatre (the same goes for critics who use pen lights while writing in the dark.) And I do think that if a play is truly engaging, sending out tweets should be the last thing on an enraptured audience member's mind. On the other hand, I don't think it does any great harm, especially if the tweeters sit at the back of the theatre where their screens and tapping are likely to distract the minimum number of theatre-goers. And if it helps to engage people in new ways, then why not?