Tuesday, July 9, 2013

After Dark, July 9, 2013

How I Tweet
Wendy, Alec, the Bird and me
by Gaëtan L Charlebois
[This article has been corrected]

Last week a bunch of bloggers and theatre observers on Twitter decided to start using the hashtag #cdntheatre when we discussed Canadian Theatre.

Now, if you do not know what any of this means, you have to hit the books because right now, Twitter is where things are happening. It's happening so much that even Facebook has begun to use hashtags - # - as signifiers of subjects discussed as decided by people who discuss these things. There are hashtags for everything. #TOFringe #FringeTO for discussion of Toronto fringe, #sfGodot for a more specific discussion of of Stratford's production of Waiting For Godot. What this means is that when you click on a hashtag, you will be presented with all the tweets with that hashtag and, ostensibly, the pronouncements of anyone in the world on Twitter (and now on Facebook) discussing the subject. 

It means we open up discussion and some of it - not all of it - is interesting. Certainly you'll get a lot of "I love love love #sfGodot" but you will also get links to articles, reviews, etc. 

On Twitter, no one has to be anyone's "friend"

But, hell!, there's nothing wrong with "I love love love..." Artists in a production need to read that and when they do, the simple act of tweeting back to that person and saying, "Thank you!" cements a bond with spectators that is immediate and will be remembered. 

On Twitter, no one has to be anyone's "friend" - it is a free-for-all and, indeed, sometimes it's a racist, sexist, homophobic wild west, but you can mute these people, draw attention to their opinions, or even talk back to them if you're not worried about feeding the trolls. 

I have had long, late-night conversations with people with both like and opposing opinions to me. I have followed the rantings of teen punks on shit they know nothing about without tweeting a word because that would simply invite a whole pile of hurt down on me. However, I have also watched fascinating, vivid dramas on Twitter. The night Wendy Davis heroically bunged up the Texas legislature, the hashtag #IStandWithWendy sang a beautiful international song. The Republicans tried to get the hashtag #SitDownWendy to trend but it was soon co-opted by Davis supporters, "#SitDownWendy in the governor's chair!" "#SitDownWendy and let me get you some ribs! #IStandWithWendy". 

This week Alec Baldwin, as liberal as anyone, lost it - as is his wont - and called a Brit journalist a "queen" on Twitter. The subsequent debate on that - involving Anderson Cooper among others - was succinct; because, succinct, needless to say, is the nature of the 140-character beast that is the Bird. 

Immediate. Current. Urgent. These could all be watchwords of our Fringe circuit. So why, many of us are asking, are Fringers so insanely useless when it comes to Twitter? I could count the Fringe companies who know how to use Twitter on my fingers, and the ones who use it well on one hand. Audience members - especially the young people who go to their plays - want to and do talk on Twitter. Where are the artists stoking that interest (ie: promoting their play)? 

I am a babe in the woods when it comes to Twitter. (This last week I was still fucking up on hashtags.) In the three years I've been on, I've been delighted to get lessons constantly from people within the medium who kindly show me how it's done properly (thank you Brian M. Carroll - read his blog, especially this piece on Fringe hashtags - and MK Piatkowski - read her blog too). 

Give up Facebook for Twitter? No. (Or at least not yet.) But more and more I am being asked how to promote a play (Fringe or not). My answer is always, "Set up a web page, open up a Facebook page (event or fanpage) and dedicate a Twitter account to your company or play)." I can hear a chorus of Janis Kirshners, Sue Edworthys and Barbara Fords singing into my ear, "Hire a publicist!" and they are, of course, right - especially if you don't know how to do any of these things yourself or don't have the time.

Because, bottom line, if you are not doing these incredibly basic things, your production truly does not deserve an audience no matter how fine it is. It ain't called show BIZZ for nothing.

And you can tweet that. 

PS: Here's a hashtag that truly inspired tweeters across the country on Canada Day. #CanadianSexEuphemisms


  1. The hashtag for the Toronto Fringe is actually #FringeTO (not #TOFringe)

  2. You see! I wasn't kidding when I said I was a babe in the woods!

    Gaëtan Charlebois


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