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Tweet Seats Are The Latest Trend for the Arts Beat

Just when you thought this generation wasn’t brainwashed by technology enough, wait until you hear about the latest trend for theaters – "tweet seats." Inspired by the popularity of the social network, Twitter, "tweet seats" are in-house seats set aside for people who agree to live "tweet" about what is happening during a performance.

Rick Dildine, the executive director for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, told USA Today that he has been using "tweet seats" for over two years and that they have become a “national trend.” Other venues, such as the Carolina Ballet in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the Dayton Opera in Dayton, Ohio, have begun using "tweet seats" as well. Dildine said, “Social media is a tool we rely on, and we have been unafraid to experiment with it."

Other theaters, like the Kennedy Center in Washington, have a different perspective.

"We make a pre-performance announcement asking patrons to turn off their cell-phones in order to keep the light and sound from distracting other patrons," Patricia O'Kelly, a Kennedy Center spokeswoman, told USA Today. The Kennedy Center has not tried "tweet seats" and has not made it public whether or not they will in the future.

Chris Pinelo, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) vice president for communication said that they began using tweet seats in September in hopes of gaining a bigger, different type of audience.

"For a lot of new audience members, this is a way to further advance their concert going experience," he said via USA Today. 

The issue is: If patrons are busy tweeting and focused on their mobile devices, won't their attention be, at the very least, partially divided? Will they even notice what's happening on stage?

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This summer my solo show premiered off broadway. I had a book publisher who brought other publishers to the show. They were appalled that they saw someone on their mobile device. I noticed the light during the quietest scene...That I did not have the patrons full attention felt terrible. When I returned to my dressing room and picked up my mobile device I found several tweets about the show and even a message from a friend saying that someone he knew was at the show and how much they were loving it. She just had to write about it.
Personally, as a performer I feel that phones should be off. Every moment on stage is new. Doing my show for so long now, I'm still discovering new things. Things that make the audience laugh. Pay your ticket, take the ride, lose yourself in that theatre...nothing can take the place of a live performance. Trend before, after or during intermission. There's a reason the theatre is dark. Audiences focus and unify through emotions. Group minds can be interrupted. You can be upset by what the person sitting next to you is doing. I'm a tech junkie but The phones will be there after the show. If there has to be a tweet seat, it should be the back row, where other audience members are not disturbed and where performers feel the heads up.

Hear, hear, Ms. Elaine, well said.

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