Cast of The 39 Steps
From the New York Times calling Twitter at the theater the “unsavory confluence of social media and the arts” to the St. Louis Shakespeare Theater’s artistic director calling “tweet seats” a “national trend”, the use of social media during performing arts is a hot topic in arts communities around the country, inciting passions on both sides of the social media fence. Falcon Theater, long known for its edgy, quirky musicals and appreciation for the classics, has decided to jump into the fray head-first by initiating a Social Media Section during the run of The 39 Steps, February 10-25, 2012 at Monmouth Theater in Newport, Kentucky. Inspired by the feedback they’d received– often surreptitiously during the show, or at intermission– from past partnerships with social media savvy patrons, including local bloggers, Twitter users and Yelp Elites, Artistic Director Ted Weil and Director of Marketing Julie Niesen Gosdin thought that there had to be a way to incorporate this phenomenon in a more organized way. After participating in a divided, if enthusiastic, conversation about the idea of “tweet seats” with other arts supporters on Facebook and in person, Weil and Niesen Gosdin realized that their upcoming show, The 39 Steps, would be a great test for this controversial way of interacting with the audience.
Patrons in the Social Media Section– the back two rows of the theater– will be provided with discounted tickets, a hashtag, and the freedom to Facebook, Tweet and Instagram their way through the Hitchcockian farce. “We realize that not everyone is on Twitter or Facebook, but we find the feedback that we receive from those who are to be very valuable and constructive,” says Niesen Gosdin. “Not every show is suited for live social media, but a show like The 39 Steps, a fast-paced farce, is ripe for patrons to comment on Twitter, Facebook, or even to share photos on Flickr or Instagram.”
Instead of a Smartphone free-for-all, Falcon is instituting some guidelines. First, those who anticipate using their Smartphones for social interaction during the show are asked to sit in the back of the 85-person theater (each seat marked with a special logo), so as not to distract patrons with the glow of their devices. They’re asked to turn ringers off and brightness down, and anything they post to social media outlets should be hashtagged #Falcon39Steps. Directions for liking Falcon on Facebook and following Falcon on Twitter will be available at the front of the house, as well as in the program. In exchange, participants in this program get discounted seats– normally $15-17, if you’re in the Social Media Section. “We realize that our theater is intimate, and that many of our patrons prefer to sit back and enjoy the show without any interaction,” says Niesen Gosdin. “We want to be sure to be respectful of all of our patrons, whether they want to interact online or not.”