On Twitter and anonymous accounts

As some/many/most of you know, OffStageJobs.com has a Twitter account: @OffStageJobs.  Its name changed with the site name change, but like the site, everything else stayed the same.  On the account, I tweet about things I think might interest the average OffStageJobs.com user.  Theatre and production news, technical stage news, theatre safety, theatre humor, etc…

I have three running “bits” on the account:

I post some personal experiences (though they may not have happened to me the day/month/year I posted them), but I try to keep the ones not about theatre to a minimum.  My personal posts will tend to skew toward lighting, as that is what I primarily do.  I also retweet other accounts that I feel have posted something of interest along those same lines (theatre news/safety/humor/etc…).

Most Twitter accounts have some name attached to them, which would allow you to possibly one day meet, or at least find a more direct contact for, the person who posts to the account.  Some state what shows or venue they are working for or on.  This can make those accounts more interesting, as by following them you learn something about a given show or venue that you may not ever get from the show or venue’s press.  This also means that these accounts need to be mindful of what they post, so as not to give the venue or show a bad reputation, even inadvertently.

I fall into the above category.  While I don’t go out of my way to say where I am working, many people know the venues that I tend to work in, and photos that I post can be recognizable as “Theatre XYZ Stage.”  As such, my personal posts tend to be about things that could happen any theatre, not merely “this theatre does this,” good or bad.  I also try not to post anything that reveals the specific show I am working on at the time, or even afterward.  The events in my personal posts should be assumed to have happened at any time in my career, not necessarily at the time I post them, because: 1. they may have, and 2. they tend to be universal experiences for theatre people.

This leads us to anonymous accounts, and my reason for this post.

Anonymous accounts try to be just that: anonymous.  No name, and rarely a location.  Follow the average anonymous theatre/stage account long enough and you can start to figure out generally where they may be, and the type or size of venue they tend to work in.  Very few ever give enough info to out themselves except to those who know them really well.

An anonymous account frees the user to post honest assessments of their experience on a show, without fear of losing their job.  It gives the user a place to vent, and it gives the follower a chance to empathize with the account holder.  The good anonymous accounts are not venting or ranting simply for the sake of venting or ranting: they want a good show.

A good Twitter account informs and teaches, while also entertaining the follower.  A good anonymous account does this as well, and can give a more honest detailing of a given experience.  Few named, traceable accounts will ever tell you about performers being fired mid-show, drug use, epic failures of production managers, rental houses, or venue staff, big-name (for their niche) performers whose offstage behavior make 3 year-olds seem mature, tour managers who fail to plan and yet blame the local crew for it, etc…

Regardless anyone’s complaints about a show, we all want a good show.  And it is frustrating to have to continue to do your best and be professional about it when the script/performer(s)/co-worker(s) is terrible.  But as behind-the-scenes workers, we have to do our best, no matter what others are doing.  Why would we waste our time doing anything less?  The anonymous accounts who rant the best(?) are also the ones who will gush the most about a great show, because that is what they have been trying to have.  They don’t go on about how good a job they did, they write about how good that performance was.

In the past, and again recently, I have been asked by a handful of @OffStageJobs followers to stop retweeting anonymous accounts, for various reasons.  My short answer to anyone who asks me to fine-tune my tweets to their tastes tends to be: “I post what I post, and like any Twitter account, you may not like or be interested in every little thing that I post.  If you have a problem with much of what I post, you are under no obligation to continue following me.”  But for this topic I felt a longer response might be helpful.

I retweet anonymous accounts for the same reason the anonymous account holder posts:

  1. So others may find amusement,
  2. So others find solace in the knowledge that they aren’t the only ones on a bad show,
  3. And to show “bad behavior” of others in the hope that it won’t be repeated in other venues. 

We strive for the best show.  The performance people will recall immediately when asked “what was the best show you ever saw?”  The show that transcends entertainment and becomes life-changing.  The show that was better than sex.

Most performances aren’t that show.  Some shows are bad, for any number of reasons. Most shows are simply: good.  And that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want better, and it doesn’t mean we aren’t trying to do better.  That’s what the best anonymous accounts are trying to do: get better shows, everywhere.  Exposing the (universal) problems of live performance will not bring down live performance.  It helps us to present better performances.  Acknowledging the problem helps to prevent the problem in the future.

We should not be complaining about those who say they are putting lipstick on a pig.  We should be trying to not put the pig onstage in the first place.

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