If you follow me on Facebook, then you know last week I was a lucky attendee at the musical improv Freestyle Love Supreme, the brainchild of upcoming Podcast guest, Anthony “Two-Touch” Veneziale, and his cohorts, including a real underachiever named Lin-Manuel Miranda.
As I posted, the show is one of the most uniquely authentic and exciting evenings I’ve had in a Broadway house in a long while. Sure, it was like watching the Olympics of rap. And sure it was funny because good improv always is. But I never expected it to be so moving.
But this ain’t about the show.
This is about what the show forced me and the 900 other people that night to do before the show.
They made us shut off our phones and drop it in a little yellow pouch, provided by a company called Yondr, which was then locked down better than the cell phone transcripts between the US and Ukraine (heyo!).
So for the next 90 minutes. I was phoneless.
Now, I’m not a during-a-show texter-or-checker anyway, but boy oh boy was this an odd feeling.
And once I got over the anxiety and uncomfortable feeling (partly because of the size of that pouch sticking out of my pocket) . . . I loved it. Just loved it.
I was able to be more present than I have been at a show in a long time. And you know what? That made me enjoy it more.
So maybe this Yondr thing is a . . . thing.
I know, heresy coming from me . . . the guy who created “Tweet Seats” for my production of Godspell (and got some great press about it, including Rock Center).
But screens are even more abundant now than they ever were before. And we’re addicted to them more. And they distract us more, never mind the artists who are busting their brains and bodies to entertain us.
So maybe it is time for us to be forced to lock up our devices and free up our minds?
But what about the marketing opportunities? What about the kids who have never known life without a cell phone?
These issues must be addressed because most shows need the marketing engines that are those things in our pockets sans pouches. And the theater itself needs kids coming now so that we’ll have adults coming in the future.
That’s why I’ve always suggested allowing phones for specific moments . . . pre-show, curtain call (!) or special shareable moments before or after the experience.
But surely there’s a way to do both.
Locking our devices up won’t work for every show, because anything we force our customers to do adds to the friction of them making a purchase. And most shows want to reduce that friction, not create more.
But it’s an option . . . and an option that I look forward to seeing spread throughout our community, because yeah. I loved FSL, but I loved it more because I knew for 90 minutes, it was just me and those artists and my friends in the audience . . . and not my friends on Facebook.
UPDATE: And then my phone was locked up a 2nd time! Because guess who was on Jury Duty this week in Federal Court? This guy. And guess what they also did? Locked up our phones! And guess who had several hours of focus time . . . and reading time . . . and brainstorming time. And guess who wrote on an actual pad of paper with a pen instead of on a screen?
And guess who had the most productive 3 hours he has had in a long time (before he was called for a voir dire)?
So maybe we should have Yondr for artrepreneurs too. Or maybe we should learn how to police ourselves to shove our phones in a drawer and turn off our email notifications on our computers and get to effin’ work.
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