According to a recent survey, we’re a world addicted to our smartphones. Time magazine carried out a poll of 5,000 people from across the globe, finding 84 per cent of respondents said they couldn’t go a day without their cell phones and a fifth said they check their phone every 10 minutes.
And, with many of us unable to resist sharing our every moment on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, it’s perhaps no surprise that if we’re watching a show, we want to let our friends know immediately what we think of it.
Now, to keep up with those who can’t bear to turn off their smartphones, theatres on both sides of the Atlantic are sectioning off, or at least considering sectioning off, some seats for those who want to tweet during performances.
The Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis is just the latest to formalise a growing trend for theatre audiences to use their phones within auditoria. Management there have roped off a balcony-level section for the latest run of the farce The Servant With Two Masters so it “will not be disruptive to other patrons”.
Guthrie’s external relations director Trish Santini, said: “If there were ever a Guthrie show to host Tweet Seats, it’s The Servant of Two Masters. This cast is an incredible ensemble of comedians and night after night they’re riffing and improvising – it’s the kind of show that makes you ask, ‘Did they just say that?’ Usually they did and tweeting should be a great way to talk about it.”
It comes after The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra experimented with tweet seats, offering 20 audience members the opportunity to engage in live dialogue during a performance. Palm Beach Opera in Florida actively encouraged tweeters to use their smartphones during a rehearsal, saying in an advert: “We are looking for people who are active on social media to attend the final dress rehearsal of an opera and tweet throughout the whole thing. We want your authentic opinions, thoughts, or maybe even play-by-plays of the action happening on the stage. Basically, you’ll get tickets to come and see the opera on us in exchange for your social media posts.”
The Public Theater in New York has also offered special sections for visitors who can’t keep off their phones.
British theatres are also said to be considering making some seats available to audience members in London’s West End, to let them reach for their phones during shows.
But the issue has proved controversial, with critics of the scheme saying using a phone for tweets or text during a performance is disrespectful to fellow audience members and to those on stage.
The Independent’s Art Editor David Lister, said: “There’s little doubt that it disturbs other audience members, and probably even cast members.”
He added: “Of course, one hopes that people are too busy concentrating on the action to fish their mobile out of their pocket or bag. On the other hand, they are engaged enough to want to post a review.”