There are certain behavioral norms when one attends a movie. We get to the cinema complex, pay more than we should for a seat, and then pay way more than we should for stale popcorn. If we get our seats by the listed start time, we watch a few (or more) previews until they roll the public service announcement to silence phones and to limit talking during the movie.
Many of us probably have stories of seeing a movie with an audience member who thinks these rules are for everyone else but them. Yes, it’s annoying, and yes, we can complain about it. The point in bringing up the topic – is that we know these cultural rules. Most of us abide them, and even apply them to live performances.
At the Zoellner Arts Center, before every performance, the house manager makes an announcement to remind audiences to turn off their cell phones and to not text message as the activity can disturb other patrons. Taking video and photography are often forbidden. Sometimes, it’s a contract issue, other times – it’s extremely distracting to the performers. A flash can even temporarily blind a dancer. This is very dangerous when dancers near the edge of the stage.
Perhaps the audience is so suspended in their moment of disbelief that they forget the actors/dancers/musicians on stage are live, and can SEE YOU. Did you know that cell phones illuminate your face? It’s almost like there’s a flashlight under your chin. In fact, they often respond to the audience’s reaction. When audience and performers are sharing the same moment, the art form comes to it’s fullest circle of being.
But there are times, when one person in the audience can wreck it. There have been a few extraordinary tales of audience members causing so much distraction, the performance had to stop. Hugh Jackman, Patti Lapone and even Alan Gilbert had to make a scene.
Now, some audiences are encouraged to TWEET during live performances. According to Mashable, “The Providence Performing Arts Center in Providence RI has designated a section of its theatre for “tweet seats” since last spring. “ According to the center’s marketing-project coordinator, they “place participants under strict guidelines and ask them to remain discreet while they are tweeting.” The National Symphony Orchestra supplemented a performance of Beethoven’s Pastorale Symphony with prepared tweets from the conductor sent to the audience during key moments of the score.
This is a topic we’ve been following for some time. Today, The National Endowment for the Arts is having a very robust conversation about it ON TWITTER. But we’re curious. What do you think about it? Please add your comments below.
Are there certain times when live-tweet from the audience is OK? When is it not? Will this become a new cultural understanding much in the same way that some know when to applaud? BTW, do you know when it’s appropriate to applaud?