I went to a theatre-in-the-round production over the weekend here in Greenville—a zany take on Bill’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The theater hall was cool and dark, and the hanging incandescent bulbs and psychedelic-pastel-colored stage floor promised a creative show.
I watched as Helena chased Demetrius and Lysander ask Hermia to marry him, while the slapstick acting troupe provided their fair share of comic relief as they practiced their play (if you could call it that) to perform for the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens and Hippolyta. Meanwhile, Oberon, king of the fairies, and his wife Titania are at odds with one another. Oberon enlists the conniving “help” of his goon, Puck, to cast a spell on Titania that will make her fall in love with a woodland creature.
Well, the point of this post is not to summarize A Midsummer Night’s Dream, so I will cut to the chase. Right before the intermission, Helena, Lysander, Hermia and Demetrius all separately entered the forest clearing, where they fell into a deep slumber.
At this point, the house lights went on, even though the four actors still lay on the stage pretending to be asleep. At first I thought maybe they couldn’t clear the stage in time, but just then another cast member walked on and hung a sign next to the actors that said “Do not disturb during intermission. Selfies encouraged. #gscmidsummer.”
I was already enjoying the play (and trying not to laugh too loud in the small theater), but now my curiosity was especially piqued. Shakespeare meets selfies and hashtags! I watched as audience members from all sides moved into the middle to stoop down and snap a picture next to the sleeping Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius to post to their photos to various social media sites.
I thought this was a great idea for several reasons. First, the sign was essentially a call to action that instigated audience engagement and participation. Then, as audience members shared their prospective photos accompanied by the hashtag, they were helping spread the word about future performances. I’d also like to imagine that this neat detail was a topic of conversation for attendees after the show was over.
I was expecting an excellent theater production, which is exactly what this performance was, but I was also pleasantly surprised with a great lesson in thinking outside the box to generate event excitement—with the help of audience participation and a decent photo opportunity.
In conclusion, I’d like to include a (quasi-) quote from the famous work itself: “Methought I was enamored of [a selfie].”
Jeanne Petrizzo – Writer/Editor