Berlin theatre stages first live play on Facebook

BERLIN Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:23pm EST

BERLIN Jan 11 (Reuters) - Pistol duelling in print and energetic postings of "applause" accompanied the Facebook premier of Theodor Fontane's "Effi Briest", which organisers said was the first live staging of a play on the social networking site.

Fontane's classic work, first published as a serial novel in 1894, was specially adapted to be performed on the Maxim Gorki Theatre's "online Facebook stage" on Monday.

The play used status updates, photo uploads and wall postings from characters to relate protagonist Effi Briest's descent into disrepute.

"We were really pleased to try something new and innovative, and have learned a lot about how we can use the internet for our productions," a spokeswoman for the theatre told Reuters.

Audience participation was encouraged and viewers were asked to help out with a number of tasks, including voting for wedding dresses and posting their contributions to a love letter.

But any ill-timed posts of written coughing fits from audience members were reproached with messages of "silence in the theatre, please" from the moderator and narrator, "Theo von Tain", or Theodor Fontane.

At least 1,200 people registered themselves with the production's Facebook group, enabling them to participate in the production, before "admittance to the stage" was closed at 8 p.m., but organisers said more may have watched online.

"We had a large group of people watching and they joined in as we thought they would. They were really attentive but also well-behaved and were quiet when we asked them to be," the spokeswoman said.

The theatre would consider staging more plays on Facebook in the future, she said.

"Facebook can't replace the stage, but it offers some really interesting opportunities to perform theatre online," she said.

The project was arranged to complement a more traditional stage production of Effi Briest, which will premier at the real theatre on Saturday. (Editing by Paul Casciato)

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