Theatre Bay Area Chatterbox

Friday, August 28, 2009

Social Networking as art? Or the rantings of a 40something and technology...

A NYT article published 8/16/09 details the Twitter success story of Broadway's Next to Normal. Apparently this past spring the show's creator, Brian Yorkey, began sending single tweets that were more than just marketing quips or lines from the show. He adapted the script for a Twitter audience, sending character lines that were intended to happen when that character wasn't speaking on stage. By the Sunday morning of the Tony Awards in June, when the tweets stopped, a complete shadow script was in existence.

It's apparently hard to gauge the success of this technique as a marketing tool. Did the surge in sales happen because of the tweets or because of the show's 11 Tony nominations (and eventual multiple wins)? Who's to say. But it certainly speaks to the creativity possible in the world of social networking. I will let you read the specifics of the article yourself:
Play special attention to the link for the compiled text at

I, for one, historically have doubted the "power" of social networking for the arts. It's not ignorance that says that. I have certainly heard people's marketing successes. But I guess I have always been underwhelmed by what the various sites really offer when push comes to shove. This is probably a reflection more of the fact that I am not necessarily the traditional web 2.0 audience. As least my perception of what that means. And my degree of frustration with the various mechanisms ranges from mild annoyance to rage. I have tried for weeks to figure out how to subscribe to some of my favorite blogs. I have yet to succeed on most of them. More often than not, as a general non-particpant in the blogging world, it mostly seems like an excuse for people to be snarky. And my Facebook inbox is so flooded with invites for shows and events it has reached the level of white noise (and no, that isn't an invitation to un-friend me. I love hearing about everyting, really). None of this stops me from having a FB page and sending out invites for my own theatre company. And yes I have dipped my toe in the world of Twitter (the only tweet I have ever sent was some interesting stats on tweeting (Sysomos report on Twitter. 85% of users post less than once/day , 21% never do, 5% account for 75% of activity).

I guess I have always wondered: How long would it take for someone to take this social networking thing to the next level? Admittedly as you can gather from the ramblings above, I am not the most plugged-in person in the world, but my Mom still calls me from Ohio when her VCR blinks, so compared to some I'm a guru. So maybe this Next to Normal thing isn't entirely new. But it's certainly new for a Broadway show and it does get the brain jumping about the possibilities. Can social networking "create" art as well as market it? I certainly don't know the answer, but I hope we take advantage of the possibilities available on the mechanisms available to us before the next thing comes along and we have to start all over again.

And thanks, Susan (Theatre Bay Area membership associate and fellow N2N fan) for letting me know about the article!

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At August 31, 2009 at 1:32 PM , Blogger Dale Albright said...

On a related (??) note, courtesy of You've Cott Mail for Monday, August 31, 2009
Complete works of Shakespeare to be tweeted

From The Orange County Register's Arts Blog, August 28, 2009

Well, you knew someone would try this sooner or later. The complete works of William Shakespeare are being tweeted. At 140 characters per entry, and assuming participants are at it 24/7, it'll take two years and 13 days if they produce one tweet every 10 minutes. It's the brainchild of this person, who offers a non-explanatory explanation. ["Why? Well Why not?"]

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