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To Tweet or Not to Tweet; That is the Question
By: Aprel Phelps Downey
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Performance arts theatres are the last of a dying breed. These treasures are one of the few places in America that have yet to be touched by social media and the modern age of smartphones. As the house lights dim, audience members make one last glance at a cell phone, making sure to turn it on "silent." With their social media networks quieted for the next several hours, the audience settles into their seats as the curtain rises and the theatrical performance begins. Somewhere in the back of that same theatre, a group of individuals quietly takes out their smartphones and gets set to tweet about the show.

Pause for a moment before throwing the etiquette book at this group for defying an unspoken rule about modern technology and the theatre. There is a performance arts theatre in Providence, Rhode Island that is test marketing tweeting during theatrical performances. Journalists, public relations specialists, and other theatre reviewers are being invited to tweet from their seats throughout a show. Using a specified hashtag, these individuals share thoughts on everything from costume design and musical numbers to actor stage delivery in 140 characters or less. Their tweets can spark the curiosity of someone who has never set foot inside a theatre. This new interest can turn that someone into an audience member for the next performance.

In addition to this unorthodox theatre behavior, cast members are often backstage doing some tweeting of their own. They are sharing everything from what they do to get ready to take the stage to pictures of their dressing rooms. It is a unique way to give audience members and theatre lovers an up-close look at real-time life backstage. In turn the actors, aware of the specific hashtags, also read the live tweets from audience members, giving them an idea of how well the performance is being received.

Providence is not alone in joining social media and the theatre. The Huntington Theatre in Boston holds a Twitter Mission session during actual intermissions of performances. Theatre staff hold a virtual question and answer session about that evening’s performance under the theatre’s Twitter account. As the questions are answered, the live Twitter conversation is broadcast on screens throughout the theatre lobby.

This new practice of bringing the world of social media into the theatre is not without criticism. Performance arts theatres have long been a place where etiquette ruled above all else. There was simply no room for improper dress, loud smacking on snack foods, and certainly no modern technology. Critics believe that a performance arts theatre is sacred ground not to be tarnished by modern technology gadgets. Others feel that now is the best time to bring these two media forms together. As other performance arts theatres consider letting modern technology slowly step through their doors, this new relationship just may create a performance worthy of a standing ovation! 

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About the Author
Aprel Phelps Downey is a writing/marketing professional who holds more than seven years marketing experience, including all aspects of promotional and informational campaigns and website development.  To learn more about Aprel please visit her website at www.aprelphelpsdowney.com or follow her on twitter: @aphelpsdowney.
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