Here’s a horrible idea that’s gaining traction with theaters across the country in spite of said horribleness: over the last two years more and more theater companies and producers have been setting aside a number of seats in their performance spaces where rules of appropriate theater behavior are suspended, and audience members are invited to type away on their smart phones during the entire performance. They’re called tweet seats, and they’re coming to New York.
Tweet seats, according to USA Today, began being implimented in regional theaters and concert halls in 2009, and have steadily grown more popular.
Rick Dildine, the executive director for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis—an outdoor theater festival that began using tweet seats two years ago—said tweet seats have “become a national trend.”
Sadly, he’s right. Live performance venues cited in the article as having experimented with tweet seats sections include the Carolina Ballet in Raleigh, North Carolina, Connecticut’s Norma Terris Theater, the Indianapolis Symphony, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Dayton Opera in Dayton, Ohio.
For the time being no New York City producer, company or venue has partaken of the tweet seats trend—”Spokespeople for public relations firms Jeffrey Richards Associates, Hartman Group and O&M said the Broadway productions they represent have not used tweet seats”—but it won’t be long. Jennifer Tepper, director of promotions for Circle in the Square’s new Broadway revival of Godspell says the production plans to experiment with a section of tweet seats soon, noting: “While we haven’t done tweet seats, they are certainly in our plan for the future at Godspell.”
30-year Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra subscriber Irene Friedman provides the voice of reason, after she was seated near the tweeting section during a concert there last month.
Their texting thumbs were moving faster than the violinist’s fingers. They would occasionally nudge each other and read what the other person had up on his or her screen. They didn’t even look up to applaud at the end of each selection. The fact that they were watching their handheld devices, they missed out on what was happening on the stage.
Though this trend’s spread seems inevitable, theater producers who include tweet seats should at least offer rush ticket rates for any seat within a five-row radius of the smartphone-permitting section.