Art Works Blog

#2TweetorNot2Tweet: Sarah Bertness

Sarah Bertness. Photo by Jonathan Beller

A writer and lifelong lover of the arts, I’m always looking for new avenues to share my coveted cultural discoveries and find live tweeting a dynamic and direct approach to include others in the performing arts experience. Emerging from the intersection of arts and technology, cultural institutions and artists are utilizing Twitter to engage a broader audience and to enhance the experience for social-media savvy art patrons like myself.

Though tweeting in the theaters may seem untraditional, the willingness to break with tradition is exactly what drew me to the art world in the first place. Art is about creative expression, and Twitter is an innovative means both to share my own impressions, and to further explore the discussion points raised within a performance.

To address what live tweeting means in the theater setting, the idea is not to oversaturate Twitter with exclamations or give a play-by-play of the play in question. The goal instead is to complement the performance with a well-researched, full-bodied, and engaging dialogue. The live-time Twitter audience is outside of the theater. If fellow audience members leave the theater wanting more, the Twitter conversation becomes a way of revisiting the performance, and keeping the buzz going long after curtains have closed.

Providence Performing Arts Center’s (PPAC) “tweet seat” initiative, an experiment in live tweeting within the theater, has been extremely successful by social-media standards, trending every time. An innovative and well-executed program, I think it is crucial that parameters are set and abided by in these early stages of developing the role of live tweeting. As an arts patron, my goal is to share my own enjoyment with others, while never distracting or detracting from their own experience. In fact the vast majority of fellow patrons haven’t the slightest idea that “tweet seats” exist at PPAC. Our seats are at the far back of the theater, and phones are silent and dimmed.

Live tweeting is not for everyone. But within a well-executed setting it doesn’t bother others, and my own experiences at the theater become more immersive and enjoyable. By live-tweeting, I am able to process my thoughts in a new way, capturing the energy and emotion of the performing arts and translating that into inspiring writing.

So to tweet or not to tweet? I’ll be in the tweet seats, silently sharing the performance by hashtag for a whole other audience over the Internet.

Sarah Bertness is a freelance writer covering the arts, music, and culture. She splits her time between Providence, Rhode Island, and Brooklyn, New York. Follow her tweets at @sarahbertness and @TheRIslander.

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