Should Venues Change in Line with Technology?

The performance name might be up in lights but the question is, is that the only light theatre goers want to see? More often than ever, both performers and audience members can see a sea of lights from the audience despite announcements being made and signs making it clear it is frowned upon to use a mobile phone mid performance. However, with technology constantly evolving, opinion seems to be divided on the use of smartphones and tablets. Should theatres recognise the growing part technology plays in our lives and embrace it or should technology be banned from performances altogether?

Back in 2013, a London theatre launched #TweetSeat – which as you might have guessed is a seat which designed solely for tweeting (usually positioned at the back of the theatre). Although the user is actively encouraged to tweet, there are restrictions in place for example, the flash from the camera must be deactivated and the phone must be kept on silent at all times. The idea behind this is simple – share images, videos and sound bites from the performances across social media with the aim of generating excitement amongst an existing audience, sparking interest amongst a potential new audience and generating all round positive word of mouth for the performance. Want to know more about the success of #TweetSeat ? Read all about it over in our blog here.

Although many producers of performances have understood the importance of engaging their audience where they most feel comfortable, they have also recognised there is a fine line between generating awareness amongst a new audience (with the help of some buzz across social media) and ruining the experience for those who have paid the ticket price and expect the ‘traditional’ theatre experience as they know it.

Of course we all agree a mobile phone ringing during a performance should always be forbidden, however, it poses the question – should audience members be free to share their experiences with others who may be interested? Whether you agree with the opinions of the Theatre Charter or are a little more open-minded when it comes to sharing theatre experiences, there is no denying there are some venues benefiting from embracing the evolution of technology.

“Digital activity is forcing us to rethink our creative practice”
Spokesperson, Tate Gallery

  • 31% of performing arts venues had seen a positive uplift in revenue after allowing smartphones and tablets to become part of the experience.
  • 40% of venues claimed their use of digital technology meant they could reach a more diverse audience and around the same proportion said they were attracting a younger audience as a result.

So can you attract a younger audience whilst continuing to keep your existing audience happy? Is your core audience an older demographic? Would they appreciate social intervals where the audience are permitted to tweet about the performance or would they view this as ruining the performance? Or are your audience already younger and would embrace digital interactions? Depending on the overall objectives of the venue itself and the audience it’s serves, each venue may have completely different views on permitting mobile usage mid-performance.

What is your opinion of in-performance tweeting? Do you frown upon it, think it should be embraced fully or do you think it should be permitted but with some restrictions in place to preserve the quality of the experience for all theatre goers?

Let us know over on Facebook where we welcome your opinions.

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