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Saturday, September 27 • 14:36 - 14:55
"Social Media on/in the Canadian Stage"

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Background: While major Canadian theatres, such as Canadian Stage and the Canadian Opera Company, integrate social media into their marketing practices, smaller, independent productions have begun to use social media as the form and content of performances themselves.  

Objective: Using two case studies that incorporate Twitter into theatre—Rob Kempson's #legacy (2014) and Jonathan Goldsbie's Route 501 Revisited (2012)this paper highlights how social media performance challenges existing theatre conventions as well as popular uses of social media platforms. Through these examples, I aim to demonstrate how intermedial performance can be used as a mode of intervention that can “performatively reconfigure”(Wiens) spaces of social media. This paper establishes how, through varying degrees of interaction between audiences and social media, both attempt to alter the ways in which we use social media on a daily basis.

Methods: My methodology incorporates performance analysis and a close study of the show related tweets. The productions continue to exist through their hashtags, #route501 and #legacy. In my examination of these tweets, I consider the kinds conversations the performance structures evoked and how active users were prior to and after the productions. Because the examples differ in their political content and aesthetic frameworks, my methodology for analyzing them will take into account differences in their aims and approaches and how these differences impacted on both the creative process and reception (including audience use of the hashtags).

Results: Most tweets using the hashtags come from avid Twitter users; however, there are a significant number of occasional users who were motivated to tweet more during the performances. The performances use Twitter to create a temporary community that considers how the site is used and its relation to everyday practices. While difficult to prove whether audience engagement continues or is radically altered through the performances themselves, additional related performances and tweets from after the performance days suggest the two shows had some longer term impacts on how users connect and mobilize via Twitter.

Conclusions: Theatre is a useful tool for reflecting on how we use social media sites like Twitter. Through remediation, these productions explore the kinds of social relations participatory media catalyse. However, at times these productions go beyond simply critiquing the social web and use performance to imagine new modes of connection possible in digital spaces. While the temporal limitations of the works prevented sustained engagement in some cases, these productions highlight the potential of art and performance as spaces in which to rehearse forms of digital interaction—relations that continue outside of the performance time and space. This social media use builds upon existing performance practices that situate theatre as a site of community-building to model digital repertoires engaged in local politics and policies.


Wiens, Birgit. (2010). Spatiality. In Sarah Bay-Cheng, Chiel Kattenbelt, Andy Lavender and Robin Nelson (Ed.), Mapping Intermediality in Performance (pp. 91-96) Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP.



Kimberley Mcleod

PhD Candidate, Theatre & Performance Studies, York University

Saturday September 27, 2014 14:36 - 14:55
TRS 1-149 Ted Rogers School of Management

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