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Performance venue encourages cell phone use

By Kevin Zimmerman

Anyone who has ever attended a live performance in a New York City theater knows the drill when it comes to cell phones.

Whether it’s a clever audio bit featuring a cacophony of ring tones or simply a quick word from someone standing in front of the crowd before the lights dim, the message is always the same: turn off your phone now.

But at some Flushing Town Hall shows, a few audience members are being asked to fire up their cellular devices and to start tweeting.

“I think it’s great,” Rachel Klein, who handles PR for the venue, said. “It’s like a dialogue with the audience. And people are tweeting some awesome, terrific stuff.”

Although not a new phenomenon — the Lyric Opera of Kansas City is generally considered to be the first theater to create tweeting-approved seating in 2009 — Flushing Town Hall just started its program last month.

To date, audience members have tweeted during performances of the Queens Jazz Orchestra, the Afro-Brazilian drumming workshop Ologunde, the Helen Sung Trio and the South American Voices of New York show.

In exchange for two free tickets in the tweet seat section, participants will be required to tweet at least five times before, during and after the event. Tweets are not limited to texting, Klein said, but can include photographs and video shot during shows.

Anyone who is interested in tweeting for a seat can follow Flushing Town Hall on Twitter, @FlushingTwnHall. Then send a tweet saying which show you are interested in attending; for the June 13 Queens Jazz Underground event, tweet: “I want QUEENS BROOKLYN JAZZ PARTY #tweetseats @FlushingTwnHall,” There is also a tweet seats night planned for the June 20 Kenny Brawner is Ray Charles performance.

And despite the intimate setting at Flushing Town Hall, so far there have not been any problems between tweeters and theater purists, Klein said.

“There is no sound involved. There is no popping and no dinging,” Klein said. “We’re just inviting people to say what they’re thinking about the show. And they’re really psyched. They are part of the event.”

Reach news editor Kevin Zimmerman at (718) 260-4541 or by e-mail at kzimmerman@cnglocal.com.

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