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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Evolution of the Arts

Here are a few artsy background things that you wouldn't necessarily know about me:

1)  My sister and I are both named after opera singers.  
2)  I grew up listening to the Folk Songs of "Woody's Children" on Saturday nights on WQXR.
3)  My father and I danced at my wedding to "The Pickers are Coming" from Shenandoah.
4)  Thanks to my mom, I've heard a lot of Jonathan Schwartz over the years.
5)  My sister can sing and act.  I can clap and cheer. (And tweet.)

Last week, The Huffington Post published an article about Tweet Seaters at a theater in Minnesota.  This theater joins a long line around the country of productions looking to build buzz and momentum by teasing the production by way of social media.
"Tweet seats" are part of a growing trend in theaters across the country. TheCincinnati Symphony OrchestraPalm Beach Opera in Florida and the Public Theater in New York have all experimented with designated sections for patrons who just must use their phones, The Daily Mail notes.
I am thrilled that the Providence Performing Arts Center joined the ranks late last year, inviting a handful of us to tweet throughout the performance of Memphis.  We were together in a section at the very back, separated from those who paid to be completely entertained and captivated.  We were all on silent, and save the occasional light from a phone, unless you were looking backwards, you wouldn't have known what we were doing...or that we were even there.  

BUT, we were so loud in the Twittersphere that we were trending four places behind the Victoria Secret Fashion Show.  Take that skeptics!  

Sure, it's a little controversial, seeing as how unbelievably rude it is to sit in a theater and have the guests around you distracted and distracting.  But, this isn't an exercise for the masses.  And no one should ever suggest that it be a practice permitted by all.  It IS rude.  And distracting.  And obnoxious.  But, it is also an important movement in the arts.  A shift, if you will, designed to bridge the gap between one class of art patrons and another.  

Last night I was back again, Tweeting my way through Jekyll and Hyde as it continues it's pre-Broadway tour.  This time we were asked to refrain from tweeting during the performance, but those of us who know are way around Twitter, know how to schedule things to post even when your silent phone is tucked deep at the bottom of your bag.  It was a very different show, but I was thrilled to visit with some of the cast and crew afterwards.  That's a serious commitment, to travel all over the country, performing in city after city.  These guys are just incredible.

My parents tell stories of a time where people got dressed to the nines to go to a show in the City.  They even talk about people tailgating a football games in furs and heels and fancy clothes. This is not your parents generation.  By contrast, we live in a time where men aren't sure whether they will be strung up by their belts, so they feel better not wearing them at all.  This is much to the chagrin and nausea of the rest of us.  Or, there is a class of men who believe that birth control is naturally created by wearing pants that are so tight, they must have been painted on at birth.

Fashion faux pas aside, we have to concede that it's more important that you go to the theater, than wear a belt.  Bonus for those of you who do both.  We must push these conversation out to the world.  Let's face it -- most television shows suck.  And movies have become remakes and horror shows.  Sometimes both.  Now, more than ever, we need theater.  To entertain us.  To educate us.  To enlighten us.  

I can overlook what you wear.  Theaters can offer promo codes to make it affordable for all.  Tweeters can tease enough of the production to pique your interest.  But, since we can't drive you there you'll have to decide for yourself. You can do it!  Bring a friend. Share the wealth.  

When the demand for theater productions (spoken and sung) is trending on AND off Twitter, we'll know our work here is done.  When no budget cut threatens a school or community production, where talent is born and cultivated, our work will be done.  Til then, the Tweet Seaters are here to save the day. Back up, you're standing on my cape.

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