Yesterday I reported on the results of the Tony Awards, which I’d experienced first hand by attending the Sunday morning rehearsal at the Beacon Theatre so I had at least seen the show first, then live via the live telecast that evening.
But the live part wasn’t quite as engaging for me, partly because I was trying to simultaneously engage elsewhere: as an experiment, I was running a live twitter feed from my Shentonstage account. And of course I was far from the only one: one follower in London moaned aloud to me that he’d been barred by tweeting too much (twitter has a capacity threshold for the number of tweets you can send per hour).
This is, of course, the online equivalent of keeping up a constant running commentary — but then the running commentary was simultaneously being conducted by hundreds of others, too. There was so much noise you could barely hear yourself think, let alone keep a simultaneous eye on the telecast to try to comment on it.
What I was most amazed by, though, was the fact that so many people seemed to be watching the online feed of the telecast back in the UK, too, from the number of tweets I was receiving from there; the Tony’s have, thanks to the internet, become a truly global brand that anyone can access, too, whatever the hour of the night. (The ceremony started at 8pm New York time, which is 1am in the UK, and finished two hours later, so a late night was being had by many).
But there were also curious differences in the experiences we all were having. One person watching the online version of the awards tweeted to me that my tweets were announcing results a few seconds ahead of what they were seeing; there was obviously a time delay to the feed. But even watching the TV feed was not enough: during the extensive commercial breaks, additional awards were being presented at the theatre that were not being televised, and some commentators were tweeting from inside the theatre, too! My friend Melissa Rose Bernardo, who reviews for Entertainment Weekly, tweeted, “Awards during commercials aren’t working. Too many people talking, walking in/out…”
I wrote yesterday that the awards “designed to get the world talking about the theatre. In fact, they probably mainly succeed in getting the theatre talking about itself.” And on Sunday, the sound of talking was deafening. But one has to wonder: amidst all the people doing the talking, was anyone actually listening?
Even The Guardian was getting in on the act back in London, offering a live blog from Time Out New York theatre editor David Cote and Matt Wells, with a contribution also from Guardian writer Hermione Hoby, who was watching the live public event in Times Square. My favourite comment was David’s early revelation: “I’m here at the West 53rd Street HQ (aka., my apartment)”
In the world of online engagement, of course, that’s the best place to be — you don’t have to be at the site of the event itself to be able to make sense of it. And I was doing exactly the same thing from the apartment I was watching the awards from ten blocks away from David at West 43rd Street. And it was a whole lot more comfortable and easier to get to than the Beacon Theatre all the way uptown on West 74th Street. Coming out of a matinee on Sunday afternoon, I was crossing 8th Avenue and ran into a black-tied Lee Dean, the lead London producer of End of the Rainbow, fruitlessly trying to hail a cab to head north to the awards. I left him still trying to wave one down as I walked to the apartment, which was altogether easier to get to!