The Playgoer: Reasons to be Nauseous

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Reasons to be Nauseous

What do you do when your show is averaging only 29.6% capacity?

Launch a pathetic and offensive gimicky promotional campaign!

Here's a press release making the email-rounds for Reasons to be Pretty

BROADWAY’S “ r e a s o n s t o b e p r e t t y ”




New York, NY – Audiences at Neil LaBute’s smash hit, reasons to be pretty, now have an unprecedented way to interact with the best new Broadway play of the season. Running counter to conventional wisdom, audiences are encouraged to turn ON their cell phones prior to the performance to participate in a social experiment by texting ‘pretty’ to a special phone number.

They are then given the opportunity to rate themselves - and the person sitting next to them - on a scale of 1 to 10 (from Carrot Top to Angelina Jolie). Results from that performance’s participants are texted back at intermission and are posted online.

Check to find how last night’s audience rated themselves…and each other.
Which of the following "reasons" best explains why this is wrong:

A) A play purportedly cautioning against judging superficial appearance is encouraging audiences to...indulge in judging superficial appearance.

B) The belief that texting is so popular with "the kids" that they'll pay Broadway ticket prices to sit in a stuffy Broadway theatre to do so. Because it's just so much cooler that way.

C) That they've resorted to insulting Carrot Top.

D) That they're taunting us to wonder how the ratings might skew were the playwright himself in the audience that night.

E) That they're calling a play drawing 29.6% average capacity--even with such masterful marketing--a "smash hit."

F) That the gimmick of inviting audiences to text is unfortunately not "unprecedented."


G) They're talking about freakin' TEXTING in the THEATRE!

Personally, my choice would be that the usefulness of such a "social experiment" and the data it produces make no sense! 27% one night rated themselves better than those sitting around them? And I thought Neil LaBute plays were full of worthless information.


Anonymous said...

Have you ever really looked at Carrot Top's chiseled features? With a better haircut, he could steal Angelina away. Quite unfair of them.

Anonymous said...

I think the type of person who would subject him/herself to a LaBute play might actually enjoy this. Maybe it's all much more profound than it seems.....

Okay, maybe not.

Shari said...

Just last night I was talking to a friend who enjoyed Reasons to be Pretty and I was considering going. The idea of my neighbors rating my attractiveness is a deterrent, for sure. The very idea makes me uncomfortable.

Playgoer said...

How true, Shari. Who the hell wants to pay be stared at and judged like that.

Another thing that amuses me about it all is to imagine what it's like "rating" the people around you when 2 out of every 3 seats are empty. Do the marketers really want to remind the audience of that?

Malachy Walsh said...

Is that really the story here?

Or just a distraction from, what to me, seems more important to note: the failure of a straight play to attract larger audiences despite good reviews in the traditional media?

To me, that's more worthy of conversation than a marketing gimmick concocted to get people into the theatre.

(Reading some of the responses to the Times review, I get the impression that most of those who don't like the show, or didn't have the stomach to stay past intermission, felt the play wasn't positive enough - claims of enjoying "In the Company of Men" notwithstanding. Ultimately, I find the protests a bit hollow. And similar to those I read in theatre history classes when SAVED opened in London nearly half a century ago. Not that this is SAVED, but my guess is that play wouldn't do well on Broadway either.)

Playgoer said...

BTW, producer Jeffrey Richards refers to this as a "guerrilla marketing campaign."

Watch out for those texting guerillas!