New Year’s Resolution #6: Technology

We have reached New Year’s Eve! The last day of 2015. A year which has produced many memorable and exciting innovations across the entertainment sector. But there is still one thing missing . . . mobile phones. Could 2016 be the year when this all changes?

WEEHAWKEN, NJ - JULY 4: People watch fireworks light up the sky over New York City on July 4, 2013 in Weehawken, New Jersey. July 4th is a national holiday with the nation celebrating its 238th birthday. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

New Year’s Resolution #6: No one puts mobile phones in a corner!

But the Fiddler on the Roof incident has sparked some interesting reactions from audiences . . .

Usually audiences are the first to jump on the witch hunter bandwagon and use social media to shame phone users. But that didn’t happen this time. People started writing back to these condemning tweets in support of phones citing the incredibly high cost of ticket prices as the reason they lived for this bootlegged videos on YouTube and even suggested looking for less invasive solutions for audience members who wanted to use their phones. It feels like there could be a change in the tide!

And as we enter 2016, maybe it is time that the theatre confronted this issue head on.

We live with our mobile phones. It is often hard to part with them and our pockets feel empty when we don’t have our mobile on us. Airplanes now let you keep them on during take-off and landing. Announcements now ask you to simply activate the silent mode on phones rather than turn them off. Times are a changing. (When was the last time you actually turned off your phone and didn’t just put it on silent? It is just too hard to part with the idea that someone might get in touch with you!).

So why make theatre audiences uncomfortable living with a technology-free existence for three hours? Why not bring theatre into the technology age?

Some of the most innovative and creative artists are working in the theatrical industry. They are moving the art of theatre into the 21st century with video screens complementing sets, amazing lighting innovations and even finding new incentives to get audiences using their hashtags in the foyers. But not inside the theatre . . . yet.

Now I’m not suggesting that we find a way to introduce mobile phones into The King and I. It probably wouldn’t feel right for the King of Siam to pull out his iPhone 6S and send Anna a text to let her know how he actually feels about her. But as the industry tries to attract younger audiences through the doors with more contemporary subject material, they are going to need to innovative with phones because it is an expectation of all exciting experiences. Using Bluetooth technology, text messaging and the latest app developments, the opportunities for interacting with the audience through their pockets during a show are endless.

Why not link them into a text message conversation two characters are having during a scene change?

Is there a news blast in the middle of your show? Add another level of reality by using the methods they would usually find out about the latest news.

Phones are simply another platform through which theatre can create an immersive experience for their audience. Why wouldn’t you use them?

Well, that is it for my 2016 New Year’s Resolutions. From interactivity to new mediums of musical presentation. From celebrity collaboration to focussing on the customer experience. This year has been a big year for the theatre industry and here’s hoping that the next one will be even bigger bringing down some of those barriers to entry and making a show one of the must-do things on everyone’s 2016 bucket lists. Happy New Year!