Twitter is a great place to connect and share with other people, not just from around the country but the whole world. It is different things to different people: some like to get to know individuals from all walks of life that they wouldn’t otherwise meet; some like to ‘stalk’ their favourite celebrities or real-life crushes/ex partners; some like to use it as a tool for promotion and some just like to keep up-to-date with what their friends/family are up to (advice: face to face interaction is always better). Whatever Twitter is to you, the truth of the matter is that it is a double-edged sword. There’s no doubt that it can be a great benefit to people – when I say that it changed my life, that’s no exaggeration. All my current writing engagements came about through people I first encountered through Twitter. As with many online sites though, it can also carry negative intonations.
A number of fictional theatre-themed Twitter accounts have cropped up on the site, some funny and some…not so funny. I’ve found the tweets from a ‘resting actress’ and an ‘audition pianist’ to be mildly amusing at times, but mostly pointless. Those from @WestEndProducer, who likes to insinuate that he is Cameron Mackintosh, tend to hit the mark a little better. These tweets tend to be droll observations of theatre life, made all the more humorous by the nuggets of truth they’re folded in. Sometimes they’re pure fabrication, poking fun at a particular person or show and, while his comments have crossed the line on occasion, they’re generally all in good jest and pretty much harmless. One account which I’ve found issue with however, is the ‘Stagey Police’ account.
The account retweets comments from various West End performers that are construed as being ‘stagey’, issuing varying degrees of warnings depending on the level of staginess. When it first popped up, people got some laughs out of it and joined in the fun. As it went on though, the comments from the ‘Stagey Police’ started to become less funny and increasingly mean-spirited. The worst thing that the account did though was to turn the term ‘stagey’ into a bad thing.
Every day now, I see theatre performers apologising for posting a ‘stagey’ tweet’. Being star-struck at meeting a theatre icon of yours? STAGEY! Mentioning the names of theatre people who you’ve spent time with that day? STAGEY! Talking about a favourite musical theatre show? STAGEY! Talking about a production/cast/performer that you’ve seen or admired? STAGEY! Going to Freedom Bar, Pineapple Dance Studio or some such theatrical-related venue? STAGEY! Praising the West End show you’re performing in? STAGEY! All of these things and more are stagey offenses, according to the ‘Stagey Police’ – but why? Since when was it an offense to show pride in the industry you work in and the people who work alongside you? What this Twitter account has done is to make people feel like they can’t celebrate the theatre industry and that, in my opinion, is very wrong.
Everyone involved in the industry, whether it be on the stage or behind the scenes, work damn hard. The long, unsociable hours take their toll – eight shows a week are not only physically demanding but emotionally demanding too. They do it though, because they love it and if you love something, you should be allowed to talk about it; especially if you’re good at it. Is the policeman who arrests a mugger stagey for being proud of that? Is the teacher who helps a child to read stagey for being proud of that? Is the doctor who saves a life stagey for being proud of that? No, of course not, so why should our actors be penalised for showing the same pride in their work? The answer: they shouldn’t.
I’m fed up of hearing the word stagey used as something to abash and devalue people. I’m also fed up of these same people buying into the premise of stagey as a bad thing. Thankfully, some are fighting back and wearing their ‘staginess’ out and proudly. And so they should. Theatre is a wonderful thing in many people’s lives and deserves to be freely celebrated, as do those who make their living from it. It’s time to take back ‘stagey’ from the detractors and restore it to its full, sparkly, jazz-handed former glory. In short: it’s time to be stagey, and proud.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Friday 24th February 2012