Communities and Social Media

#Theatrekids: Finding community through the TikTok platform during the COVID-19 pandemic.


The international arts and theatre communities have suffered greatly due to the continued shutdown of the industry as response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This paper examines the way that these offline communities have found a home on the social media platform TikTok. TikTok offers a unique set of affordances which allow globally dispersed users to form common interested based communities, which includes existing social media features such as friending and hashtag and distinctive functions such as duet and stitch. Through the examples of the stage management TikTok communities who use the identifying hashtags of #stagemanagers and #stagemanagersoftiktok, and the collaborative musical creations of Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical and Bridgerton the Musical, this paper will explore the way that #theatrekids are using this platform to replace their physical theatre communities with an online theatre community in a time of social distancing, unemployment and lockdown.

Keywords: TikTok, social media, online communities, music theatre, #theatrekid, #stagemanager, #stagemangersoftiktok, #RatatouilleMusical, #bridgertonthemusical


On the 12th of March 2020, Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York, announced that Broadway theatres would be shutting down in response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the state (Benbrook, 2021). This announcement was quickly followed by the shuttering of theatres across the world, including the West End and throughout Australia. Twelve months later, while the Australian industry is slowly beginning to recover (Galvin & Muller, 2021), the majority of international theatres are still closed with many individuals waiting to return to work (Thomas, 2021). The ongoing unemployment and various lockdowns in different countries has seen many individuals turn to the social media application TikTok as a place for escapism and amusement (Omar & Dequan, 2020, p. 130). Since its launch in 2018 the TikTok platform has seen exponential growth (Weimann & Masri, 2020, p. 4) due to its unique set of affordances. By utilising existing social media elements such as friending and hashtags, and offering distinctive features such as duet and stitch, TikTok has become a place where users are able to form or join online communities. Through the examples of #stagemanager, #stagemanagersoftiktok, #RatatouilleMusical and #bridgertonmusical, it is evident those affected by the arts shutdown have found a place of community online through TikTok. The unique affordances of the TikTok platform allow globally dispersed users to form communities based on common interests, as evident in the stage management and music theatre communities that have emerged on the platform during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Social media platforms create a space for the formation of online communities based on shared interests. Traditionally, communities were formed and maintained in close, personal circles as it was difficult to communicate and travel beyond an individual’s immediate network (Hampton & Wellman, 2018, p. 646). Through the invention of the Internet individuals are now able to connect and interact with others without the limits of geographical location (Keles, 2016, p. 320). Lumby (2010) suggests that social networking sites specifically “provide a platform for members to rekindle a sense of community, there are possibilities for new communities to be formed by people who have not met in the material world” (p. 69). Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have become places where social media users can discover others who share their hobbies, interests and passions. “These platforms have their own culture, language, idioms, and styles which needs to be reflected in their content” (Haenlein et al. 2020, pp. 11-12).Hampton and Wellman (2018) suggest that “social media is fostering networked, supportive, persistent, and pervasive community relationships” (p. 649). While the communities existing on older and more established platforms have been more extensively studied by academics, the amount of research that exists regarding communities that are be formed on TikTok is slowly increasing as the popularity of the platform has increased.

The TikTok platform has become home to many online communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Launched to a western audience in 2018, TikTok is a social media platform based on the Chinese app Douyin, which allows users to upload videos of three to sixty seconds in length (Abidin, 2020, p. 77). These videos are consumed by other users through an algorithmically created feed called the ‘For You’ page (Munger, 2020). In July 2020, TikTok became the most downloaded app (Munger, 2020) with some suggesting that the COVID-19 pandemic has exponentially accelerated the download rate (Abidin, 2020; Ellison, 2020; Li et al., 2021). Some individuals use the platform as a place to share COVID-19 related information (Basch et al.; 2020, Li et al., 2021; Ostrovsky, 2020), some use it for political conversations and activism (Serrano, 2020; Subramanian, 2021) and others use it as a space to express themselves creatively (Kennedy, 2020; Omar & Dequan, 2020). Although their uses may be varied, these global dispersed users have turned to the platform to find companionship and community with others who share their interests during a time of uncertainty (Epperly, 2021). During the COVID-19 pandemic many TikTok communities have emerged, therefore it is worth analysing how the unique affordances of this platform have helped these communities come into existence.

TikTok has adapted many common social media features which helps users to communicate and form communities on the platform. Kaye et al. (2020) states that “TikTok includes social features, such as sending friend requests, the ability to like or comment on videos, a messaging system, and cross-platform connectivity to share videos using other apps” (p. 11). Similarly, Omar and Dequan (2020, p. 124) suggest that TikTok has adopted many of the features that are common to the Instagram platform. One such common affordance that has been utilised by TikTok is the ability to ‘friend’ other users. Through the act of friending, individuals are able to communicate with others who share their interest. Additionally, the function of friending can be used as an endorsement that a user is a member of a specific community (Lumby, 2010, p. 71). By friending other users on the TikTok platform, an individual is able to expand their social network (Montag et al., 2021, p. 2) and cement their position as part of community of like-minded people. Possible connections can be discovered through the curated ‘For You’ page or through a search of a specific hashtag, another existing social media feature which the TikTok platform utilises.

By creating and searching for common interest hashtags, TikTokers are able to discover like-minded individuals and communities on the platform. When posting a video to the TikTok platform, users are able to caption their post with descriptive hashtags (Serrano et al., 2020, p. 258). Additionally, users are able to search for all videos that have been tagged with a particular hashtag (Weimann & Masri, 2020, p. 9). One such hashtag that is popular for theatre-related videos is #theatrekid. As of April 2020, there has been 3.6 billion views related to the videos that have been posted using this tag (TikTok, 2021). Other hashtags that have been created in relation to the above tag, include: #TheatreKids with 2.9 billion views, #musicaltheatrekid with 146.8 million views, #TheatreKidCheck with 102.7 million views, and #theatrekidproblems with 21.2 million views (TikTok, 202). By including the #theatrekid hashtag on a video, users are able to position themselves as part of the theatre community on TikTok and increase the odds of their video being liked by other members of the community (Li et al, 2021, p. 8). By searching for videos with this hashtag, a user will be able to find like-minded individuals to ‘friend’ and connect with. This is usability of the hashtag feature is demonstrated by the stage management community that has formed on TikTok through then use of hashtags such as #stagemanager and #stagemanagersoftiktok.

A community of global-dispersed theatre stage managers has emerged on the TikTok platform, who can be identified by the #stagemanager and #stagemanagersoftiktok hashtags. Many individuals and communities have turned to TikTok as a place of support (Herrick, 2020) during times of crisis. As with numerous others in the international arts community, theatre stage managers have found themselves unemployed and purposeless during the COVID-19 pandemic. While some have been able to pivot into other industries for employment opportunities (Hewitt, 2021), many stage managers have turned to the TikTok platform to find an online community as a substitute to their physical theatre community. Through the use of hashtags such as #stagemanager and #stagemanagersoftiktok, these individuals have been able to locate and communicate with other users who are sharing their experience of lockdown and unemployed. The shared experience of watching the industry that they love be shuttered has helped form a bond between a global community of like-minded individuals. Jackson et al. (2020) suggests that finding an online community of people that share your lived experience can provide “important emotional and psychological support” (p. 1876). Through the act of friending, liking, commenting, duetting and stitching videos of other stage managers, users are able to become a part of this community and find support in this time of uncertainty.

The duet and stitch features of TikTok offer users a unique way to interact and collaborate with other users. Su et al. (2020) suggest that a “unique facet of TikTok is its configurable or copycat culture – it is common to reappropriate an existing clip by mixing additional visual effects or layering atop in a newly recorded video” (p. 441). The ability to interact with other users’ videos through a duet is a unique affordance on the TikTok platform (Schellewald, 2021, p. 1449). “Duets juxtapose videos side by side and can be viewed in tandem, and are often used by TikTokers to ‘react’ to or ‘reply’ to an original video, whether replicating it for comparison, or adding commentary as compliment or critique. (Abidin, 2020, p 80). By duetting with a popular video or well-known individual, a user is able to contribute to and be acknowledged by others within the community. This feature creates a participatory culture where all members within the community are able to actively engage within the community. Similar to the duet feature, the recently added stitch function allows individuals to collaborate “by taking clips from other users’ TikToks and ‘stitching’ them to [their] own original content” (Grant, 2021, para. 2). TikTokers ask their followers and friends to duet or stitch their videos as a way of encouraging communication and collaboration with their posts. (Abidin, 2020, p. 89). This type of collaboration was a crucial component of the community-created Ratatouille and Bridgerton TikTok musicals.

By using TikTok’s unique set of affordances, the music theatre community on this platform came together to collaboratively create Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical and Bridgerton the Musical. In a recent interview general manager of TikTok UK and EU, Rich Waterworth (Theil, 2021). stated that “unique product features such as duet on TikTok have facilitated and enabled original musicals such as Ratatouille and now Bridgerton to grow across the global TikTok community” (para. 14). Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical was born from a single video posted by elementary teacher Emily Jacobson where she confessed her loved for the rodent star of Disney’s Ratatouille movie (Reinstein, 2021). Through the affordances of the TikTok platform, including the ‘For You’ page and the duet feature, this video was discovered by many other TikTokers who added their own creative embellishment to this initial song (Buzzfeed Video, 2020). Furthermore, users composed additional songs that resulted in a digitally streamed Broadway-style production that raised over 2 million dollars with proceeds being donated to the Actor’s Fund (Seymour, 2021). A similar style musical is currently being developed by the TikTok music theatre community based on the popular Netflix series Bridgerton. With over 168 million views on the #bridgetonmusical hashtag (TikTok 2021), this TikTok musical phenomenon has grown from a concept video by musical duo Barlow and Bear into a global community of like-minded individuals (Theil, 2020). Curran suggests that “what is particularly refreshing is the warm community atmosphere surrounding Bridgerton the Musical that emanates enthusiasm and understanding; each creation is motivated by a simple love for one’s craft rather than a shallow desire for fame or recognition” (para. 3). These two examples demonstrate how the TikTok platform provides a space for users to locate and join online communities based on their shared interests.

Through the introduction of the internet and social media platforms, globally dispersed users have been able to form and join communities based on common interests. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many such communities have found a home on the TikTok platform due to its unique set of affordances. By adopting existing social media features from more established platforms, such as friending, commenting, liking and a direct messaging system, TikTok creates a sense of familiarity for new users. Additionally, by allowing users to hashtag their creations and search for content by hashtag, TikTok makes it easy for users to find other like-minded individuals and community groups. One such community group is the theatre stage managers who use TikTok as a platform and can be discovered through the #stagemanagers and #stagemanagersoftiktok hashtags. These individuals have turned to their online TikTok community as a place for support during the uncertainty that has been caused by the arts shutdown due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Another way for users to interact and collaborate within their online community is through the duet and stitch features, which are unique to the TikTok platform. Using these unique features, the music theatre TikTok community were able to create Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical and Bridgerton the Musical through a process of communication and collaboration with other community members. Although a relatively new platform, TikTok has proven itself to be a space where online communities can come together to support and engage with each other in a way that is different to existing platforms. It will be interesting to see if the platform continues to be popular with arts communities when the theatres around the globe are able to reopen in a post-COVID world.


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36 thoughts on “#Theatrekids: Finding community through the TikTok platform during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. Hi Mads,

    What a great paper. A shame it took me so long to get to it.

    I am a TikTok frequent, so to see things such as these warms my heart! Especially when the world is in such tumultuous times. I will admit, I have not found myself on TheatreTok but I would have not been sad to have seen it! I love what they did with Ratatouille – it is one of my favourite Disney movies. I have done some extra research after reading your paper and love what I see!

    I would love to know why it was TikTok that certain groups migrated toward for projects like this! Whether it was ease of access, comfort of use, or just as simple as migrating with trends! Something I’ll have a look through your sources for to check up on!

  2. Hi Madison! I find it fascinating to read your paper, it gives me new insights that Tiktok can create a community since once I only know that Tiktok is a video-sharing platform where people enjoyed on seeing video that is relatable to their current situation. Talking about community, social media platform such as facebook, twitter, and instagram are potential for community building, and proof to create a lot of interactive communities. Which one is better in term of creating community? instagram with their image and video also insta story sharing, Facebook with their feature to creat certain fanpage leading to creation of community, or Tiktok? and why?

    1. Hi Youshua,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment on my paper.

      I think my argument is very much in the corner that the unique affordances of TikTok allow great potential for the building of community, especially for people in the global arts community. This can be seen through my examples of the collaborative creation of Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical and Bridgerton the Musical on the TikTok platform.

      In my own personal experience, I have it much easier to become part of a stage management on TikTok than on any of the other social media platforms. However, I am not in a position to speak about other communities and which platforms work best for them. I think it’s clear from this conference that different communities have formed and continue to exist on all different kinds of platforms and sites.



  3. Hey Mads,

    This was a great paper. As an avid Tiktok user I had come across some #theatrekids videos but I had no idea about the Ratatouille musical, but it sounds amazing!

    I also found Tiktok to be rather a saving grace during lockdown and isolation, and I definitely connected with a lot more niche groups than I had previously connected with and engaged with. I think this has a lot to do with the affordances of being able to share your thoughts and experiences with like-minded people, and offer support to each other in these difficult times.

    As we’ve discussed over on my paper, #WitchTok has become more prominent in the past year, and while those kinds of videos aren’t often stitched or dueted, you’ll find a lot of the people in the comments “claiming energy” from the videos or offering each other advice and coping mechanisms. The emergence of #WitchTok has also created awareness for the practice and has prompted articles and blogs where organisations like the BBC have dispelled some of the common misconceptions of witchcraft.

    I’m really glad that despite the pandemic we still had these avenues to communicate and support one another. I know that social media really got me through the lockdowns and isolation.


    BBC. (2021). What is WitchTok, and how does a WitchTokker prepare for Halloween? Retrieved from

    1. Hi Lauren,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my paper.

      I know I have been very grateful for the affordances of TikTok and other social media platforms during the pandemic. I think I was particularly pleased with TikTok as I was able to connect with international stage managers in a way I haven’t found on other platforms. And now that the industry is slowly returning to normal, I know they have found comfort in seeing shows being performed in Australia.

      I wouldn’t have started this degree or even considered TikTok if I didn’t become unemployed
      last year. Glad to have a silver lining from this whole pandemic experience and it sounds like you did too.



  4. Hi Mads,

    I really enjoyed your paper! Ratatouille: The Musical was the best thing to happen in 2020! I was someone who watched it come to life on TikTok! I think this is such a great example of online communities being created in COVID-19.

    A question I have for you is do you believe this musical could have happened on other platforms?

    1. Sorry I accidentally clicked post before I was done! What I was going to say is that you mentioned TikTok has adopted similar affordances of Instagram. Do you think Ratatouille or Bridgerton: The Musical would have occurred on Instagram or Youtube?

      Thank you,


      1. Hi Ruby,

        Thanks so much for reading my paper and I am glad you enjoyed it!

        I really believe that the creation of Ratatouille: The Musical was only possible because of the duet feature on TikTok. When Emily Jacobsen (@e_jaccs) posted her original TikTok in August, her aim was simply to amuse her friends with her ode to the Disney rat (Reinstein, 2020). In October 2020, TikTok celebrity Brittany Broski (@brittany_broski) created a duet of herself dancing with the Ratatouille characters and included the sound clip from Jacobson’s original post (Buzzfeed Video, 2020). As the TikTok platform allows users to search by audio, Broski’s six million followers found their way to Jacobson’s post and flooded it with likes and comments.

        Abidin (2020) suggests that “the platform logics of TikTok force internet celebrity to actively seek out, learn, participate in, and engage in these what is ‘going viral’ at the moment in order to remain visible to others on the app” (pp. 79-80). As this audio clip had been shared by a prominent TikTok user, it was now more visible to other users (Buzzfeed Video, 2020). Daniel Mertzluftt (@danieljmertzlufft), a composer from New York, was tagged in a comment on the video and decided to create his own version, with the addition of an orchestral arrangement (Reinstein, 2020). In Jacobson’s opinion “it was in that moment that the Ratatouille musical moment was born” (Buzzfeed Video, 2020, 2:22).

        Five months later this viral sensation resulted in a digital streamed Broadway production entitled Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical, that raised over 2 million dollars for the Actor’s Fund (Seymour, 2021). This production was created and made possible through the affordances of the TikTok platform and the way they allow users to communicate and collaborate. I don’t believe that the same type of creation would have been possible through Instagram or YouTube.




        Abidin, C. (2020). Mapping Internet Celebrity on TikTok: Exploring Attention Economies and Visibility Labours. Cultural Science Journal, 12(1), 77–103.

        Buzzfeed Video (2020, December 7). We Started the TikTok Ratatouille Musical [Video]. YouTube.

        Reinstein, J. (2021, January 2). How “Ratatouille” Went from TikTok to An (Almost) Broadway Musical. Buzzfeed News.

        1. Hi Mads!

          Thank you for taking the time to reply. Your answer was very insightful and I agree, it could not have been done through any other platform.


  5. Hi Maddison,

    Thanks for sharing your paper. I really enjoyed reading it.
    Online communities have certainly accelerated during the COVID-19 lockdowns. The theatre industry has replaced staging and lights with digital affordances to create and develop content, reinforcing how physical space plays less of a factor than ever before in building community.

    While reading your paper, I would add that this theatre community utilises TikTok as a third place. It ticks all of Oldenburg’s characteristics of a third place that provoke community building. I would also argue that TikTok allows creators to create collective conversations through the content they create and the communication feature that the platforms afford.

    Thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed your article.

    1. Hi Joseph,

      Thank you for your thoughts on my paper.

      Would you mind sharing any links that you might have about Oldenburg’s characteristics of the third place? I would love to research more about the how the theatre community is using TikTok as a third place as this could be useful for any future research I do in this space.

      Also, I agree with your comment on collective conversations within this community. There are so many examples of content creators stitch/duetting content created by others within the community. One of my first experiences entering this community was a stage management TikTok chain.



      1. Hi Mads,

        I found the research around third place really interesting. Oldenburg identifies eight characteristics of third places that influence and stimulate community development: : (1) neutral ground, (2) leveler, (3) conversation, (4) accessibility and accommodation, (5) regulars, (6) low profile, (7) playful mood, and (8) home away from home).

        Here are some articles that you might find helpful in your future studies.


        Markoç, İ. (2019). Twitter in the context of Oldenburg’s Third Place Theory. IBAD Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, Special Issue, 79–89.

        McArthur, J., & White, A. (2016). Twitter Chats as Third Places: Conceptualizing a Digital Gathering Site. Social Media + Society, 2.

        1. Hi Joseph,

          Thank you for providing these resources.

          From what you have shown me, I agree that “this theatre community utilises TikTok as a third place”. I look forward to reading more about Oldenburg’s theories.



  6. Hi Madison!
    I really enjoyed reading your paper. I wasn’t very familiar with the communities formed on TikTok as this social platform is not very appealing to me but I’ve learnt quite a bit from your paper.
    I do know what COVID-19 has increased TikTok’s users and awareness as it really started to kick off even more after COVID-19 as it provided people with a sense of entertainment and allowed people to connect on another platform with each other.
    The theatre kids/community has definitely brought entertainment into the lives of other people using this time and I can totally see why.

    1. Hi Saranya,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed my paper and I was able to introduce you to a platform you maybe didn’t know as much about.

      I think that is one of the things I enjoy about social media, not only are the videos / posts able to be enjoyed by the community members but also by the wider community at large. I posted a video for a previous unit to my TikTok of me calling a show as a stage manager and I was interested to see how many people responded to it, both in and out of the community.

      You can find the video here if you are interested –

      Thanks again,


  7. Hi Mads,

    I was very intrigued by your paper, it has actually made me consider finding my own niche communities via TikTok. Though I do not use TikTok, I have discovered the affordances you mention through the Instagram explore page; I find a lot of Reels with the TikTok watermark. I recently saw a Bookstagrammers Reel that reminded me of the TikToks stitching/duet features (here: The users chose to collaborate together to create the Reel, however, I think TikToks unique features are more inclusive as anyone in the community can add to someone’s content.

    TikTok has certainly popularised this particular format and perhaps Instagram is not far away from implementing many of its features (as we are already seeing with Instagrams feature, Reels, arguably a poor imitation of TikTok).


    Tiffany, (Princesschapters). 2020. “Sharing Our Favourite Books”. Instagram Video, November 6, 2020.

    1. Hi Cody,

      Thank you for reading my paper and taking the time to comment!

      Indeed the prevailing theory is that Instagram copied TikTok with its Reels feature, in a similar way that it copied Snapchat with its Stories feature. As Leaver et al. (2020) suggest “if the recently-released Reels isn’t a TikTok clone, we’re not sure what else it could be (para 7). However, while Stories appears to be a successful adaptation for the Instagram platform, I would agree that Reels is an inferior version of TikTok or as Lorenz (2020) suggests “TikTok is better in a million ways” (para 21).

      I have never really used the Reels feature on Instagram and similarly to you, most of what I have seen uploaded using this feature are exisiting TikTok videos. I found the below article from Chen & Lorenz (2020) and it’s interesting to see the authors compare the two. It would appear that TikTok is a much better platform for editing but also for discovery of videos and other users, which is why I believe my theatre communities have flourished in this space.

      After reading my paper, would you consider joining the platform and the book communities that exist there?




      Chen, B. X., & Lorenz, T. (2020, August 12). We Tested Instagram Reels, the TIKTOK Clone. What a Dud. New York Times.

      Leaver, T., Abidin, C., & Highfield, T. (2021, April 10). Happy Birthday Instagram! 5 ways doing it for The ‘gram has changed us. The Conversation.

      1. Thank you for your reply. I have read the article from Chen & Lorenz (2020), I would also have to agree that Instagram is trying to do it all and this can be the reason it hasn’t been able to successfully copy TikTok. I found some more recent articles that compare the platforms, and there have been some subtle updates on Instagram since. This article from Hutchinson (2021) includes an infographic, what surprised me was the “Views vs Community” section, based on their study they found Instagram Reels users are not as engaged with the content as the focus is more on ‘views’, whereas TikTok numbers show more engagement through comments and likes.

        Yes, I have considered joining the book communities on TikTok (and other communities such as LGBTQ+ and Vegan lifestyle communities), however, I am afraid of being too addicted to it; as it sounds more engaging than Reels (which I already scroll – on the excessive side) I might give it a miss for now.

        Hutchinson, A. (2021). TikTok vs Instagram Reels (Infographic). Social Media Today.

        1. Hi Cody,

          Thanks for replying to my comment and including this useful infographic. I always find things easier to understand when they are in picture form. So interesting to see how community works quite differently on TikTok.

          I have found myself wasting hours scrolling TikTok so I understand the apprehension of joining the platform. But I’m glad I was able to show that the community is there if you ever do feel in minded.



  8. Hey Mads, that was a really interesting read, thank you! I don’t know much about TikTok, so I’m always interested to find out more.

    You mention the numbers of views that some of the hashtags have accumulated ( 3.6 billion is mind-boggling!). I’m curious to know what kind of data can you access from the platform? Would it be possible to map the evolution of the hashtags or communities you’ve mentioned? I think it would be fascinating to see how these communities change as the prevalence and influence of COVID changes around the world.

    Do you know if similar stage manager/theatre groups have sprung up on other platforms, or has TikTok been the main space for these communities to meet?

    Thanks again for such an interesting read!

    1. Hi Anna,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my paper.

      One affordance of the TikTok platform is it is primarily designed for mobile usage through the app itself. The web browser version that you can access is quite limited in its features, in a similar way to the web version of Instagram. In both the mobile and web versions of TikTok, it appears you are only able to track hashtags by their total number of views. I did a quick search to see if I could track hashtags on the platform using an external site, however there did not seem to be as much support as there is for platforms such as Instagram and Twitter.

      Another interesting factor about TikTok is that video descriptions are limited to 150 characters which includes @mentions & hashtags. When you create a duet video with another user there is a written description that is automatically included with the post – “#duet with @username”. Depending on the length of the username of the individual you are creating the duet with, this can take a large chunk of your description. Additionally, many of the hashtags related to this community are quite long, such as #stagemanagersoftiktok (22 characters).

      After a quick look through some of the videos of prominent creators in this community, it is clear that these hashtags are not used on every post. For example, some users will always use the #theatrekid tag but only sometimes use the #stagemanager tag. I believe it is possible to find other users in the community by searching these tags, however I don’t believe analytics of the tags themselves would be enough to get a sense of the engagement in the community.

      In regards to your question about other platforms, the only other platform that has a large community that I am aware of is Facebook. In my response to Maddison below I commented that:

      “There is a Facebook group but it is mostly used for advertising jobs and has been very quiet during the pandemic. I do believe that Covid and the adoption of TikTok by many in the stage management community has created a global community that did not exist before the pandemic.”

      I was interested to see that in the upcoming Broadway Stage Managers Symposium, an annual “professional development and networking conference featuring Broadways stage managers and professionals” (, one of the panels this year is “TIK-TOK & STAGE MANAGEMENT w/ Cherie B. Tay, Cody Renard Richard, Michelle Scalpone”. These stage managers are all prominent members of the stage management community on TikTok and I was intrigued to see that this community is being recognised by the more mainstream stage management industry.

      Other than hashtag analytics, do you have a suggestion for another way to track the growth of the community during and post-COVID?



  9. Such a fascinating paper! I’m interested in some of the economic forces around this. With many people using TikTok while out of work, are there efforts to monetise TikTok content? I know you’ve mentioned using the Ratatouille musical to raise money for the Actor’s Fund, but are there other ways people are using TikTok to make up for lost incomes?

    1. Hi sky,

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my paper!

      From what I have seen of individuals in this TikTok community there has been an attempt to earn money, but not specifically through the content itself. There appears to be three main ways that people are earning money from their work on the platform:

      – Selling Merchandise – some creators are advertising and selling merchandise they have made through their TikTok platforms such as:
      @yearofthesm –
      @halfhourcall –

      – Promoting other skills – some creators are using their platforms to promote their voice over or writing work such as:
      @scalponesm who wrote a children’s book which is for sale on Amazon –
      @cherieb.tay who also works as a voiceover artist –

      – Mainstream recognition – some creators have been offered record deals or representation from their content and popularity on the site such as:
      @jjniemann –
      @emilythebear –

      Most of the creators don’t appear to have a large enough following to be able to monetise just based off of their content from what I can tell.



  10. Hi Madison,
    Thanks for sharing this great paper. I really enjoyed reading about these examples of creative use of the platform by #theatrekids! I think you’ve done an admirable job here to explaining the platform features that play into both its popularity and this specific use by theatre and arts communities over lockdowns. Nice work! 🙂

    1. Hi Amy,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my paper!

      The theatre and stage management communities that have formed on the TikTok platform have certainly brought me some joy during the pandemic. I will be interested to see how they grow and/or change as the world and industry starts to slowly reopen.



  11. I think you have done an excellent job in dealing with the subject matter.
    This article has also been a succinct explanation of a social media platform that I was very ignorant of.
    I now feel educated to the point that I can not only partake but utilise this hitherto unknown community.

    1. Thank you for your feedback! I’m glad I was able to introduce you to a new platform.

  12. Hi Mads,

    This was a really interesting paper to read! The stitch and duet features of TikTok certainly give the platform a unique edge, and can foster some delightful pieces of media – like Ratatouille the musical (i’m a fan of Sea Shanty TikTok myself).

    The point about covid and the popularity of TikTok is interesting, and I do wonder if the communities would have flourished without lockdowns occurring globally. Lockdowns would certainly be a lot harder without the internet.

    I think a lot of the time media dismiss TikTok as a Gen Z thing, but your paper shows it has a greater potential.


    1. Hi Kristen,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my paper and I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed it.

      I had to go and research Sea Shanty TikTok. I found this video from Buzzfeed which gives a good summary for others that might be interested – I love the participatory and remix culture that surrounds and is encouraged on the TikTok platform.

      In a their study of athlete’s use of TikTok for self-brand promotion during COVID-19, Su et al. (2020) argue that “the humorous and casual nature of TikTok videos represent a source of comfort and a time killer while self-isolating and social distancing during the pandemic” (p. 438). I have to agree with their statement, the short form videos on the TikTok platform certainly appealed to me during lockdown as I lost the ability for sustained focus when cooped up inside for lengthy periods.

      I also believe that these communities have had time to flourish during the pandemic because people actually had / have time to create content. When I am employed as a stage manager, I will typically worked between a 50-70 hour week which leaves little time or brain capacity for anything else. Stage Managers are also typically very career driven boarding on workaholics. TikTok has give these individuals sometime to focus their time and energy on.

      Have you turned to any online communities for support during Covid?




      Su, Y., Baker, B. J., Doyle, J. P., & Yan, M. (2020). Fan Engagement in 15 Seconds: Athletes’ Relationship Marketing During a Pandemic via TikTok. International Journal of Sport Communication, 13(3), 436–446.

      1. Hi Mads,

        I’m in the creative arts so had a similar issue with my industry being affected during the lockdown. I actually ended up starting a #quarantineartclub for my followers on Instagram, and every day gave a new prompt in my stories. It became a way to keep connected, strive off boredom and use creativity stifled by lockdowns. People would send me prompt suggestions and tag me in their own responses (drawings/paintings/sculptures/photos) and it ran for 60 days straight! Would never have had the time or energy if we weren’t in lockdown, much like discussed in the paper by Su et al.

        I just had a look at #stagemanager TikTok – it’s great! The remixability TikTok enables really does foster some creative, clever and funny content. I was initially surprised at the popularity (at first it seems a very niche hashtag), but the videos I watched were all entertaining, and gave me flashbacks to my own time as a #theatrekid.


        1. Hi Kristen,

          Do you think that people are drawn to the content because so little is understood about what goes on behind the curtin?

          Or, do you think that it’s mostly fellow #theatrekids being drawn to a life they currently can’t enjoy?



          1. Hi Mads,

            Hard to say! The arts are so ubiquitous in modern culture that I think most people have some curiosity in ‘behind the scenes’ content. Even if you can’t get to the theatre, things like Team Starkid’s musicals have a cult following on Youtube, not to mention Hamilton on Disney+.

            Having said all that, #theatrekids are a legion, and even if they don’t pursue the arts post-schooling would still be familiar and easily engage with the content.


  13. Hi Mads!

    I really enjoyed reading this – TikTok’s interface sends my millennial brain into a bit of a tailspin, but it’s been interesting to see how very niche communities are finding each other on TikTok. Just the other day I somehow wound up in a corner of TikTok for dental hygienists and was amazed to see how much sharing was going on.

    Given your own experience, did you find the stage manager community to be particularly strong online before COVID, or do you think it happened/was expedited by the shutdowns?

    I think it’s interesting to look at how communities seem to select their chosen platforms too – the paper I wrote was about fandom on Twitter, and while I see a bit of music fandom on TikTok, it’s definitely nothing like the community on Twitter. I wonder if the inverse is true for the stage management community, or what it was about TikTok that drew the community, as opposed to other platforms?

    1. Hi Maddison,

      Lovely to see you again and thank you for reading my paper!

      In my personal experience, the stage management community has always been relatively insular mostly based on personal relationships. For example, I have many stage manager friends who I went to university with or have worked with throughout the years. Through these associations, I am connected to other stage managers within their networks. In Australia, the industry is relatively small with most of us having a first, second or third hand connection to each other. There is a Facebook group but it is mostly used for advertising jobs and has been very quiet during the pandemic. I do believe that Covid and the adoption of TikTok by many in the stage management community has created a global community that did not exist before the pandemic.

      For a previous unit, I created an online presence for myself as a stage manager on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok with the aim of following 50 relevant profiles on each platform. I found it very difficult to find stage managers to follow on Twitter, perhaps this is because the platform is used less by the arts community? On Instagram I was able to find many stage managers to follow, however many of them were already part of my personal network and their only engagement with my content was through ‘likes’ on my posts. With TikTok, I was able to find other stage managers from the global community through searching the #stagemanager and #stagemanagersoftiktok. I was also able to interact with the community directly by creating a video in an exisiting video chain. I feel this immediately helped to position me as part of the community and I was able to engage directly with other community members.

      Why do you think your music fandoms were drawn to Twitter?



      1. It’s an interesting question – when I think of fandom over the years, I’ve followed fandoms from platform to platform. There was LiveJournal and then for a lot of years there was Tumblr, and now Twitter seems to be the home of most fandom.

        I think fandom is really tied up in multimedia – whether it’s fan writing, fan art, or just community discussion, the kind of creations can be wide and varied (and fandom dependent too!). Once Tumblr’s rules changed to essentially exclude a lot of fandom creations, Twitter became the most sensible next place to house all of these functions.

        I do think what you said about the community being quite insular pre-COVID is really interesting. My background is in non-profit comms, and in Sydney that is definitely a pretty small community and everyone kind of knows everyone. I was part of a Sydney Non-Profit Young Professionals Facebook Group, and we always knew what jobs were being posted and what was happening.

        But like you said, COVID kind of changed everything – a lot of traditional fundraising methods weren’t working in a time when people were so isolated and stressed. In non-profit, I found that the communities that existed kind of splintered and instead of localizing to a platform like TikTok, they gravitated towards specific authorities for advice. My theory is that fundamentally there is only so many donation dollars that charities will get, and those are even more limited during a pandemic, so the environment became more competitive, rather than drawing together.

        1. Early on in my Masters, I did a lot of research on television fandoms and found that Twitter did tend to be the platform of choice. I was particularly interested in ‘Save Our Show’ campaigns and the level of advocacy these communities now have with the introduction of social media platforms. I’m heading over to read your paper now!

          Speaking of competitive environments causing disruption in community, I have to admit this is my concern for the post COVID world. In Australia, there hasn’t been a huge amount of competition for work as it generally about who is available at the time. One show will finish and off those stage managers will move onto the newest production as most others will still be finishing contracts on other shows. Now that everyone has become unemployed, I worry that the sense of community that has been built on platforms such as TikTok will be eroded as people become competitive for available positions, especially in places like Broadway and the West End where so many are unemployed.

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