Day 18: Does social media work as a theatrical playing space?

by Tobi Mattingly | Aug 8, 2016

Are social media sites like Twitter still relevant playing spaces for theatrical creations?

I was first exposed to Jeremy Gable’s Twitter play The 15th Line when it was revived… er, retweeted… last fall by NYU professor Erin Mee. Mee wrote about her intentions for and approach to the project in HowlRound and I stumbled across the article a week or so after the eight-week production had started.

I created a Twitter list to follow the play. (For those unfamiliar with the social media site’s intricacies, it’s possible to curate a personal list of accounts to follow and then see all tweets from only those accounts in a consolidated list.) This was, admittedly, a bit contrary to the intention of the piece; the audience was meant to experience the story via real-time tweets that appeared in their feed alongside everything else a user followed. Since I was starting a week late I wanted to get caught up, and a list seemed the best way to do so.

American Theatre Magazine also featured the revival of The 15th Line, along with questions about whether this format peaked back in 2010 when the original production was created, or whether the genre still has potential for theatremakers today.

If you’re interested in reading the script in its entirety, it’s posted in PDF format on Gable’s website, something I didn’t realize until after I had already experienced the play via Twitter. It’s always a different experience reading a script versus watching a staged production, but I found the exercise of reading this particular text as a script, separate of its intended production environment, even more jarring than usual.

Tobi Mattingly is a Chicago-based director, actor, music director, and teaching artist. She is the founder of Artistic Conspiracy, an arts organization dedicated to creating and enabling world-changing theatre. Through this organization, she helps professional theatremakers take control of their theatre careers through learning and balancing artistic craft, bodymind practices, and business/marketing management.