Wednesday 19th November 2014 was the first ever #LoveTheatre day, with hundreds of venues and companies offering fans live updates and exclusive backstage photos/videos on Twitter throughout the day. Over 300 venues and drama organisations joined in with the online celebration of British, European and global theatre, reaching out to audiences with a torrent of theatre-related news and information and engaging fans in conversation about life in the theatre as they prepare for the Christmas season.
Participating theatres shared behind-the-scenes details on the social networking site using the sub-hashtags #BackStage, #AskATheatre, and #Showtime at various points in the day, which began with a bombardment of photos and videos featuring archive images, show props, theatre staff, and members of the creative team and cast from such well-known shows as Billy Elliot, Urinetown, Jersey Boys, Memphis, and both the West End and touring productions of Wicked, to name a few. Fans following the hash tag on Twitter were also treated to an assortment of fun facts about particular shows, venues, and theatre life in general. Later that day, they were afforded the opportunity to put their theatre-related questions to a range of industry individuals, including not only cast members, but also people within the technical, costume and production departments, etc, before the commencement of live-tweeting during the evening’s performances.
Many well-known West End theatre venues were involved in the #LoveTheatre event, which was run in partnership by the Guardian Culture Professionals Network, Twitter UK and CultureThemes. These included the National Theatre, Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House, the Gielgud Theatre, Prince Edward Theatre, Cambridge Theatre, Garrick Theatre, Donmar Warehouse, Savoy Theatre, Leicester Square Theatre, and the Old Vic, as well as others in the greater London area such as the Hackney Empire, Churchill Theatre, Unicorn Theatre, Arcola Theatre. Regional theatre was also well represented by such venues and companies as the Birmingham Hippodrome, Sheffield’s Crucible, Glyndebourne Opera House, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Leeds Grand Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, while the UK Tour of One Man, Two Guvnors also took part, along with such performing arts schools as Dorset School of Acting and the Central School of Speech and Drama. The most local participating theatre to me was the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, which posted a selection of behind-the-scenes photos from rehearsals of their Christmas pantomime, Aladdin, as well as a video of cast member Sabrina Aloueche singing Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’.
It’s a fine thing to devote an entire day to celebrating to the wonderful world of theatre, but for most theatre-goers, every day is #LoveTheatre day. There are hordes of dedicated fans who enjoy a deep love of theatre, and for whom it is more than just another form of entertainment akin to the hour or two of pleasure derived from sitting in front of the TV or watching a movie at the cinema. Theatre means different things to different people. For some, it is a way to bring them together with their family and/or friends. Parents taking the kids to the theatre means quality time spent together as a family, or a group of girlfriends bonding and catching-up over an outing to a favourite show. For some, it’s an escape from real life, allowing them to lose themselves in a fantasy for a magical few hours. For some, it inspires them in some way, perhaps serving as a muse for their own creativity or sparking a passion for a career on the stage. For some, it is even a lifestyle in itself. There are theatre fans out there who are slaves to their passion for theatre and revolve their entire lives around it, ensuring they keep up-to-date with all theatre-related news, following the careers of favoured performers, filling their homes with show merchandise, working to fund their multiple visits, and attending opening nights, closing nights and cast changes, as well as concerts, cabarets, signings and so forth.
My love of theatre is based on many things. I derive more joy from the experience of live theatre than I do from say, watching TV, listening to music at home, or reading a book – although it was a closely-run race with that last one. Theatre is the No. 1 form of entertainment, hands down, in my opinion. It’s hard to match the level of talent found in the theatre, all of which, from the performers to the creative minds behind the production itself, offer the audience an experience that stays with you long after the curtains close. I love the feeling that comes with surrendering yourself to the fantasy of theatre, allowing someone else’s story to become your reality for a few hours. I love how I go home feeling impassioned and inspired, with my creative juices flowing. Most of all though, I love that it has bonded my daughter and I in our mutual appreciation and enjoyment of theatre. She accompanies me on most of my theatre trips, and that first visit of hers will always be a favourite memory of mine. There’s nothing like seeing pure joy on a child’s face, or watching them become so caught up in the emotion of the story told on stage. I wholeheartedly believe that introducing her to theatre at such a young age has not only enriched her life, but herself as a person as well, and I will never tire of our outings together. It’s so important for parents to spend quality time with their children, and theatre provides a quality of the highest standard.
Theatre doesn’t have to mean the same thing to everyone; as with everything, variety is a virtue, not a hindrance. Each person’s reasons are their own and there are no right or wrong answers. Just #LoveTheatre. It’s as simple as that.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Thursday 20th November 2014