The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis is offering “Tweet Seats” where audience members are allowed to use social media during the shows. They are probably trying to control and put a positive spin on behavior they perceive as inevitable, but it makes me sad. As someone who does use social media while watching TV I can definitively say that when I’m on my phone or computer or iPad I’m not truly watching the show. I put my phone away when I go to the movies and live theatre. I do so out of respect for my fellow audience members and (at plays) for the performers. Also, it is likely that I paid a lot of money for my tickets, so I actually want to see the show. Sure, I can’t give someone my immediate reaction to the last scene transition, but I’m getting a much richer experience. Isn’t entertainment supposed to be about escape?
Even when segregated to the back row glowing screens are a distraction to those around you. Even if you don’t care about giving the show your complete attention other people probably do. That can include the audience as well as the performers. The Guthrie may be big enough that the actors won’t be bothered by people tweeting in the balcony, but if this becomes the cool thing to do and smaller venues follow the Guthrie’s lead these little glowing screens will be more difficult to ignore.
I remember when even doctors were asked to leave their pagers at the box office so that the sound would not distract the audience or performers if they beeped during a performance. (If the pager went off an usher would discretely deliver a note to the owner.) Unfortunately, people now view the ability to constantly use their cell phones as an inalienable right, even if all they want to do is update their Facebook statuses.
Shame on you, Guthrie. You’re cheapening the theatrical experience for us all.
If you are also horrified by the “tweet seats” concept click the Facebook “like” button above or below this post. If you disagree tell me why in the comments area below. You can see my tips for how to watch live theatre here. Live tweeting is not in my recommendations. You can also connect with me on Facebook here or on Twitter here (assuming I am not at the theatre at the time).