Last Sunday, Jim & I had the tremendous pleasure of seeing Lyric Opera Baltimore’s production of “The Marriage of Figaro.” We loved absolutely everything about the opera – casting, sets, costumes – well, every aspect but one: the behavior of certain audience members. Having seen the opera a few times, I’m well aware that “Figaro” is a long song, but really, who among us urgently needs to check his Facebook – more than once – during a live performance? The guy seated in front of me, that’s who. Guess he wanted to be sure his status was getting enough “likes”.
Mr. Facebook & his companion also had a few conversations during the opera, as did a number of people seated near us. Perhaps he was asking her what he missed while posting online. I don’t understand that sort of behavior at all, but it’s commonplace at any kind of live performance these days, & the situation is often worse in movie theaters. As a performer, of course I’d love to think that audiences are hanging on my every word, note, or both, but I know better. Sunday’s disruptions probably seemed especially annoying because Jim & I are friends & colleagues of a number of the folks onstage.
A few months ago, the internet was abuzz with stories about “tweet seats” – special seating areas in theaters for those who wish to share their experience of a performance with the entire (online) world while the show is still going on. Despite assurances offered by several venues that tweeters would be seated in specific parts of the theater & given little covers for their phones to keep non-tweeters from being distracted by said devices’ brightly lit screens, I hate the idea of tweet seats. Not only is posting online during a show rude to the performers, it renders the tweeter unable to fully connect with what’s being said, sung, or played onstage, & isn’t that supposedly why we go to the theater or concert hall in the first place?
Proponents of tweet seats claim that this sort of gimmick is the only way we’re ever going to get young people to attend live theater or classical music events, but Mr. Facebook & his companion didn’t appear to be much younger than myself & I am… um, not a kid. A couple of years ago, Jonathan told me that he’d gone to a play at Center Stage & was returning to his seat after intermission when he spotted a youngish couple seated in the bar, watching another current production on a TV monitor, texting away the entire time. The fact that they weren’t in the same room as the actors didn’t seem to bother them. Maybe tweet rooms, not tweet seats, would make everyone happy? Let’s put the talkers in there, too.Center Stage, Facebook, Lyric Opera Baltimore, Mozart, texting, The Marriage of Figaro, tweet seats