Twitter versus Theater?

The Guardian has posted an article,

Is it OK to use Twitter mid-performance?

in which the author, Andrew Dickson, answers no. No surprise there. And no surprise that all the commenters answered no as well.

They might as well have asked:

Is it OK to spit on actors?

So, irked at the uniform closed-mindedness, I decided to write something in the comments section. I’ll repeat it here:

The uniformity of the responses encourages me to leave a comment for the first time on a Guardian article. I am a critic in New York, and I have never Tweeted during a theatrical performance.
However, I use Twitter with great frequency, Tweeting as @NewYorkTheater, and have derived much pleasure in meeting and conversing on Twitter with people who share my interest in plays and musicals — other critics, playwrights, actors, some quite well-known, as well as passionate theatergoers.
There is a real community online, and it is never more evident than during a live event such as the Tony Awards or a Presidential debate or even just a popular television show like Smash or (once) Glee. The ongoing commentary enhances the experience.
Would this be the case for a theatrical performance? I don’t know. I understand the other commenters’ concerns. But I’m more open-minded about it, understanding the power and appeal of the sharing, and would be curious to see how Tweet seats worked out. Some people I know who are as intense in their commitment to their theatrical craft as they are to their social media life currently Tweet during intermission.


This is an issue that makes many theatergoers express themselves with such anger and, well, rudeness, that it’s hard to believe they don’t see the irony.

The increasing breaches in theater etiquette are not going to go away simply because we don’t like them.

Read any manners book, and you’ll see the same advice: The only person on whom you can enforce politeness is yourself.
Looking at the big picture, I feel we are in a stage of transition such as routinely occurs with the introduction of new technology. There will be a solution, as there has been in the past. (Perhaps, for example, relegating phone users to an isolated area of the theater. — or, say, coming up with a device on the back of seats that is only visible to those who use it. ) In any case, the solution is not to turn into righteous little theatrical Taliban.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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