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We've discussed texting and checking one's phone during performances, but today the Washington Post has an article about a theater company that's inviting people to tweet at three dress rehearsals for a new play. Here's the article )which a computer glitch won't let me post in the usual style): http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/woolly-mammoths-theater-tweet-up-causes-drama-with-director/2012/01/17/gIQAGJVj6P_story.html.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company announced its first “Tweet Up” last week. Three of its Twitter followers will be selected to attend the first, technical and final dress rehearsals of Jason Grote’s new play, “Civilization (all you can eat).”

Brooke Miller, Woolly’s press and digital content manager, said Woolly’s goals are to integrate Twitter into the theater experience and provide “more transparency in our rehearsal and artistic process.”

They didn't ask the playwright's permission, and while he pointedly has not asked them to change their minds, he's not happy about it. What I'm interested in is their own thinking. I have to roll my eyes at the word "transparency," which suggests an ethical responsibility, but maybe they've just been living in Washington, D.C. too long and can't help sounding like politicians and don't intend that connotation. Still, I can't see how the tweeting could help the artistic process, and if anything it might further encourage people to confuse snap judgments in snappy language with seriously considered criticism. This looks like a publicity stunt.

Grote, an avid Twitter user (he has more than 1,500 followers), said he is not “categorically opposed to a live-tweeting theater,” rather that Woolly’s project “posed a fundamental misunderstanding of how Twitter works.” Tacking live-tweeting on as a component of a show at the end of the process doesn’t make sense, he said. “It needs to be integrated right from the conception. . . . [“Civilization”] is written in a style [that] requires a certain degree of listening and concentration.”
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Thanks for the link. Several articles like this have appeared recently - Carolina Ballet is one of the companies contemplating or implementing such moves, including offering "tweeting sections" during live performances. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, etc. The organizations looking at this view it as outreach to a new audience whose attention they might not be able to attract by traditional methods. I can see how it might not work out as intended, but there's no harm in trying, although the theater certainly didn't handle this well - even if they didn't have to keep Grote informed for contractual reasons, the experiment is being conducted on his work.

Grote doesn't seem wholly closed to the idea, he seems to be mainly unhappy with the addition of this potentially unpredictable element at a delicate time and also unhappy that he wasn't consulted, which makes perfect sense. He also makes the sound point that "moderated" tweeting is pretty much a contradiction in terms.

"Transparency" is one of those fashionable pieces of cant, it's everywhere, alas.

Other thoughts?

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"Transparency" is one of those fashionable pieces of cant, it's everywhere, alas.

I suppose you're right. It seems deeply silly in this context, doesn't it? I'd think a theater company, that uses words to make art, would take it's own words seriously. If they want to be taken seriously, that is.

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An interesting development. Thanks, kfw, for the link. I'm inclined to agree with your skepticism about encouaraging -- indeed, institutionalizing -- snap judgments. (This is akin to the increasing common, and more dangerous, polling procedure of contacting respondants within seconds of a major political pronouncement or event to ask what they "think" or "feel" about it. Within minutes, the responses are manipulated into a report about "public response" to something that might require a bit more time and thought.)

The theater company seems to have limited this experiment to just a few "tweeters" selected by themselves. Although I agree that this should have been discussed with the playwright, I rather enjoyed his slighltly acidic but basically philosophical response to the matter:

Grote also tweeted that the Tweet Up didn’t bother him “as long as I don’t have to look at it. I might have to unfollow [Woolly] while it’s happening.”

On the other hand, I would not enjoy being in the same theater with a regular "tweeting section," if that is indeed what Carolina Ballet has put into practice. Unless, of course, this group were housed inside a tent and invisible to the rest of us.

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