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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Twitter Wars

The Twitter Wars

An uproar has recently occurred among theater purists. Its cause: Guthrie Theater’s decision to designate “Tweet seats” for the remaining Thursday performances of The Servant of Two Masters.

Although I wouldn’t go as far as Star Tribune columnist James Lileks in saying that such a concession is “another sign of the decline of Everything,” I can see how people could be upset over this: the light, the noise, the notion that the Tweeters aren't paying full attention to the performance.

Richard Termine

Personally, however, I was more appalled when theaters around town began allowing food and drink to be taken into the auditorium. More than once I’ve heard someone knock over his or her beverage, and then been completely distracted by the cup taking its sweet time rolling and clinking toward the stage until it finally gets caught somewhere. I’ve even witnessed a woman who got so drunk during a show at the Orpheum that, while stumbling up the aisle after the performance, she scared a little girl by nearly toppling over her as she cooed with wine-infused breath about how pretty the girl’s dress was.

And yet it is the allowance of people to silently tweet during a performance that has caused outrage.

To me, these Tweet seats—all located in the second balcony of the McGuire Proscenium—are simply a reflection of society today. Am I saddened that most people (my age especially) can’t sit through a performance—or dinner or a TV show or a 30-minute coffee date—without constantly checking their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, e-mail, fantasy football stats, etc.? Yes. But I also don’t see the point in fighting this reality. It’s already a struggle to convince people of any age that the theater is not some obsolete art form only to be enjoyed by upper-class yuppies or people who were theater geeks in high school (I get to say that because I was one). Plus, other theaters have been offering seats like this for quite a while now, from movie theaters to opera houses to orchestra halls.

I don’t mind getting behind this trend for three reasons: One, the seats in which tweeting is allowed will be far removed from the majority of the audience. Two, I think it will draw new audiences to the theater. Three, I’m excited to see peoples’ reactions to the show. Too often, we theater critics spout off our opinions to the sound of silence. I want to hear other thoughts from new voices; to interact with a fresh sea of theater lovers. The idea of opening up the gates and allowing anyone willing to dish out $15 to give their impression of a show is fun. And I’d be willing to bet the tweets in response to this crazy comedy will be pretty enjoyable, too.

The Servant of Two Masters
Through January 20
Tweet seats available for every Thursday performance: $15, call 612-377-2224 and mention “TWEET”
Guthrie Theater, 818 S. Second St., Mpls.

Posted on Wednesday, January 2, 2013 in Permalink

Comments may be edited for length, clarity, or appropriateness.

Jan 2, 2013 01:36 pm
 Posted by  AFG

I think both arguments are interesting. But even as a 30-something Twitter user, I think I fall more in Lileks' curmudgeon zone about things like this. I get annoyed when people talk on their phones on the bus, not to mention open their cell phones during a movie or a play. I would prefer to ban food from movie theaters (and stage performances), because the loud chewer behind me is always distracting. I want to (hopefully) teach my children how to have an attention span of more than 30 minutes when it comes to things like this. You can tweet about it afterward.

However, we are in public and people will do, and have the right to do, certain things (i.e. order the popcorn). But when movie studios or theater companies start worrying about attendance because I'd rather stay home and catch a show on my own couch than deal with tweeters, Facebookers, loud chewers, drunk theater goers, etc., well, they should think once again about the environment that's offered.

I don't know - I'm too grouchy probably. I wonder what the actors think? Are they totally onboard? I would feel disrespectful taking my attention away from their jobs to tweet.

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TC Culture spotlights everything that’s wow-worthy in Minneapolis–St. Paul’s vibrant arts, entertainment, and culture scene. Film, theater, dance, music, visual arts, events—if it’s something you just gotta do, see, or hear in the Twin Cities metro, you’ll read about it here.

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