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     J H. M

    C S T

    Twitter Plays 

    percent of Twitter is insignificant. But there’s that rare moment when it becomes profound . . .

    — Jeremy Gable

    Since the inception of the microblogging service Twitter, some in the theaterhave embraced the social media phenomenon as a free publicity engine, as a platform

    for networking on the fly, and as a soapbox for amateur short-form dramatic criticism,

    sometimes composed before the curtain falls. Twitter updates, known as “tweets,” are

    limited in length to characters, the one-time maximum length of an SMS (Short

    Message Service) text message. Since messages can be written and published in a mat-

    ter of seconds, Twitter offers this century a decentralized and nearly instantaneous

     version of what faits-divers  newspaper updates offered readers beginning in the late

    nineteenth century: an up-to-date accumulation of miscellaneous current events from

    the banal to the cataclysmic. That Twitter is reshaping publicity and journalism is

    old news; that it may have lasting repercussions for the composition and performanceof twenty-first-century literature and theater is somewhat more surprising. Respond-

    ing to the implicit challenge of the platform’s extreme formal constraint, writers have

    composed Twitter poems, Twitter microfiction,  Twitter novels, Twitter film scripts,

     Twitter opera,  and, thanks to a handful of media- savvy playwrights, a growing num-

    ber of Twitter plays. However trendy or trivial Twitter theater in its current forms may

    seem, its advent deserves critical attention because it offers a particularly rich instance

    of the ways social media are reshaping both playwriting and the experience of theatri-

    cal spectatorship. To examine the ways artists are enlisting Twitter for theatrical ends

    reveals not only that playwrights are colonizing Twitter but also the extent to which

    social media are making playwrights, performers, and spectators of us all.

     Twitter drama has emerged in two basic varieties: single-tweet plays and plays

    performed as a series of messages. The authors of single-tweet plays, the more radical

    of the two forms, push theater to its most lapidary extreme by attempting to compose

    a complete play in typed characters. In the second, more common variety of Twit-

    ter theater, a series of posts by one or more characters constitutes a performance in real

    time but in virtual space. After offering a survey of recent theatrical activity of both

    Theater  :  ./-

    © by John H. Muse

    Such Tweet Sorrow 

    on Twitter, presented

    by Mudlark and the

    Royal Shakespeare

    Company, .

    Photo: Charles Hunter

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    types, this article focuses attention on two case studies — a collection of single-tweet

    plays spearheaded by the New York Neo-Futurists, and Jeremy Gable’s original Twitter

    play The th Line  — in order to highlight two very different ways Twitter is catalyzing

    theatrical innovation.

    Despite their differences, single-tweet plays that seem to end as soon as they

    begin and Twitter performances that stretch over weeks or months both demonstrate

    the potential for social media to interrogate assumptions about theater. What is a play?

    Can one fit on the screen of a cell phone? Does reading updates in private count as

    attending a play? Twitter theater bears some resemblance to closet drama, another form

    consumed privately that asks spectators to imagine unseen action, and yet these closet

    dramas are created and performed in real time for an audience. Twitter theater also

    shares similarities with radio drama — both forms broadcast verbal action simultane-

    ously to distant spectators — but unlike radio plays, the action of Twitter plays is inter-

    mittent, proceeding in fits and starts as updates filter in among a user’s other activity

    on Twitter. Unlike both closet drama and radio drama, Twitter is a necessarily staccato

    format. Like Expressionist authors early in the last century who drafted plays inspired

    by telegraphy, the authors of single-tweet plays embrace abbreviating technologies to

    create self-sufficient plays in highly compressed form. But more than previous experi-

    mental forms did, one-tweet plays, due to their sheer numbers, the diversity of their

    authors, and the ease with which they can be published, reflect a publication landscape

    that is radically democratized. Meanwhile, works like The th Line  that call attention

    to current events and ape the format of ordinary interactions on Twitter reveal Twit-

    ter’s potential to blur the line between everyday life and performance in new, histori-

    cally specific ways. Precisely because they eschew traditional stages in favor of Twitter’s wide and universal theater, Twitter plays help to expose the newly fragile distinc-

    tion in a digital age between theatrical spectatorship and the experience of real-life

    events.

     T S : A S 

     The most extreme form of Twitter drama is the single-tweet play. A handful of ama-

    teur playwrights have explored this most microscopic of canvases,  but the center of

    activity for one-tweet plays has been the New York branch of the Neo-Futurists. The

    Neo-Futurists are best known for another adventure in short form, their ongoing per-formances of thirty original plays in sixty minutes. But beginning in March , the

    troupe’s New York branch began asking fans to post single-tweet plays in response

    to weekly prompts (e.g., “Write a -tweet play that has dialogue and at least actors,”

    or “Write a -tweet play that has a big kiss in it”). The response has been enthusias-

    tic; by March the site had published more than , miniscule dramas by about

    authors.  Can characters “hold the vasty fields of France”? Droves of eager

    playwrights seem to think so, and however irreverent the resulting plays can be, their

    authors’ playful struggles to shrink theater onto miniature canvases help reveal the lim-

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    its of drama, and the enthusiasm of their creators suggests Twitter’s potential to change

    the face of the avant-garde.

     The second, more widespread variety of Twitter theater takes its cue from Twit-

    ter’s inherent theatricality and stages fictional interactions among one or more charac-

    ters through a series of real-time updates. In the rest of this section, I describe three

    related and sometimes overlapping variations on long-form Twitter theater: adapta-

    tions, impersonations, and original plays. Twitter adaptations convert traditional plays

    into Twitter’s format so that each line or stage direction fits within the confines of

    a single update. Impersonations use a single Twitter account to give virtual life to a

    famous, imaginary, or historical character. Original Twitter plays allow audiences to

    follow an ongoing drama among multiple, original characters. Whatever the subgenre,

    one joins the audience of a Twitter performance by subscribing to or “following” the

    updates from each character. As a result, the dramaturgical logic of Twitter-based the-

    ater is tied to characters rather than locations. While the constraints of physical stages

    restrict most traditional plays to one or more spaces — so that we follow the comings

    and goings in front of Agamemnon’s house or within Hedda Gabler’s — Twitter theater

    allows one to follow voices and to imagine them in different locations, or in no particu-

    lar location.

     To date, the most popular Twitter stagings have been adaptations. One of the

    early pioneers in this genre was the Broadway production of Brian Yorkey and Tom

    Kitt’s musical  Next to Normal . Beginning in May , the production supplemented

    its Pulitzer- and Tony-award winning stage show with a Twitter version performed

    over thirty-five days as a series of updates by the six main characters. Instead of watch-

    ing a neurotic twenty-first-century family cope with chronic depression on stage, the Twitter audience got a tantalizing, oblique perspective on the family’s crisis by follow-

     Next to Normal  on

     Twitter, . Photo:

    Situation Interactive

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    ing via computers and smartphones the characters’ ongoing commentary on their fic-

    tional lives. The show’s online audience — which grew to more than , over the

    month-long performance — experienced a capsulated version of the show complete with

    links allowing them to listen to excerpts of songs. Mid-morning on the second day,

    for example, the audience received the following ominous glimpse into a developing

    conflict:

     — scared. Appointment with Dr. Fine. He speaks in riddles.

     — taking wife to doctor. Everything’ll be fine. Just another day . . .

     — agreed to hang out with this Henry kid. Don’t know why. Total

    pretentious stoner type. And wears . . . wait for it . . . flannel.

     — Mom going to the doctor today . . . not a fan of the doctor. He’s creepy.

    Loves pills.

      — has gotta think up a good date place for a Thursday night? Any

    suggestions?

    .  — it’s true. It’s not an exact science. But eventually you get it right.

     — at Dr. Fine, my psychopharmacologist. It’s like an odd romance. He

    knows my deepest secrets. I know his, um, name.

     “My Psychopharmacologist and I,” http://tr.im/kFzK 

     As reprinted on the show’s website, the format resembles a traditional script, but like

    most activity on Twitter, these lines do not follow the rules of ordinary conversation.

    Since most updates are addressed to no one in particular, exchanges are usually less like

    conversations than a series of miniature soliloquies that arrive every so often instead ofone after the other. Just as Twitter messages typically supplement everyday activity and

    comment on it, these virtual dramas run in parallel to the main action and ask viewers

    to reconstruct its contours indirectly. In addition to tracking characters’ observations,

    readers can follow links that augment the experience. For example, the final message

    above, from “Hear,” converts a speech prefix into an instruction, inviting the audience

    to click on a link to hear an excerpt of the song “My Psychopharmacologist and I.” Fol-

    lowing a stream of updates and sound clips is no substitute for watching Next to Nor-

    mal , but the Twitter performance provides just enough information to intrigue viewers,

    to draw them into the virtual lives of the characters, and, presumably, to convince some

    of them to purchase tickets to the stage show. A story about middle-class Americans in the twenty-first century, the sort of

    people already on Twitter, lends itself easily to a Twitter adaptation.  Next to Normal ’s

     Twitter performance imported many lines from the show’s book or lyrics with little

    or no editing. Other Twitter adaptations have undertaken more radical translation. In

     April and May , the Royal Shakespeare Company and Mudlark produced Such

    Tweet Sorrow, a loose adaptation of Romeo and Juliet  broadcast via the Twitter updates

    of nine characters over five weeks. The project asks how the story might have unfolded

    if Romeo and Juliet were contemporary teens kissing not by the book but by the text

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    message. Actors playing each character improvised updates, guided by a story grid

    adapted by Tom Wright and influenced by input from the play’s virtual audience and

    by contemporaneous events such as the British election. Each line was short enough to

    tweet, but the production as a whole expanded the play, stretching each act to a week

    and converting Shakespeare’s , lines into more than , messages in an effort to

    convince the audience that the characters were living full lives at the pace of real life.

     The adaptation replaced Shakespeare’s poetry with the casual and emoticon-laced lingo

    of text messages. In place of Juliet’s bittersweet aubade in the original,

    It is the lark that sings so out of tune,

    Straining harsh discords and unpleasing sharps.

    Some say the lark makes sweet division;

     This doth not so, for she divideth us.

    followers received this early morning gush, “Goooooooooood morningggggg :):):):):):)

    It happened . . . with THE most beautiful boy alive. . . . IT happened :):):):):).” If

    Shakespeare by any other idiom might not smell as sweet, the very difficulty of reduc-

    ing his poetry to instant messages unwittingly underscored one of the play’s central

    lessons: “. . . they stumble that run fast.” 

    Much as Such Tweet Sorrow used Twitter to reincarnate both Romeo and Juliet

    in present-day London, a more recent project called Reorbit encourages writers to

    reanimate historical and literary figures by impersonating them on Twitter. Cocre-

    ator Ericson deJesus wondered to himself in an idle moment several years ago, what

    if Laurence of Arabia had a Twitter feed? Several years later, he and designer DawnDanby launched Reorbit, a social media theater troupe whose fanciful Twitter posts

    offer “posthumous social media vitality” to a wide range of authors and characters,

    including Ernest Hemingway, Ayn Rand, Hamlet, Jack Kerouac, Roald Dahl’s Big

    Friendly Giant, Samuel Beckett, the robot from  : A Space Odyssey , and

     T. S. Eliot, among others. Once selected by the curators, interested writer/actor/direc-

    tors devise a scenario or “play” in which to cast their personality, and post one or more

    messages a day in character for an audience of online followers. Where Twitter adapta-

    tions follow a preexisting script, these impersonations invent or improvise their own.

     The writers are given few restrictions but are asked to avoid Twitter’s slang in favor

    of language that best suits the character. A revived teenage Samuel Beckett opines,for example, “Writing this way, writing in bits, has an appeal, has a pleasing brevity,

    the momentary pause discovered between dry heave and stomach cramp,” and a faux

     T. S. Eliot, on a lunch break during his time as a bank teller, writes, “Lunchless again,

     This time with intent. Sushi on Saturday is a risk undesired, So too the prepackaged

     what-have- yous. Trust only in fruit.” Some writer/actors imagine their figure sending

    updates from his or her historical milieu; others resituate their luminary in a present-

    day scenario, either accurate or absurd. So Arthur Miller moves to Venice Beach and

    becomes a surfer; Sylvia Plath survives her suicide attempt and is commissioned to

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     write a one-act play in Northbrook, Illinois; and Charles Bukowski, J. D. Salinger, and

    Franz Kafka find themselves living together in San Francisco and competing to find

    the best date.

     The Reorbit project resembles a growing number of Twitter impersonations —

    from the satirical doppelgangers of Rahm Emanuel and Steve Jobs, to faux updates

    from Laurence Sterne and other authors, to a radically feminist incarnation of The

    Hulk   — but stands out both for the literary merit of its contributors and its insistence

    that the experiment is essentially theatrical. Its creators call the project “an experiment

    in social media theater” and dub the collected updates “plays.” Like actors, the contrib-

    utors are “embodying that character, understanding what’s driving them” and perform-

    ing alternate reality versions of their lives. The goal, Danby says, is “to infuse art into

    the mundane. There’s so much marketing and advertising on [Twitter], and we wanted

    to do something different, something inherently performative.” Although the project

    to date has been limited to Twitter, its creators would love to see Twitter used to create

    hybrid performances that stretch across multiple platforms as Next to Normal ’s experi-

    ment did: “You are a playwright and you have a play coming out. In the months leading

    up, you introduce the main character via a Reorbit. As the character develops, it gener-

    ates interest in the play. The audience can discover the character before or after see-

    ing the play.”  Like other makers of Twitter theater, the creators of Reorbit set out to

    explore Twitter’s potential as “a platform for performance.” But as I will suggest in the

    third section of this article, theatrical or pseudotheatrical activity has arguably found a

    life on Twitter precisely because Twitter has always been a platform for performance.

     A smaller but in some ways more fascinating set of Twitter performances are

    original plays imagined as realistic conversations among a group of Twitter users. Ama-teur playwright Jeremy Gable initiated the genre in the summer of . Gable set up

     Twitter accounts for four fictional characters l iving in Hayden Lake, Idaho, and from

     June to August posted more than three hundred updates comprising : A Twitter Per-

     formance , the first recorded original play on Twitter.   introduced Gable to the chal-

    lenges of Twitter dramaturgy. Asking audiences to follow a developing story through

    updates meted out over two months involved a constant struggle to maintain their

    interest: “When the play is ninety minutes, you can build up to the exciting moments.

     When you’re asking an audience to spend sixty days with your story, you have to give

    them a reason to pay attention.”  So when he set out to write his second piece for

     Twitter in early , Gable took a lesson from other serialized long-form narratives(soap operas, comic strips) and constructed a story designed to catch attention and sus-

    tain it. The th Line: A Play of Brief Communication began on January , , with a

    post from a newspaper reporter announcing a disaster in an unnamed city — “Break-

    ing News — Subway accident at th St Station. believed dead. injured. Cause is

    not yet known”  — and for the next two months followed the reporter and five other

    imaginary characters whose lives intertwine in the aftermath of the accident. He later

    compiled the messages and published them online as a collated script.

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    Gable is not alone in devising original performances for Twitter. In , a group

    of professional screenwriters organized Crushin’ It , a week-long original romantic

    comedy improvised by its characters (each played by a different writer) according to a

    loose scenario that evolved in response to audience input.  A more recent production

    attempted to bridge the divide between live and digital theater using both Twitter and

    Skype. You Wouldn’t Know Him, He Lives in Texas/You Wouldn’t Know Her, She Lives

    in London, coproduced by the London-based Look Left Look Right and the Austin-

    based Hidden Room, connected audiences in London and Austin via Skype under the

    pretense that a transatlantic couple, Liz and Ryan, are introducing their extended fami-

    lies to each other. Both the live audience and anyone following along on Twitter were

    encouraged to participate by posting comments or questions.  

     While all of these forays into distributed real-time performance merit discussion,

    in what follows I focus on the Neo-Futurist one-tweet plays and Jeremy Gable’s th

    Line  as representative examples of two varieties of Twitter theater that prompt fascinat-

    ing questions. One-tweet plays ask, even more insistently than previous shorts, what

    it means to be a play and what it means to be a playwright. While single-tweet plays

    never allow readers to suspend disbelief, The th Line  attempts to create a parallel dra-

    matic universe that one follows just as one might follow other friends on Twitter. In the

    process, it illuminates the increasingly porous border between everyday life and perfor-

    mance in a mediated age.

    N: S- T P

     The Neo-Futurists have a reputation for insisting that a brief collection of momentscan constitute a play. In their signature show, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind ,

    the troupe attempts to perform thirty plays in an hour under the insistent countdown

    of an onstage darkroom timer. Following their Italian namesakes and a smattering of

    other twentieth-century theatrical innovators, the Neo-Futurists repudiate many of the

    tenets of traditional playwriting, especially the reliance on gradual exposition and the

    pretense of illusion.  They share with the Futurists an irreverent, playful, and pro-

     vocative attitude; a penchant for manifestos; a love of simultaneity; and an unapol-

    ogetic embrace of the possibilities of brevity. Founder Greg Allen explains that the

    Neo-Futurists believe that “you can, in fact, write a two-minute play with just as much

    depth and humor and poignancy as something that takes five acts, twenty characters,fifteen set changes, and two hours and ten minutes to complete. Perhaps — dare we

    say it? — we can achieve even more.”   Too Much Light , which began as a late-night

    underground stunt in , has become the longest-running show in Chicago and has

    spawned a second troupe of Neo-Futurists in New York. The success of Too Much Light  

    suggests that audiences by and large agree that a collection of two-minute plays can

    make for satisfying theater. Twitter Plays, an initiative spearheaded by the New York

    branch of the troupe, represents a far more extreme test of the minimum limits of dra-

    maturgical possibility, a leap from microdrama to nanodrama.

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    In March , the New York Neo-Futurists began asking their online followers

    to post plays the length of a single Twitter post. In the group’s improvisational spirit,

    and to make the challenge even greater, each week they posted constraints to guide

    composition. The first week, followers were asked to “Write a full play (-tweet) using at

    least roles and a significant prop.” Later prompts strayed playfully farther afield, ask-

    ing variously for plays that have “something to do with a fish,” that feature “an anachro-

    nistic robot,” that have two acts and an intermission, and that include more than one of

    the following sound effects: “beep, splash, whoosh, crunch.”  To date the experiment

    has generated more than , plays, each of which was broadcast to the Neo-Futurists’

     Twitter followers, a group that as of March includes , people and constitutesboth the audience and the pool of potential playwrights for the project.  At least

    of those followers have tried their hands at authoring -character plays. Collectively,

    they have produced what is certainly the world’s largest collection of two-line plays, and

    to my knowledge the largest published collection of plays of any kind.

    One of the driving hypotheses of my ongoing research on theatrical brevity has

    been that examining very short plays helps to expose basic assumptions about dramatic

    form.  As artists and writers reduce theater to its essential elements, they suggest dif-

    ferent answers to the question of what about theater might be irreducible. To oversim-

    plify, if Maurice Maeterlinck’s static dramas and some of Samuel Beckett’s shorts imply

    that theater is essentially waiting, Filippo Marinetti’s synthetic theater suggests its par-ticular specialty is shock and surprise. The two-minute plays in the Neo-Futurists’ live

    shows are susceptible to the hypothesis as well. While their programmatic diversity

    frustrates generalizations, on the whole their microdramas emphasize theater’s poten-

    tial to generate genuine, if fleeting, human connections. Extreme brevity enforced by a

    ticking clock reminds the audience that, as their founder Greg Allen puts it, “Theater

    takes place in real time and space. The audience is right in front of you right now.” 

    But what of single-tweet plays? What might we learn about dramatic form from

    attempts to write plays in characters (or about two lines of text printed on a stan-

    The th Line  on

     Twitter, by Jeremy

    Gable, . Photo:

     Jeremy Gable

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    dard page) when the audience is no longer present? By and large, these nanodramas

    exaggerate the tendencies that characterize other short drama. But their extreme mini-

    malism tests to the breaking point the strategies brevity tends to encourage — surpris-

    ing reversals, familiar plots, types and stock characters, non sequiturs, cheap gags, and

    so on. While few of the single-tweet plays call out for production as written, a number

    have formed the basis for two-minute plays in Too Much Light , and the New York Neo-

    Futurists staged fifty-three of them at a free performance in June as part of the

    Fourth Arts Block’s Pride Goes East Street Festival. But measuring these plays against

    the yardstick of production is to miss the point. They are playful responses to a series of

    dares that nevertheless reflect deep-seated ideas about what a play must do.

    For one, many single-tweet plays suggest, along with Aristotle, that the sine qua

    non of drama is reversal:

    : It was I who killed the king! (Lights sharply go to black. A gunshot is heard.)

    .”  

    : How much water? : Two days, tops. : So, four. : Four? What do you . . .

    (Beat.) Ah. (Pause.) Well, fuck you too. 

    In this respect, they resemble another ancient short form featuring reversals: jokes.

    Like vaudeville blackouts, one-tweet plays often use an abrupt ending as a punch line:

    “She wanted to prove her love for her man’s passions. She stepped into his striped clown

    pants; there was room for .”  The authors of Neo-Futurist Twitter plays understand,

    like the Italian Futurists before them, that abbreviation is inherently funny. If any

    abridgment tends to render plots more artificial and parodic, reducing stories to bonesthis bare often pushes them over the border from parodic to ridiculous. “The Fall ” by

    Martin Schecter, for instance, compresses the fall of man to its thinnest outline, but it

    offers little knowledge (good, evil, or otherwise) in the process: “: Apple? : Why,

    sure. (voiceover ): Get out of my yard, you scraggamuffins!”  Similarly, a shrunken

     version of Waiting for Godot  by Paul Hayes suggests, with tongue in cheek, that Beck-

    ett’s play might just as well have had three lines: “: Godot? : Hold

    me. : What the hell are you two talking about? : . . . (Curtain.).”  Such

    reductions work best when they reveal the macabre joke at the heart of tragedy’s cruel

    ironies: “: I have no food. : There is a famine. : I will kill a rich man and take his

    food. (kills man) : That was your father.”  

    Nanodramas are under even more pressure than most shorts to replace character-

    ization with plot. They are typically populated by anonymous figures (often named A

    or B), by stock figures, or by celebrities whose history provides their character. If most

    one-tweet plays respond to this pressure by focusing on a significant or surprising series

    of actions, others follow Maeterlinck in attempting to capture the intensity and drama

    inherent in apparently static moments:

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     The moon is silent; empty. There stands Chris smiling ear to ear. Earth tries to

    pull him back but love keeps him there. A Tuesday. 

    ::big kiss that lasts for seconds, trumpets go off seconds in, rose petals fall

    after seconds:: 

    If all short drama tacitly argues that a small amount of material can be worthy of

    regard, single-tweet plays like these represent the most extreme version of this conten-

    tion. They use Twitter, a platform dedicated to the idea that the trivial might merit

    consideration, to test the more radical proposition that almost any sliver of life can

    constitute an aesthetic whole. To broadcast a message on Twitter is to cast oneself in a

    miniature drama; single-tweet plays merely formalize this implicit theatricality.

    Despite their wild variety, single-tweet plays are united in their theatrical self-

    consciousness. Here again, nanodramas resemble other shorts. Ruminating on endings,

    Henry J. Schmidt observes that

    as the moment of closure approaches, the [literary] work tends to become self-

    conscious, seemingly aware of the judgmental presence of the reader, who, having

    been captured, must be successfully released. . . . The resulting exertion renders art

    more artificial, theater more theatrical, as the literary work builds to a final flourish

    before it disappears from view.

    But what if the whole play consists of the few moments before an ending? When a

    play is nothing more than a moment of closure, it carries throughout the same sort of

    self-consciousness and artificiality that characterize traditional endings and puts morereflexive pressure on its own conventions. Ending from the moment they begin, one-

    tweet plays call attention to the arbitrary convention of dramatic closure.

    Quite apart from the content of the Neo-Futurist–inspired Twitter plays, the

    sheer number and the diversity of their authors might be their most significant feature.

     Through Twitter, the Neo-Futurists have created a de facto community of hundreds of

    amateur playwrights and allowed them to collaborate in an ongoing experiment writ-

    ing and sharing impossible plays. Whatever limitations Twitter has as a medium of

    composition, and I do not wish to downplay them, one potential virtue of removing

    the organizational barriers to publishing is that it can encourage people lacking the

    access, financial means, or courage needed to pursue avant-garde playwriting to spend

    time inventing microdramas featuring fish and anachronistic robots. While these plays

    at times resemble historical antecedents like newspaper  faits-divers  or Futurist synthe-

    ses, their historical predecessors are available to us only because they were produced by

    newspaper staff or by professional aesthetes with access to means of publication. The

    Neo-Futurist Twitter play project, by contrast, spearheaded the production and collec-

    tion of thousands of impossible nanodramas by almost eight hundred unknown avant-

    gardists working in their spare time. I cannot help but feel this is a good thing. Clearly,

     Twitter and other Internet-based publication platforms are not available to everyone.

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    You Wouldn’t Know

    Him, He Lives in

    Texas/You Wouldn’t

    Know Her, She Lives

    in London, created

    by Look Left Look

    Right (London)

    and Hidden Room

     Theatre (Austin),

    . Photo: John

     Anderson

    Despite pronouncements about a flat world, only an estimated percent of Africans

    have Internet access, and activities like Twitter playwriting are further restricted in

    practice to the subset with the leisure and inclination to wander online. Despite these

    qualifications, social media are laying the groundwork for a new theatrical avant-garde

    that is less centralized, less elite, and less invested than their predecessors.

     A W U T: T HE    TH  L INE 

    One of the contributors sending single-tweet plays to the Neo-Futurists was a young

    playwright and actor named Jeremy Gable. Gable started posting one-tweet plays in

     June , the same week he began his first original Twitter performance, , and he

    submitted at least one play a week to the Neo-Futurists for roughly a year and a half,

    producing a total of eighty-four single-tweet plays. One of Gable’s submissions winks

    at the frustrations such a miniature canvas entails for playwrights:

    (Lights ) . : Why must I express myself in characters? I demand length,

    elasticity. You cannot stifle m . . . (Bows )

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    Gable’s long-form experiments in Twitter theater offered a possible solution: keep

     Twitter’s rea l-time distribution and pithiness, but add length and a measure of elas-

    ticity by extending the fiction for months at a time. Unlike single-tweet plays, origi-

    nal plays written as Twitter conversations could masquerade as typical activity on the

    platform. Gable’s The th Line , an early experiment in this incipient genre, provides

    an excellent test case because it aimed to look and feel as much like normal Twitter

    behavior as possible while also providing a compelling dramatic experience. As a result,

    The th Line , far more than one-tweet plays, raises fundamental questions about the

    increasingly mediated performance of everyday life.

    Like most Twitter performances, The th Line  asked audience members to fol-

    low the action by subscribing to the Twitter updates of fictional characters. But unlike

    performances like Such Tweet Sorrow or Crushin’ It , in which updates were improvised

    by a number of actor/writers, The th Line  was a one-man show. Gable wrote nearly

    all of the more than nine hundred updates in advance. During the run, he posted all of

    the characters’ messages at the appropriate days and times, using the script to guide the

    real-time performance much as one would in a solo staged reading. While the produc-

    tion was designed to be best experienced by following each of the character’s accounts

    on Twitter, Gable also compiled the script on a single page to make it easier for non-

    users to join the audience, and published the complete script to his web page after

    the two-month performance. That the collated version looks very much like a play

    obscures its radical difference from most plays. Although one can now read the online

    script in a single sitting, the original audience of around followers watched the play

    accumulate over eight weeks. Gable is not opposed to the idea of letting others stage

    his Twitter pieces, but he told me he has little interest in staging them himself becauseto do so would strip the genre of its most distinctive feature: its pace. The th Line  

    is designed to work best as slow-drip microserial dramaturgy that unfolds over long

    The th Line , .

    Photo: Jeremy Gable

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    stretches of time. So while the performance was free of charge — as in fact all Twitter

    theater to date has been — it required a significant investment of time and attention,

    paid in nearly one thousand tiny installments.

    The th Line  began in medias res  on January , , with the breaking news of

    an unexplained subway crash in an unnamed metropolis. For the next two months,

    the story followed four characters whose lives intersect as a result of the fictional acci-

    dent: a survivor named Melissa; her college classmate Seth, who witnesses the crash

    and runs away; Dustin, a thirty-five- year-old therapist who loses his wife in the acci-

    dent; and Patrick, an overbearing journalist for the city newspaper. The characters use

     Twitter as one means among others to learn more about the incident, to mourn, and to

    find human connection. As the updates accumulate over days and weeks, the audience

    pieces together a story (familiar to many after September , ) about the way catas-

    trophe reshuffles priorities, brings strangers into contact, and has repercussions beyond

    its site of impact.

    Despite the play’s differences from traditional drama, the subtitle of The th Line ,

    “A Play of Brief Communication,” announces the project as part of a dramatic tra-

    dition. When I asked Gable what he thought makes this accumulation of narrative

    updates a play, he pointed to two characteristics the piece shares with stage plays: it

     was written in “dramatic script format,” and it was performed “ in front of an audience

    in real time.” By this definition, The th Line , like most Twitter adaptations, shares

    elements both with closet drama and with staged performance but remains a generic

    riddle somewhere between script and performance. The liminal space of Twitter makes

    The th Line  a closet drama performed publicly, and a broadcast performance that is

    silent and consumed privately.Perhaps the most salient aspect of the generic riddle of The th Line  is that the

    characteristics that for Gable make the piece a play — its resemblance to a script and its

    real-time performance — also apply to most activity on Twitter. The th Line  reminds

    us why the marriage of theater and Twitter should come as no surprise. In its everyday

    use, Twitter, like theater, is a social medium deeply committed to representation in “real

    time,” predicated on vicarious observation of other lives, and often dominated by those

    unafraid of self-promotion, narcissism, or oversharing. Whether used for explicit play-

    making or not, Twitter already constitutes an enormous, continual distributed theater

    of the everyday in which a cast numbering more than million strut and fret upon

     virtual stages for the benefit of audiences who follow their every move or thought. Thesite originally greeted every visitor with a blank box posing the question, “What are

     you doing?,” prompting users, much like an improvisational game by the same name,

    to describe their actions. Twitter transmutes the lines of a diary into the perpetual low-

    grade performance of autocommentary before an audience of casual and occasional

    observers.

     Twitter also shares formal similarities with drama. For one, its format closely

    resembles the layout of a play script, albeit with the addition of a few unique conven-

    tions. A user name or “handle” precedes each message much as speech prefixes in a

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    script attribute lines of dialogue to a given character, and many Twitter updates include

    paratext that works similarly to stage directions. When a user publicly addresses or

    responds to another, for instance, she marks the message with an “@” sign followed by

    the person’s user name:

    : @angiannini Would you be available for a follow-up interview?

    : @pattycitypress Sure. Do you still have my phone number?

    : @angiannini Actually, I was hoping that this time we might meet in

    person. Would tonight work? 

     An exchange like this one would be visible to anyone following Patrick and Angela,

    but readers understand to whom each message is directed just as they would if reading

    the stage direction “(to Angela ).” This convention replicates the most common form of

    address in staged theater: two or more people carry on a private conversation in public,

    but act as if they are unobserved. As on stage, on Twitter the pretense of privacy can

    easily be suspended, as in this reflexive exchange from The th Line :

    : @angiannini Sorry if last night was weird. I don’t normally do that. I was

    on a bit of a natural high last night.

    : @turnbullseth It’s okay. I just need some time. Anyway, we shouldn’t

    talk about it here.

    : @angiannini Oh. Right. Sorry. 

    Other conventions also call attention to Twitter’s staginess. For instance, Twit-ter users have developed their own version of the theatrical aside through the creative

    use of hashtags. Hashtags originally emerged as a low-tech solution to Twitter’s lack

    of categorization. In order to allow others to find messages about a particular event or

    subject, Twitter users began labeling their updates with words preceded by the symbol

    . If a user wrote, “I’m loving this opening number! TonyAwards,” anyone interested

    in the Tony Awards could find relevant messages by searching for the hashtag. Creative

    users soon began using hashtags in other ways, too, frequently to indicate a sort of sotto

     voce aside commenting on a situation (e.g., “My mother is sti ll hugging my boyfriend

    killmenow”) or undercutting a statement (“Best production of Othello ever! InTheir-

    Dreams”). No longer useful for categorization, these creative tags, like the theatricalasides that inspire them, mark the messages as public speech from which we imagine

    some people are excluded. From this perspective, the hash mark may be superfluous;

    many if not most Twitter messages operate like asides about life’s dramas whispered to

    a like-minded digital peanut gallery. The growing resemblance of hashtags to dramatic

    paratext has even led some users to employ hashtags as explicit stage directions. A user

    named Emily Corlen posted the following messages in May , not as part of a Twit-

    ter play but simply as an improvised addition to her everyday interactions on Twitter:

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     EmilyCorlen @JMavPWA You . . . you know Johnny, you are so FUCKING dense

    sometimes! StartsToLeave TurnsAround You’re NOT the only one with

    demons! Exits

     EmilyCorlen @JMavPWA . . . StandsUp FoldsArms BackToYou SilentMayBeCrying

    Emily does not just send these messages to Johnny; she imagines them unfolding on

    a virtual stage. While the use of recognizable stage directions is rare on Twitter, mes-

    sages like these make explicit the tacit theatricality of a forum driven by self-display

    and trafficking in public drama of every sort.

    In addition to looking like scripts, Twitter’s little everyday dramas take place in

    shared time. Creators of Twitter drama, like many theater makers, insist on the cen-

    tral importance of its pace. A Facebook group dedicated to Twitter theater prefers the

    platform because on Twitter, “characters don’t just have lines on a page, but full lives which are updated in real time.”  By “real time,” they mean not that every action rep-

    resented takes precisely as much time as the representation, but rather that the updates

    are crafted so as to create the illusion that the characters are living at the same pace

    as ordinary people and in the same time as the viewers. Compared to stage drama,

    however, the pace of Twitter theater is halting. Conversation flows in chronological

    order, but exchanges are sporadic and intermittent, and since each user follows a dif-

    ferent cast of characters, not all of the participants can hear each other. As a result, fol-

    lowing an accumulation of solo and duet scenes on Twitter can feel more like channel

    surfing than sitting down to read or watch a play. Like the filmic “Wandering Rocks”

    episode of James Joyce’s Ulysses , in which the perspective wanders in and out of the livesof nineteen Dubliners, describing bits of action and overhearing snatches of the inner

    monologues, Twitter allows discontinuous panoptic voyeurism. The important differ-

    ence from Joyce’s Dublin, of course, is that in this case each of the participants encour-

    ages the surveillance and filters or exaggerates her thoughts accordingly. The result is

    not stream of consciousness but a stream of self-consciousness.

    In November , after Twitter’s purview had expanded to include not only

    descriptions of buying milk but also journalistic updates about revolutions, the site

    changed its prompt from “What are you doing?” to “What’s happening?” The new

    solicitation retained its emphasis on action but shifted the focus away from the first

    person. What had been envisioned as a space to share life’s little private dramas began

    to realize a secondary potential to create a global record of the drama of everyday life,

    a fragmentary theater of the world. The world has taken notice: on April , , the

    Library of Congress announced that it would acquire every post made on Twitter since

    its debut in March . As a result, billions of messages that would otherwise twitter

    and fade in the echo chamber of the Internet will now make up one of the largest (if

    least articulate) archives of contemporary experience: a dormant documentary theater

    composed of an effectively infinite number of infinitesimal slices of life.

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    V R

     With his Twitter plays, Gable specifically aimed to recreate the pace, content, and feel

    of real digital events and relationships. He wanted both plays to read “like Twitter

    posts from real people,” in order to make the experience “as convincing as possible.”  Gable read widely on Twitter as research for the piece and used his familiarity to write

    updates in The th Line  that ape the platform’s style and form, complete with misspell-

    ings, ill-advised posts followed by retractions, and the impression of hasty composition.

    The th Line ’s updates, arriving at appropriate times of day mixed in among updates

    from actual Twitter users, aimed to convince audience members that Angela, Dustin,

    Patrick, and Seth were living in tandem with them. Focusing on an urban disaster and

    including updates from a fictional journalist reinforced the impression that this could

    be real activity on Twitter, and setting the action in an unnamed city made it easier

    for those in or near cities to imagine that the accident was local or regional. To further

    cement the illusion that its alternate universe is our own, the characters in The th Line  made reference to actual current events that transpired during the run, including the

    Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day. So when, on the morning after

    President Obama’s State of the Union address, followers received an update from

    Patrick asking, “Did President Obama’s State of the Union address help diminish our

    nation’s fears?”  it was easier for American audience members to imagine that Patrick’s

    nation really was our  nation.

    In live theater on a stage or on the radio, both actors and audience must generally

    ignore the artificiality of the theatrical convention that warrants a group of strangers

    to surveil other strangers. Twitter theater, however, can produce more thorough real-

    ism because the means by which one observes and interacts with characters is in fact

    identical to the ways one follows the lives of actual friends, acquaintances, or strang-

    ers on Twitter. In an interview before the debut of , Gable underscored his aim to

    mirror the voyeuristic theatricality of Twitter: “Just as the service [Twitter] offers you a

    glimpse into the life of friends and celebrities, so [] will offer you a glimpse into the

    lives of these four characters.”  Where a naturalist stage play might offer a two-hour

    slice of life, realist Twitter theater provides a series of miniature slices mixed in among

    slices of the lives of real people, over a period of weeks or months. Gable told me that

    he wanted audiences to experience The th Line  from day to day over two months “so

    that the adventures of the characters become as important as the adventures of theaudience’s friends and family.”  In this way, an intermittent pace that might seem to

    attenuate a performance actually reinforces its reality effect.

     We might call this brand of digitally enabled verisimilitude “virtual realism.”

     This realism is virtual not in the sense that it is nearly or almost real, but rather in

    that it accurately reproduces real-life experiences, characters, and relationships which

    are themselves increasingly virtual. Like closet drama, radio drama, and virtual real-

    ity simulations, The th Line   relies on the mind to fill in the contours of the event.

    But unlike other simulations, it recreates experiences that in their everyday manifes-

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    tations invoke our imaginative powers in much the same way: the dramas of online

    acquaintances that we follow from afar, the spectacles of tragedies experienced remotely

    rather than in person. As social networking becomes more pervasive, we often follow

    the lives of loved ones and celebrities not by being with them but by tuning in to medi-

    ated updates from them or about them. Gable told me that this potential attracted him

    to the genre: “[Following someone online] you can see that an acquaintance starteda relationship, take a look at their pictures, read their updates, and then find out that

    they’re single again. Without having talked to them, you get a narrative of their life. So

     with a Twitter play, you have a chance of drawing people further into your story, as it

    is happening in the midst of their real lives.”  A platform renowned for abbreviation

    and casual surveillance helps facilitate a low-intensity marathon of observation that is

    potentially indistinguishable from the rhythms of an increasingly digital real life.

     The virtual nature of Twitter’s identities and relationships augments its potential

    to confuse reality and fiction and makes it an ideal venue for dramatic hoaxes. To be

    sure, Gable’s news updates about a fictional disaster, unlike Orson Welles’s infamous

    radio broadcast of War of the Worlds  in , were unlikely to cause audiences to panic.Followers of The th Line   had to decide to subscribe to the characters’ updates and

     would have retained a sense that the scenario is imaginary. Nevertheless, the way the

    action of Twitter plays merges with the stream of other messages, events, and news

    updates lends the performance event remarkably porous borders. What I am calling

     virtual realism is not limited to Twitter theater: a similar dynamic animates, for exam-

    ple, online performances by computerized chat bots impersonating humans,  plays like

    the Headlong Theater Company’s Cell () in which a phone conversation with the

    spectator becomes the basis for an imagined world,   plays performed on the game plat-

    Such Tweet Sorrow,

    . Photo:

    Charles Hunter

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    form Second Life , and certain epistolary novels, like those in Nick Bantock’s Griffin and

    Sabine  trilogy, which build narratives through removable letters and postcards written

    by the characters. But whatever the medium, virtual realism invites the spectator into

    an interaction that is familiar from everyday life, yet not face to face or embodied. It

    holds the mirror up to aspects of nature that are already reflections.In this light, the most fascinating lesson of Twitter theater and similar experi-

    ments might not be that they are reshaping contemporary theater in novel ways. More

    important, these experiments reveal that, as social media introduce new varieties of

    everyday life, theater makers are adapting as they always have to reflect the contours of

    altered realities. As Bert States reminds us, theater is a remarkably predatory institution

    that “consumes nature” and repackages it for aesthetic consumption.  Like more con-

     ventional forms of theater, Twitter plays colonize a section of reality — in this case the

     world of remote real-time updates — and build within it an imaginary alternate reality

    that parades before us as if it were the real thing. And as we have seen, plays are ideal

    frames with which to repackage activity on Twitter because the digital facets of ourlives increasingly resemble theater.   During the run of The th Line , Jeremy Gable

     justified using Twitter as his stage by saying that “ percent of Twitter is insignifi-

    cant. But there’s that rare moment when it becomes profound.” Properly filtered and

    framed, Twitter’s trivia has the potential to reveal hidden depths. This is essentially the

    dream behind Twitter — that any sliver of experience might reward attention — but,

    remarkably, it is also one of the central defenses of theater, and indeed all art: most of

    life is insignificant, but if we restrict attention to particular moments, they might have

    something profound to teach us.

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    N

    . See Twitter.com/TwitterPoetry; Twitter.com/PoetryTweets; TwiHaiku at www

    .makeliterature.com/twihaiku/Twitter-poetry, and Twitter.com/twihaiku; or search for

    poetweet on Twitter.

    . See in particular Alexander Aciman and Emmett Rensin, Twitterature  (New York:

    Penguin, ).

     . The libretto of The Twitter Opera , staged by the Royal Opera House in London

    in , consisted of public tweets set to popular opera standards. Rachel Shields,

    “Overtures, Arias . . . and Tweets: The World’s First Twitter Opera,” Independent ,

     August , , www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/classical/news/overtures

    -arias-and-tweets-the- worlds-first-twitter-opera-.html.

    . Now that Facebook’s Newsfeed and Google Plus services offer alternative platforms

    for brief real-time updates, Twitter has become one of a number of similar outlets for

    distributed theater. Much of my analysis of Twitter applies as well to these services,

    but I focus on Twitter not only because it pioneered the form but also because its strictcharacter limit provides a more challenging formal constraint than rival services.

     . Paul Feig, the cocreator of the television series Freaks and Geeks , solicited so-called

     Tplays from his followers, and Canadian playwright Neil Fleming (@NFlemingPlays)

    frequently writes one-tweet plays.

    . Prompts for March , , and June , . Jeffrey Cranor, “Twitter Plays,”

    spreadsheet archive shared with the author, March , .

    . Recent examples are archived on the Neo-Futurists’ Favorites Twitter page, twitter

    .com/nyneofuturists/favorites (accessed July , ). Totals derived from Cranor,

    “Twitter Plays.”

    . Next to Normal: The Twitter Performance , Twitter.com/NNbroadway, archived at

    nexttonormal.com/twitterperformance.pdf (accessed June , ).

    . Next to Normal .

    . Royal Shakespeare Company, Such Tweet Sorrow, www.suchtweetsorrow.com

    (accessed May , ) and Mudlark, “Projects,” www.wearemudlark.com/projects/

    sts (accessed March , ). For an archive of al l of the tweets in chronological

    order, see Bleys Maynard, Such Tweet Sorrow Archive, www.bleysmaynard.net/

    suchtweet (accessed May , ). See also Maev Kennedy, “Romeo and Juliet Get

     Twitter Treatment,” Guardian, April , , www.guardian.co.uk/culture//apr//

    shakespeare-twitter-such-tweet-sorrow.

    . William Shakesepare, Romeo and Juliet , in The Complete Works of Shakespeare ,

    ed. David Bevington (New York: Pearson, ), .. – .. @julietcap, Twitter post, April , , Twitter.com/julietcap, retrieved from

    Maynard, Such Tweet Sorrow Archive, www.bleysmaynard.net/suchtweet.

    . Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet , ...

    . Reorbit, reorb.it/project.

    . Steven Westdahl, Samuel Beckett , March , , reorb.it/play.php?p=.

    . Thomas L. Strickland, T. S. Eliot , May , , reorb.it/play.php?p=.

    . See @MayorEmanuel, Twitter.com/MayorEmanuel/; @FakeSteveJobs, Twitter.com/

    fsj; and @feministhulk, Twitter.com/feministhulk.

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    . Dawn Danby, interview by Jamillah Knowles, Outriders , BBC Radio , January ,

    , www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/pods/allplayepisode.

    . Rachel Syme, “Social Media Theater: Where Sylvia Plath Is Alive and Well,”

     Thirteen.org, March , , www.thirteen.org/fourth- wall /social-media-theater

    - where-sylvia-plath-is-alive-and- well.

    . Ericson DeJesus, “Social Media Theater?” Electric Literature Blog, http://

    electricliterature.com/blog////social-media-theater (accessed July , ).

    . Jeremy Gable, , www.jeremygable.com/.htm (accessed June , ).  tells

    the story of Dane Leopard, a sixteen- year-old with dreams bigger than his small town. A

     year after his father’s death, Dane sets out, much to the consternation of his stepmother,

    on a road trip to Los Angeles armed with a movie idea and accompanied by his friend’s

    girl, Charlotte. The trip is a bust but gives everyone enough perspective to mature and

    reconcile in the end.

    . Jeremy Gable, e-mail message to the author, June , .

    . Jeremy Gable, The th Line: A Play of Brief Communication, January , , www

    .jeremygable.com/thline.htm. Because the compiled script is unpaginated, all references will be to original message dates.

    . Crushin’ It: A Social Media Love Story , StoryOh, http://CrushingItStory.com

    (accessed June , ).

    . Jo Caird, “Truly Involving Theatre,” WhatsOnStage.com, March , , www

    .whatsonstage.com/blog/theatre/london/E/Jo+Caird+Blog:+Truly

    +Involving+Theatre.html.

    . See Greg Allen, “A Not-So-Quick History of the Neo-Futurists,” NeoFuturists.org,

    neofuturists.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=&Item id=; and

    “Neo-Futurism in a Nutshell,” NYNeoFuturists.org, www.nyneofuturists.org/site/index

    .php?/site/whats_the_whatism (accessed December , ).

    . Greg Allen, preface to Neo-Futurist Plays from “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go

    Blind”  (Chicago: Chicago Plays, ), .

    . Cranor, “Twitter Plays.” The prompts were available on the New York Neo-Futurists

     Twitter page on the following dates, respectively: March , ; August , ;

    November , ; April , ; October , .

    . Twitter Counter, NY Neo-Futurists Twitter Statistics, twittercounter.com/

    nyneofuturists (accessed July , ).

     . See John Muse, “Dimensions of the Moment: Modernist Shorts,” Modern Drama  

     , no. (): – ; and “The Paradoxes of Suzan-Lori Parks’s  Days/ Plays ,”

     Journal of American Drama and Theatre  , no. (): – .

     . Greg Allen, “Neo-Futurism in a Nutshell.” . Sean McCain, Twitter post, April , , twitter.com/sdmccain, archived in Cranor,

    “Twitter Plays.”

     . Cameron McNary, Twitter post, April , , twitter.com/cameronmcnary, 

    archived in Cranor, “Twitter Plays.”

     . Cesar Torres, Twitter post, March , , twitter.com/Urraca, archived in Cranor,

    “Twitter Plays.”

     . Martin Schecter, Twitter post, March , , twitter.com/martinschecter, archived

    in Cranor, “Twitter Plays.”

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     . Paul Hayes, Twitter post, March , , twitter.com/kollektor, archived in Cranor,

    “Twitter Plays.”

     . Kevin Mullaney, Twitter post, May , , twitter.com/ircmullaney, archived in

    Cranor, “Twitter Plays.”

     . Chris Diercksen, Twitter post, April , , twitter.com/C_Diercks, archived in

    Cranor, “Twitter Plays.”

     . milyadis, Twitter post, June , , twitter.com/milyadis (account deactivated),

    archived in Cranor, “Twitter Plays.”

    . Henry J. Schmidt, How Dramas End: Essays on the German Sturm und Drang, Büchner,

    Hauptmann, and Fleisser  (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, ), .

    . As of March , . Internet World Statistics, Usage and Population Statistics, 

     www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm.

    . Jeremy Gable, Twitter post, September , , twitter.com/Jeremy_Gable, archived

    in Cranor, “Twitter Plays.”

    . Gable, The th Line .

    . Gable, e-mail message to the author, June , .. Ibid.

    . Gable, The th Line , February , .

    . Gable, The th Line , February , .

    . These examples are invented for illustration. For more on the mission creep of

    hashtags, see Susan Orleans, “Hash,” New Yorker , June , .

    . Twitter.com/EmilyCorlen, May , .

     . “Twitter Theater,” www.facebook.com/Tweatricals (accessed June , ).

     . Gable, qtd. in Paul Hodgins, “Play Unfolding on Twitter over Days,” Orange

    County Register , June , .

     . Gable, The th Line , January , .

     . Gable, qtd. in Hodgins, “Play Unfolding.”

     . Gable, e-mail message to the author, June , .

     . Ibid.

     . See Alexis Soloski, “ ‘Would You Like to Have a Question?’ ” (, this issue).

     . In Cell , one spectator at a time arrived at a prearranged location on the streets of New

    Haven, received a phone call, and was led through a series of tasks by a voice on the

    other end of the line, all the while remaining unsure which of the people on the street

    around them were actors. The exact scenario may be unlikely in real life, but the mode

    of interaction — walking down a city street alone in a cell phone conversation — was

    borrowed from everyday urban life. A stranger to both events would not have known a

    performance was in progress. See Christopher Grobe, “Your Cell Phone Is: ,” 

     NewHaven Independent , June , , www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/

    entry/your_cell_phone_is_.html.

     . Bert States, Great Reckonings in Little Rooms: On the Phenomenology of the Theatre  

    (Berkeley: University of California Press, ), .

     . See John H. Muse, “Flash Mobs and the Diffusion of Audience,” Theater  , no.

    (): esp. – on pervasive spectatorship.

    . Joshua Sessoms, “A Philly Playwright Sets Stage for Twitter,” NBC Philadelphia ,

     January , , www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/tech/Playwright-UsesTwitter-as

    -a-Vehicle-.html.