DCPA CEO Scott Shiller on social media: Sharing is caring


Scott Shiller Selfie

On my first official day of work for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, I tweeted a selfie with our staff at the end of our company meeting (see for yourself above) For me, it felt natural to record such a big life event and share that moment with others in my extended network. Isn’t that why social media and mobile devices go hand-in-hand? Instant celebration.

Recently, however, mobile devices and theatre seem to be at odds. A couple of remarkable incidents in New York City — actress Patti LuPone taking a phone out of an audience member’s hands during a performance and, separately, an audience member trying to use a false outlet on set to recharge a phone — have drawn widespread criticism. I’ve seen laments for etiquette, personal stories of bad behavior, name-calling and hand wringing. Following her incident, Patti LuPone herself published “5 Rules for Theater Etiquette” in the Wall Street Journal.

I believe this is a test. How will we, as theatre professionals and audiences, find common ground for mobile devices in theatres?

I understand the impulse to record big life events (and smaller ones) in a social way. I also understand why it’s disruptive when the lights are down and the cast and crew are performing their magic. Naturally, our impulse as theatre professionals is to stop it. We’ve worked long and hard hours to bring you into our temporary world; the real one on your screen can wait.

Or can it? If we believe we’re creating something utterly unique and unforgettable on our stage, is it fair to call it off limits? Isn’t it a natural occasion to capture, record or post about because it is so unique and unforgettable? To be clear: I’m not advocating rude or disruptive behavior. I just wonder if zero tolerance is the only long-term solution to mobile devices. It’s the easiest, certainly. But is it the end of the discussion?

If we want to welcome all people to the theatre, we have to accept that some might not be familiar with its traditional etiquette. We have to understand that we’re wrestling with technology and behavior that theatre has never seen in its 2,000-year history. We have to honor the joy of instant celebration as well as the art of live performance. So if you see someone crossing the line, please be kind. Remember a time you were unsure of what to wear or how to act. Most important, remember your first show — and how you wanted to share it with everyone you knew.

Talk to us: What are your thoughts on social media at the theatre?

Let’s keep the conversation going. Please leave your comments at the end of this story. Follow Scott Shiller on Twitter @ScottShiller and the Denver center @denvercenter

About our Guest Columnist:
Scott Shiller, a nationally recognized Producer, Presenter and Entertainment Executive, was named President and Chief Executive Officer of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in February, 2015. As President & CEO, Shiller has overall responsibility for the DCPA’s programmatic, operating, revenue, marketing, development and administrative functions. He comes to the DCPA from the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, where he served as Executive Vice President from 2007 to 2015. With direct oversight of programming and marketing initiatives, Shiller’s first season at the Center resulted in a $3.3 million turnaround, more than 100 sold-out performances, and a 76 percent increase in attendance. Shiller began his career working with Tony Award-winning producer Jon B. Platt on productions including Wicked (Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Joel Grey), Man of La Mancha (Brian Stokes Mitchell), Sly Fox (Richard Dreyfuss), The Graduate (Kathleen Turner, Alicia Silverstone, Jason Biggs), Blue Man Group: Tubes, Cabaret (Teri Hatcher, Norbert Leo Butz), Master Class (Faye Dunaway), Wait Until Dark (Quentin Tarantino, Marisa Tomei), Taller than a Dwarf (Matthew Broderick, Parker Posey), Macbeth (Kelsey Grammer), The Diary of Anne Frank (Natalie Portman), and The Vagina Monologues (Eve Ensler).

Editor’s Note: The DCPA NewsCenter offers a weekly guest column from a variety of local and national voices covering a wide range of theatre topics. To submit a proposed guest column, email your name and topic to jmoore@dcpa.org.

Previous Guest Columns:
David Nehls: Live theatre returns to Elitch Gardens after 24 years
Gillian McNally: Colorado’s oldest theatre celebrates Artistic Director Tom McNally
Margie Lamb on the Henry Awards: Something doesn’t add up
Bryan VanDriel on Lloyd Norton: A name that will live on in Greeley
Jessica Jackson on Creede Repertory Theatre’s 50th anniversary season
Susan Lyles on 10 years of staging plays for women in Denver

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