Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sense of Community II: Aren't We The Social Media?

Thanks to Isaac, I'm now following Antenna, a TV blog, and this sentence caught my eye:
I find myself more eager to watch “live” TV these days and one big reason why is the social experience of watching along with everyone else on the internet.
The larger, RTWT argument is that while Tivo, Roku, and Hulu push us towards a private, disengaged TV-watching at your own pace, the phenomenon of TVittering (Twittering along with your TV) predisposes you to watching TV communally, at the same time. It creates a sense of community around the television.

Theater people: be afraid.

Seriously, isn't "sense of community" supposed to be the thing that we, in the theater, offer that television could never offer? But if I think about the social connection that social media offers people even when they're sitting alone, and compare that to the sitting-in-the-dark-cellphones-off environment of most theater experiences today, I have to ask: when did theater stop being a social media?

When I was in the Czech Republic, I noticed that the reason I find Opera boring today is because in each opera the characters go through three steps:
  1. They sing about what is about to happen.
  2. They sing about what is happening.
  3. They sing about what just happened.
The over-narration seems absurd. But it was explained to me, while I was there, that opera was not something that people sat and watched. They milled around, talked with each other, walked in and out for food, and occasionally tuned in when the music was good and asked, "What's going on right now?" And of course, they'd know, because no matter where you are in the plot, someone in the plot is explaining the plot to you through the song.

Rock concerts still have that vibe -- you certainly go and piss or get a drink whenever you want to, you don't worry about missing some key musical point. And whatever Spring Awakening may say about being like a rock concert, I bet most of their audience is spending most of the time sitting quietly in the dark looking at the stage. If you make too much noise, Denzel Washington might stare you down.

What are we going to do to make theater a social media again? I don't mean creating a community around theater, I mean creating a community in theater -- during theater, participating in theater? Or is even Television going to beat us at sharing an experience with our fellow man?

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