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It’s You

09.21.11 | 6 Comments


CATEGORIES community, major regional theatre, new technology, social media

Dear @Resident Theatre Company or @Individual Show:

You know I love you and so I’m sorry to do this impersonally. But we have to talk. I know it’s hard to hear those words, because they always lead to the same thing. And to be perfectly honest, this time, it’s not me, it is you.

When we started this relationship on Twitter, it was filled with the blush of first love. For the first time, you could talk to me and I could talk to you. You would know my innermost theatergoing thoughts and I would always know what you were up to, where I might see you, how I could learn more about all of the great things you’re doing. Those were heady days back in 2009, made all the more exciting by the fact that we didn’t have to be exclusive to each other; we were part of something bigger than ourselves, freed from the usual strictures that society and technology had placed upon us.

But instead of growing together, I’m feeling let down by you.

There’s a group of you that’s very shy. While that’s enticing at first, I don’t know why you’re in this game if I never hear from you. Sure, you may read about me, but I don’t know what’s going on in your world. At some point, you just have to get past your uncertainty and meet me halfway. I can’t take the silence, the lurking.

On the other hand, more of you are unbelievably self-obsessed. I understood there would be inevitable narcissism, so I don’t resent that. In fact, I want to read articles about you; I want to know when you’re on TV, on radio, on blogs – that’s why I got into this. That allowed me to break up with Google and its random, sometimes meaningless flings in search of a single shred of information. With you and Twitter (and Facebook and perhaps even Google+), I could keep abreast of what’s going on at each stage of your life, while remaining open to others.

But now you just keep flaunting others at me. You retweet this stray person who liked your show and that nameless egg-head who liked your performance; every night between 10 and 11 pm, or first thing in the morning when you rise, it’s the same thing. You’re cool, you’re mind-blowing, I’ve got to run and see what you’re doing. It’s boring. And let me let you in on a little secret: I know you’re being selective and if I feel like it, I can find all of those negative tweets you never seem to mention. How do you feel about that, huh? The same goes for reviews, and while I appreciate the opportunity to read thoughtful, in-depth appraisals of your work, I can go back to my ex, Google News, and find all of the reviews as well, not just the cosmetically chosen ones that play up your best features. You’re not fooling anyone.

Plus, let’s face it, I know you’re a person behind a façade. You shield yourself with a company name or show name. But I sussed out a long time ago there’s not a whole company pushing the buttons, just one person. Just like me. You need to remember that too, because I find it hard to believe that your façade is out drinking with friends – it’s just not that mobile. And surely you’re not so gauche as to root for particular sports teams under a broad pseudonym, at the risk of sharing stuff that some of us really don’t want to know.

So I have to ask myself, should I keep following you if our relationship is so unrewarding? Not to throw others in your face, but Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company tantalized me with messages about its audiences’ deepest fantasies during their run of In The Next Room. Next to Normal snuggled up to me (and a million others) by letting me contribute to a new song related to the show. The New Victory is letting me assemble a video of things we have to look forward to together, with our kids (how can you forget the kids) and displaying them for all the world to see on YouTube. 2amtheatre constantly offers me something both attractive and profound to chew on. A few of you have even dropped the curtain that often separates us and I can hear directly what your leader is thinking, like the newbie Robert Falls of the Goodman or Kwami Kwei Armah of Centerstage. For my part, when you let slip an interesting bit of insight into what makes you tick, or even what simply interests you, I retweet you with abandon, sometimes four, five, six times in an hour. It’s tiring, but worth it.

This thing we’re in – it’s called social media. It can’t be one sided and you can’t constantly remind me that all you really care about is filling your seats. That’s awfully crude and while it may be good for you, it’s unsatisfying to me.  I want more of you, but all facets of you. Don’t reduce what we have to a transaction-based thing, like I was someone to whom you merely want to advertise your wares. It makes me feel cheap.

Oh, wait. No, stop. Don’t cry. I hate that.

You say you can change? I’m willing to give you another chance. Calm down – I won’t drop you, even though I can do it anytime with the merest press of my finger. I’m sorry, that was cruel.

So I’ll hear more from you? You’ll give me real insight, not just blurbs (not that I don’t enjoy a good blurbing every so often)? I won’t have to endure the clutter of your various partners telling me how wonderful you are every night? O.K. then, so we’ll stay mutual followers. I really want this to work, for you, me and our thousands of partners.

You’re blushing. Now that’s endearing. Come here and let me give you a digital hug.

Love,

@hesherman

Howard Sherman

Howard Sherman has nearly three decades of both executive and staff experience at such companies as American Theatre Wing, O'Neill Theatre Center, Geva Theatre, Goodspeed Musicals, Hartford Stage, Manhattan Theatre Club and Westport Country Playhouse. He tweets as @hesherman.

Latest posts by Howard Sherman (see all)

  • Anonymous

    I feel your pain, Howard.  I hope it all works out.

  • Marisela Treviño Orta

    I think of Twitter as a party. I don’t want to be the person who only talks about what they do, what they like and never asks anyone anything or responds to what others are saying.

  • martha wade steketee

    Thank you Howard.  I’m feeling this pressure this year, suddenly, especially as young theatre companies realize i am more than willing to come to see their work (a more engaged audience member you will be hard pressed to find).  And that I will attempt to provide thoughtful responses to said work.  And with all that … the balance of energies is .. as you say … imbalanced.  Marisela captures it well.  And in addition, beyond this .. the mining of articulated opinions for the dis-embodied blurb … well.  Can be disheartening. Yet we want to continue the conversations.  So here we are.

  • beth2027

    Love this! There’s nothing like hearing back from a show/theatre/actor on Twitter. It makes a person smile. :)

  • ShowRiz

    Tough love ain’t easy.

  • Brendan McCall

    Thank you for that eloquent, elegant, and spot-on speech, Howard.  Hopefully, after speaking from the heart, the relationship can be revitalized!


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