“What’s a Twitter?”
It wasn’t that long ago that my father asked me this question. Without having to go into detail about how Twitter isn’t “a” thing, but rather “the” thing of our generation, I ended up just blurting out, “It’s what young people do.”
I realize that this explanation wasn’t entirely accurate, but this is a man who puts an “s” after every chain store name and still thinks text messages don’t require a response. He is OK with inaccuracy.
What I should have told him is that Twitter is an information highway that brings millions to its daily conversations, in social exchanges of endless information, shared interests, world events and random thoughts. That it’s a powerhouse marketing tool that allows the business world and brands alike to connect to real-time life and its consumers. That it’s a canvas for all ages to engulf themselves in and receive immediate feedback on culture, arts, fashion, technology, parenting, business and just about anything they can fit into 140 characters.
In other words, “a Twitter” is a modern-world, real-time life encyclopedia. And the new norm in social and digital media.
In recent years, theatres of performing arts across the nation are jumping on the Twitter wagon with their “tweet seat” program—in which a group of seats are set aside in the back two rows of the theatre for those who promise to live-tweet any aspect of the performance using a special hashtag—in hopes of engaging a broader audience while trying to discover where live arts belong in the realm of digital and social media.
Providence Performing Arts Center began its Tweet Seater initiative last April with the show Bring it On. I, along with a group of other local Twitter-fanatics, joined the initiative with its third live-tweeted show, Memphis, whose success was apparent in how quickly it began trending that evening (closely behind the Victoria’s Secret Runway Fashion Show). Since then, PPAC has utilized the tweet seats for two more subsequent shows and will again for this Friday night’s performance of American Idiot.
Having been fortunate enough to serve as one of the tweet seaters for PPAC, it has kindly reminded me just how powerful and important social media has become in many aspects of today’s world.
An avid fan of the performing arts since childhood, I remember the unadulterated excitement as my parents took us to shows, plays and musicals. It was always a special event, filled with acting, dancing, music, lights, sets and eye-catching costumes. There really is no parallel to the magic and luster of live theatre. I’ve seen numerous shows at PPAC and each and every single time I step beyond those inviting front lobby doors, I am astounded at the beauty and magnificence that surrounds me. Attending a performance at PPAC is never short on glamour, stature or absolute entertainment.
But I grew up in a world where entertainment wasn’t digital. Where you gladly left the confines of your own home to seek it. Where “reality TV” was Bob Ross’s “happy trees” and “smartphones” were cordless house phones. The technological times have certainly changed, and maybe even the means in which we turn to for amusement. Our generation and those behind us now encounter much higher rates of competition for their Friday nights.
Which is why initiatives like “Tweet Seats” could be an essential tool to merge the ever-changing generation gap and the bridge between art and technology. We’ve become a nation glued to our gadgets, so what better way to engage and inform than to “go where the people are.”
Our purpose as tweet-seaters are not to steal the cathartic experience from a potential audience member, but rather to raise awareness as to why others should continue to engage in live theatre and the importance of cultivating their own emotional journeys outside of one created by a dinner argument on Real Housewives. And we do that through generating buzz about the show, from the visual aspects to the particular scene synopsis to notable dialogue lines to even real-time conversations with backstage cast members.
Tweet-seating personalizes theatre to the masses in hopes that by using its prowess, it will resonate among the broadest audience possible. Because, the absolute worst thing that could ever happen is for live theatre to suffer at the hands of digital media success. We’re here to be sure that doesn’t happen.
See you Friday night.
** Follow along with the hashtag #AIPPAC for Friday night’s performance of American Idiot (@IdiotOnTour). To purchase tickets to the show, visit PPAC’s box office at 220 Weybosset Street in downtown Providence or call (401) 421-ARTS. To purchase online, visit PPAC's website.
** Jen Senecal is a mom to three girls, a writer, blogger and graphic designer. Read more on her foray into parenthood at keekoin or visit her at Rhody Mamas.