Twespians – A Revolution?

February 3, 2010

Take one part theatre, and one part twitter. What is the outcome? Twespians.

Last night I was lucky enough to be part of a mini revolution in the way that I communicate with people in theatre, by taking part in a TweetUp. The idea of a tweetup is essentially a group of Twitter users meet at a set location and time to mingle, talk and have a good few drinks. Twespians is the theatre version.

I’ll be open and admit that the effect that Twitter has had upon my life is quite strong. It’s allowed me to express a huge passion I have with other equally passionate people. It has scored me tickets for shows, and equally kept me up to date with the latest theatre news and gossip. Andrew Llyod Webber has cancer? Through Twitter. Peter Brook as part of the new Bite Festival. Twitter. Too Close To The Sun, the biggest flop to hit west end … Twitter. What about the Donmar’s bad attempt at recycling old brochures? Reported through TwitPic, and Twitter.

Twitter has allowed me to connect with people from all over the world, who share the same drive and passion that I have. It’s a slow process, that develops over the course of many months. Conversation is brief but to the point, with only 140 characters there is no waffling allowed. Strictly a ‘to the point’ matter.

Whilst all of this is great for communicating over the internet, what happens when you bring these people together in the real world? Twespians answered this questionl last night, by organising a TweetUp as part of Social Media Week.

Upon arrival you are given a name badge to which you fill in your username and favourite show. You get yourself a drink at the bar, and then you begin to talk to people. The course of the night is extremely varied, depending on who you talk with. There are several people who I’ve met off Twitter to see various shows with before, yet equally there are those who I’ve solely spoken to through 140 characters at a time.

The night was absurd, surreal and brilliant all at once.

To have in one room, such a mix of people from all forms of theatre interests and jobs – talking together is remarkable. From journalists, bloggers, actors, directors, students, social media artists, administrators, marketers and facilitators. You almost have to take a moment to take in what is actually happening around you.

If Twitter is to be integrated more into the theatre industry then it is through an event such as Twespians TweetUp that we can begin to break down these boundaries of theatre roles, and begin to work towards something greater. What that is I don’t know. Networkings, Jobs, Drinking Buddies… well… the possibilities are too vast to list.

One thing that did strike me though is the possibilities of such an event. A group of students from Queen Mary’s University studying Drama and Physical Theatre joined the event. Hearing their passion for an industry they are desperate to be in is inspiring, yet equally their craving for information and advice from people already working or performing showed how useful such an event can be to people.

People can laugh at the way in which people engage with the internet and social media, but there is no denying the power and potential it has. If you can write an opera through twitter and produce full length twitter plays – what can you do with it?

Interested in Twespians? Check out of the website and twitter account for more information. The next Twespians TweetUp will be announced shortly, so stayed tuned.


The Theatre of 2010 – My Hopes

December 31, 2009

Whilst people are making their New Year Resolutions, and institutes are celebrating what 2009 held for theatre listing the best of the best, and even the worse of the worse… I’m looking beyond all of this. We’ve already seen several Hot Tips appearing for theatre in 2010, and with new season announces each week the anticipation for the first big sellers is getting exciting. For me, I’m hoping 2010 will see the start of change in theatre.

So without further hesitation, here are A Younger Theatres’ Hopes for Theatre in 2010…

#1 Continued West End Ticket Sales – Recession was a hot topic on everyone’s lips during 2009. We saw numerous companies go into Administration and disappear off our high streets. Purses and wallets were firmly kept shut, yet somehow the West End saw an increase in ticket sales and remarkably out riding the recession. They say that theatre is a form of escapism and perhaps audiences were inclined to spend their money on musicals and plays to forget their woes. Whatever the reason, let’s hope that 2010 continues with the sales and theatre shows us what it is really made of during finical crisis.

#2 Lighting In The Lime Light – The forgotten talent in theatre. I hope that in 2010 lighting gets the recognition that it readily deserves, that critics take up their pen and paper and focus on how these wonderful shows they are writing about are seen through the designs painstakingly made by lighting designers. It’s as if this area of theatre gets completely lost in the lime light of the actors who are being lit. Lighting is atmospheric, stunning and highly creative – so lets see people talking about it more, instead of leaving it in the dark. (Let’s also hope the lighting puns/jokes stop too… lime light?! What was I thinking?)

#3 Younger People Breaking Through – The very nature of this blog is for myself to have a platform to express my thoughts and feelings on something that I completely adore. I admit wholeheartedly I am young, at 21 years old, and writing about theatre in the best fashion I can. 2009 has taught me that there is a gap within theatre that is slowly being filled with the younger generations, be it through youth theatres gaining greater success, or the new breed of playwrights getting younger. What I hope for though is that we start to see the written form of the younger generations as critics such as myself having a greater platform in discussing both theatre and the arts.  We might not have the many years of theatre under our belts like Billington, but we do come with passion and a whole new point of view. 2010, let it be the Year of the Younger Generations!

#4 Internships On Top – The recession might not have dampened ticket sales in the West End but jobs in the arts are drying up, where a single advertisement can get several hundred people applying. 2009 saw the boom in the Internship, something I discuss here. My hopes for 2010 is for Internships to continue with the increasing number of applicants but also to begin to evolve with this demand. Internships allow for much learning, but lets not squash that learning by it becoming the norm. Let 2010 keep Internships on top form.

#5 Ecofriendly Theatre – Our climate is changing, but what are theatres doing about it? The Arcola Theatre is one of the leading theatres in taking the green initiative and adapting their theatre to tackle climate change. I hope that 2010 sees other theatres taking up the greener side of theatre – LED Lights anyone? What more, I’d like to see bigger theatres doing their bit and proposing how they will tackle a more enviromentally friendly theatre for 2010.

#6 Social Media For Better – Phenomenons such as Facebook and Twitter have changed the way theatres are now engaging with their audiences. We saw the first devised opera through the means of Twitter – a great collaboration between audience and the Royal Opera House. Twitter has enabled theatres to tell us more, to give insights into what lies behind the walls, deep in the offices and backstage areas. It has allowed voices to emerge from the depths of theatres. Let’s hope 2010 brings more engagement with audiences through the joys of Social Media, and better improvement on how it is effectively used in marketing campaigns.

#7 The London Fringe Festival – The talk of the town after an announcement was made that there is to be the London Fringe Festival in August 2010. What can I say to this? My hope is simply this: The organisers realise that their attempts at putting on a Fringe Festival in London during August when the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is taking place is barbaric. If they want to make this a success, they have to base their model on something that is not already in place. My hope for 2010 is that this festival either completely flops or completely blows all our minds. Whatever the outcome – let it be a lesson learnt. (Let’s also hope for a better website, better organisation, and better ideas for this 2010 Fringe Festival…)

So here are a few of my hopes for the Theatre of 2010… what are your hopes?

Technology – A Theatre Revolution

August 6, 2009

How technology is changing theatre

Theatre and Technology - Pilot Theatre

Theatre is a constantly changing organism that grows, develops and spurts off new ideas and techniques which get employed into theatre and performance. It’s something which constantly happens, time and time again. Most of the time we are quite unaware of the change as we, as theatre goers or as a wider society integrate our own life with the the changing developments.

At times these developments are subtle ones, they are techniques which we as audience members would never realise even happened. From all new acting techniques where the performer is developing their acting style in a new method, to a subtle change in the way the lights are focused in a show. Some things just go unnoticed but they are small revolutions within their own right within the theatre.

Yet technology seems to be something that at times we struggle to not ignore for it’s actually causing multiple eruptions of creativity and revolutions that are exceeding the subtlities of performance and instead are being the cause of theatre.

I recently came across this moment where I couldn’t ignore the use of technology in performance when I was pointed towards Fatebook, a fascinating project by New Paradise Laboratories. The concept behind this project is a collaboration through technology to blur the boundaries between realities. The characters of this piece are being developed online, in a virtual reality, all simultaneously. As an online viewer or ‘audience’ member you can witness the characters through a series of beautifully captured videos on selected themes [I recommend their ‘transit‘ theme]. You create snapshots of these characters, unsure as of yet where the links between them are. The project will climax when the virtual reality of the characters are brought into one space, in the ‘real world’ through a performance in a theatre space.

The use of the internet is being pushed into blurring the distinction between when a performance goes from a virtual reality into a theatrical reality. Of course the internet has always been an explosion of creativity for the arts, yet theatre has always been a challenging medium to explore virtually. Theatre’s themselves are quick to build their websites and engage with their audiences through social media techniques, but there has been little in pushing the use of performance into the internet and out the other side.

Take Shift Happens for example, a conference dedicated at exactly the use of technology, the internet and social networks and how theatre can adapt to this revolution. It is becoming more apparent that it is impossible for us as theatre makers, dwellers, audiences to ignore the on going revolutions which are blurring the boundaries between technology and theatre.

Whilst Katie Mitchell celebrated a triumphant talk of the town last year with her work exploring the relationship between media and theatre, notable in her production of Waves [2006/7] and …Some Traces Of Her [2008] at the National Theatre, there are many more revolutions of this sort happening in smaller places, by less well known companies. Yet the point is clear: If Mitchell can bring a revolution of technology into the National Theatre, then it is time for us to think more seriously about the way in which future productions are intergrating the use of technology.

We have already seen, and something which I myself partake in, is the use of Twitter to connect and engage with theatre enthusiasts. Yet theatre is also being created through Twitter. Take The New York Neo-Futurists who have developed the idea of creating plays through Twitter, sparking the Twitter Plays, each 140 characters long and on specific themes. They make an interesting read and can be found here. Technology is being directly used to actively create theatre, if a little absurd…

The outcome: As technologies are constantly being developed, and as theatre likewise advances in it’s development, so comes revolutions where creativity is merged with computers, and the internet. It’s about time we start taking more notice of these new approaches and begin to integrate them more into mainstream theatre themselves… or maybe we still have years to come before this happens?

Twitter and Theatre

June 28, 2009

To Tweet Or Not To Tweet

This is a direct response upon reading Ruth Jamieson’s article on Twitter and the Theatre over here on the Guardian Website Blogs. I’ve literally just stopped reading the article and can’t wait to even digest the ideas in it before I have to respond in writing this.

I was going to save the whole idea of Twitter, Theatre and the Beniefits for another time, but I am so fueled up to proclaim:

“NO, NO, NO!”

Should you be sending 140 characters to Twitter whilst you watch a piece of theatre: NO.

Should you even be using your phone in the theatre: NO.

Should you wait until the Interval or After the show…: YES.

If there was someone in the theatre who had more time to be on their phone ‘informing’ the world about the show they are seeing, then the play/show/theatre is obviously not worth seeing and they should remove themselves from the theatre immediately or they should wait until the interval and not return.

To watch theatre is to get lost in a world of life presented on stage. It’s often quirky, often bizarre, but completely captivating. We’ve all sat through a piece of theatre and wanted to leave, fall asleep, or be anywhere else apart from sitting watching this dribble. That doesn’t mean we must Tweet about it to our followers, stating how terrible the production is. Doing so is just as annoying as someone calling their friend on their mobile and discussing it in the middle of a show. It’s not right. It’s wrong. And it is RUDE.

I’m all for micro-reviewing on Twitter, I did so myself until I felt the need to expand my reviews into a full blog. I honestly believe that since I’ve started using Twitter as a way of communicating with fellow theatre enthusiaists that I have been introduced into a whole host of like-minded people who all share a passion for theatre. We discuss it, we criticise it, but we don’t go as far to disturb fellow real-life audience members with it.

I am young, I am all for new modern crazes, I was there for myspace, facebook, and now twitter, but there are limits to the ways we use these devices.

If people are waiting to hear your response to a piece of theatre they should see it with you, not be constantly refreashing their Twitter accounts to see if anyone has Tweeted about a show. I just can’t ever see a theatre show being that important that there are people literally hanging onto their Twitter accounts desperate to hear what you have to say.

My advice is simple:

Enjoy Twitter. Enjoy Theatre. Respond to theatre through Twitter. But not during a show.

Interval and After ONLY.

Reference: “Welcome to the tweet seats: Twitter at the theatre”