In the true spirit of Twitter, I’m about to summarize this entire column in 137 characters. Ready?

People should tweet live from #LAThtrAwards shows to help promote #LAThtr & start with Awards hosted by on April 7.

Okay, let’s now flesh out this tweet.

Last week I expressed my disappointment when I discovered I couldn’t follow the LADCC Awards in real-time. It was not because no one tweeted from the show but rather that the LADCC ran the awards program as if it were a live performance. In other words, turn off the phones and picture taking is verboten.

I understand this viewpoint. It makes sense in a business-as-usual way. The trouble is we don’t live in a business-as-usual world. Therefore, I’m asking the LA theater community to engage in a discussion about live-tweeting at award shows using the hashtag:

#LAThtrAwards

I’m proposing the logical place to start is the LA Weekly Theater Awards coming up on April 7th and then to continue for all award shows after that.

That’s it. That’s my whole message. And because I finished early, there’s space for some questions. Alright, I’ll start with you on the left…

How come you get to choose the hashtag?

I didn’t really, it chose itself. #LAThtrAwards uses the same root as the popular (and now standard) #LAThtr. So when people start typing #LAThtr into Twitter, #LAThtrAwards will pop up as a choice. That makes it a bit more sticky for people’s memories.

But #LAThtrAwards is so generic.

That’s the idea. Hashtags too specific (using the year or award) limit the cross-correlated database lookup and hinder the hashtags for broad use. And broad use is key for an important hashtag.

So you’re saying use #LAThtrAwards for any awards?

Exactly. And we’ll make the hashtag specific by also coupling the specific ceremony into the same tweet, either by hashtags like #Ovations or Twitter accounts like @LAStageAlliance. It’s really no different than how #LAThtr covers all productions around town and then tweets are made specific by also including the Twitter account of the production’s theater. And for the next question, the woman in the Fedora –

Wait a minute, I’m not done yet. I thought you were talking about the LA Weekly Theater Awards. You just slipped in the Ovations.

Yes, I did. Because this hashtag isn’t just for the LA Weekly Theater Awards, although that’s the first place it will be used. #LAThtrAwards can be used for any LA theater award just like #LAThtr can be used for any production. Okay, now to the woman in the Fedora…

The LA Weekly Theater Awards are always a party where people dress up in togae or pajamas. I get that. But isn’t tweeting during a more solemn ceremony like the LADCC or LA Stage Alliance awards inappropriate?

It wasn’t inappropriate for the Oscars… or the Emmys… or the Tonys… or the Grammys… These are award shows, after all, not performances. That’s a very large difference.

But shouldn’t our attention be on stage?

Yes. Of course it should be. And it will be. Because that’s what you are mostly tweeting about! I’ve given lectures on the bi-directional coupling of ponderomotive forces in electrofluidized beds and somehow the students were able to (a) listen, (b) look at the blackboard, (c) take handwritten notes, and (d) comprehend what I was saying – all at the same time. Are you saying that an acceptance speech is more difficult to follow than the differential equations used in modeling bi-directional coupling of ponderomotive forces in electrofluidized beds?

Well, I dunno…

Really? You don’t know? By the way, I’ve also seen theater critics take notes during a show in the dark. Is that disrespectful to what is happening on stage?

But they’re critics. Their job is to report those things.

Modern technology has turned us all into citizen-reporters.

So who will do the tweeting?

Anyone at the event! Critics, performers, presenters, family of nominees… anyone! Everyone will have their own personal journey for the evening and seeing all the journeys come into the live feed will give a very dynamic feel to the event.

What should people tweet about?

Anything pertaining to the show! Observations from the audience, observations from the podium, observations from those serving the alcohol, the costumes people are wearing, answering tweeted questions from those not inside the venue… anything! Most people involved in the event are, in one way or another, arty and creative. I doubt very much they will need a lot of specific instructions here.

What about pictures?

Yes, of course, take and tweet pictures, too! Pictures are always popular and bring an immediacy to any event. Just ask Ellen DeGeneres.

People shouldn’t take pictures because the flashes will distract everyone.

Obviously people should turn their flash off. That was an easy question. Next one…

I maybe get taking pictures of attendees. But it’s not right for people to be taking pictures during the ceremony itself.

Apparently you’ve never attended a high school graduation. Beside, people actually receiving their awards would be the most exciting images on the Twitter feeds and allow friends and colleagues (and theater companies) to retweet them. Remember, award shows are not the same as theatrical productions.

Aren’t award shows about the people winning the awards?

In part. But the shows are also celebrating the arts being honored. So, like all good celebrations, you want to invite as many people as possible to come along. And with the magic of the Internet, people scattered around town or the state or the country – or even the world – can now participate. What we want is anyone who is even nominated for an award to become a well-known branded name (a celebrity!) because celebrities are what sell shows to larger audiences.

It seems like a lot of marketing to me.

You know what’s more important than winning an award for a magnificent performance? Earning at least a living wage for that same magnificent performance. Let me ask you a question: If the people involved in Los Angeles theater are already working damned hard for the love of the art, why are we not using all the tools at our disposal to make the whole thing economically feasible as well?

But these are award ceremonies…

As Renoir said “The only reward one should offer an artist is to buy his work.”

So it is about the marketing…

It’s also about the broadcast itself. Following the #LAThtrAwards stream during a ceremony will allow anyone not inside the venue to experience what’s going on – and in real-time.

Was it really necessary to bring up ponderomotive forces earlier?

Yes.

So you want to live-tweet theater award shows to pull in a younger demographic?

No. I want to live-tweet because we won’t have live television feeds at the awards. I assume we all agree that it’s important to grow the LA theater audience. Why limit ourselves to a specific demographic? By having a large number of people tweeting during the show, anyone – including those not physically at the ceremony – can participate in it. Twitter is not just about “the younger demographic.”

Twitter is about:

allowing your theater colleagues in Chicago and New York to follow the action live, the way you follow the Tony broadcast.

letting the isolated musical theater fan in Oklahoma to see what’s going on in the City of Angels.

having that dual-income couple in the Valley, who drag themselves to the theater once a year “for culture,” realize there’s a hip 99-seat theater scene in LA creating art that can compete with their favorite indie films.

thrilling that budding high school drama student in Kentucky by answering her question to an LA theater actor.

piquing the interest of far-flung Broadway patrons for a possible theater trip out west.

giving the LA theater award shows a universal relevance that they currently don’t.

You’re suggesting people not at the show will actually stare at their smart phones and tablets and “watch” these awards live?

Where have you been living? Next question.

Suppose I’m at the venue in the audience. Won’t this live-tweeting make me focus solely on my phone?

No.

I don’t see why not.

That’s because you haven’t tried it yet.

Isn’t this concept disrespectful to the award winners on stage?

Is it any more disrespectful than the LADCC preventing unofficial pictures from being taken and then, over a week after the show is over, still not having any official photographs up on their website?

Answer seriously, please.

I am being serious. How is expressing joy about a win in real-time on the Internet being disrespectful to anyone?

I’m having a hard time imagining the audience tweeting while still watching the show as before.

Everything new looks strange at first. Once upon a time, #LAThtr was new. But new things shouldn’t scare us; we are an artistic community after all. Okay, looks like we have space for just two more questions… yes, on the aisle, yes, that’s right, you…

So this is all about forcing people to tweet?

No, this is not about forcing people to tweet. This is about allowing people to tweet. And… the final question… yes…

I still don’t like the idea.

That’s okay. I’m hoping the majority will.

So, LA theater community, what are your thoughts? Ready to start tweeting at the LA Weekly Theater Awards next April 7th?

 

More thoughts about Twitter:
Rockin’ Stage Raw Awards (Tweet, Tweet, Tweet)
Are You Part of the Digital Revolution?
It Will Take a Village: #LAThtrAwards
No Live Tweeting? That’s Failure to Communicate
So Where’s Your Digital Barbaric YAWP on Twitter?

Originally published March 26, 2014 in Bitter Lemons.