Welcome to the theatre. Please turn ON your phones.
Please don’t tell Patti LuPone, or Zachary Quinto, about the new play which is coming to off-Broadway. The new play which had an acclaimed run on West End’s Donmar Theatre, Privacy, is on its way to Broadway with our favourite magical actor Daniel Radcliffe leading the company. But, despite this star casting, it has made headlines for a different reason – asking audiences to turn ON their phones during the performance.
This issue is about as contentious as they come. While phones are being adopted in almost every other entertainment medium as an exciting and innovative new way to engage with audiences, theatres still have the rule (and in New York this is actually a law) that phones must be turned off. In the age of technology, this is incredibly alienating to an audience who has never been to a theatre and asked to fight every natural technological urge they have for two and a half hours. Plus, sit there in the dark terrified that Patti LuPone could jump off the stage at any moment to accost them.
Privacy is looking to change this with a new play that is based around these little handheld devices encouraging their audiences to actually interact with the play live through their phones.
The play involves everything from researching the digital footprint of audience members who might get a surprise when pictures or information is displayed on the theatre’s back wall about them, through to teaching everyone how to take the perfect selfie and send it off to the production. A recent interview with the play’s star Daniel Radcliffe even alluded to communicating with the actors via email.
Doesn’t this sound cool?
In an era where we tweet a live commentary of opinions about the shows that we are watching and share selfies with friends at arena spectaculars, this is the next logical step for the theatre. Finding a productive and inventive way of incorporating these devices into the customer experience and ultimately creating a more powerful, individual experience.
The play’s topic seems a bit ironic in this context as it is based around the amount of personal and private information we put into the internet via our phones and other electronic devices, and the never ending stream of interaction we have with these devices during our waking hours. Including, now, in the theatre!
This play will be coming to New York’s The Public Theatre from July 2. And while you can buy your tickets in person, surely you want to begin your digital theatrical experience early purchasing them with your phone!