Art Works Blog

#2TweetorNot2Tweet: Christine Bateman, Balagan Theatre

Christine Bateman. Photo by Lori Stone

#2tweetornot2tweet? It depends…

As I write this post in my suburban living room, I’m also observing Next to Normal tech rehearsal at our downtown theater, thanks to the modern miracle of a live-streaming baby monitor. (Kids these days!)

The relationship between theater and technology has come a long way, hasn’t it? And, like any relationship, there are upsides and downsides. I admit, I sometimes get irritated when the patron next to me whips out their smart phone mid-musical and starts rapid-thumbing a text or tweet.

And yet, as the marketing director of a theater dedicated to raising the next generation of theater-goers, I stay attuned to the ways young patrons connect to the arts. Let’s face it, even I---a thirty-something insider arts patron---find out about most events through Facebook. The truth is, social media can be a theater’s best friend, if we don’t make it our worst enemy.

Perhaps that’s why I was surprised by the strong binary response to last week’s #2tweetornot2tweet discussion. For Balagan and our audience, the answer is never a clear yes or no. The answer is: It depends.

It depends on the artistic material and how mid-show tweeting will affect the overall experience. For Next to Normal, we won’t allow mid-show social media. The material is pretty heavy, and we don’t want to take away from those powerful dark moments with the harsh glow of a smartphone screen. On the other hand, we just closed a raucous production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which was the perfect venue for mid-performance tweeting; and our audiences loved it!

It also depends on how we ask people to use Twitter mid-performance. Are we providing guidance to honor our show license (no photos or videos) and encourage virality (here’s our hashtag)? Are members of the artistic team giving patrons deeper insight into the show’s dramaturgy and creative process?

Even when we don’t allow mid-performance tweets, we engage through social media at all other times. From meet-and-greet to dress rehearsal, we encourage our casts and creative teams to share their experiences on Facebook. I connect with audience members on Twitter before/after curtain and during intermission to say welcome and thanks for coming, answer questions, and otherwise make an authentic connection. At Balagan, social media isn’t just a way to broadcast what we’re doing; it’s part of how we deepen our patron’s engagement with the art and with us.

Christine Bateman wrote her first musical number at age four, an ode to the Happy Meal entitled “Goodbye, McDonald-Land, Goodbye” (she’s been a musical theater nerd ever since). With more than 12 years in nonprofit communications and an MFA in Arts Leadership from Seattle University, Christine joined Balagan Theatre as Marketing & PR Director in 2011 (she’s been a Balagan nerd ever since). Away from the theater, Christine cruises the Seattle ‘burbs in her swagger wagon with three fantastic kids, an energetic dog, and a venti latte.

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