Monday, June 18, 2007

Spring Awakening Calling

Spring Awakening Calling

I give up.

I've tried my best here and here to call attention to the lack of courtesy shown by certain audience members in observing appropriate theatre etiquette only to be outdone by Spring Awakening's consumer marketing to its own audience members via cell phone text messaging.

Seems they have a contest that requires audience members to text message their vital information prior to the close of intermission with winners being notified immediately after the show. My guess is that many of those participating will fail to turn off their cell phones during the pivotal second act.

As evidenced by this morning's Andrew Adam Newman story in The New York Times, producers appear to be throwing in the towel by encouraging use of text messaging for their own bottom line. Jujamcyn vice president Jordan Roth is quoted as saying, "Most producers now are really looking for new ways to communicate with our audience....[O]ur goal is to expand what we’re doing to many shows...Will it interfere with the show? Yeah, that is one of the things that is open for discussion."

OK, Mr. Roth. If you're open to discussion, please note I don't want to hear anyone's cell phone going off just so you can market to them, regardless of whether it's for your show or not. The only way I want a show to communicate with me during a show is to let the performance speak for itself.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
Rat Patrol: Coming To A Theatre Near You? (May 30, 2007)
Theatre Etiquette, Part Two (May 1, 2007)
Theatre Etiquette, Part One (November 30, 2007)

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At 18 June, 2007, Anonymous Esther said...

I want to assure you that I will not be taking part in this "promotion" when I see Spring Awakening next month. I don't even know HOW to text message! But even if I did, it just seems so gimmicky. And Spring Awakening, especially after the box office bounce it got from the Tony awards, hardly needs that kind of help. I'm looking forward to seeing a terrific group of young actors and listening to a great rock 'n' roll score. Besides having the potential of being rude to the audience, it also seems pretty rude to the people up on stage!

At 18 June, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Well, I do know how to text message and regardless of whether you set your cell phone on "vibrate" (which my ears can still hear) or take a quick peak at the phone's display (which illuminates anything in its path), it still counts as a disturbance. And you're right, Esther...why should we do anything to detract from the performers?

At 19 June, 2007, Blogger jordan said...

I completely agree. I don’t want to hear anyone’s cell phone going off during the performance either. Nor do I want it to vibrate or even light up. What I do want is to create new ways for audiences to engage with a show beyond the performance.

The goal of Broadway Phone is to enhance the experience for those who want to participate, while not compromising the experience for those who don’t. As with any new technology, getting it right is taking a lot of creative thinking, exploration, and trial and error.

The in-theatre piece is particularly tricky, as you point out. I’m happy to say that we have now been able to consistently deliver the response text message between the start of the curtain call and walk-out, so any phone sound is covered by the applause or happens as people are leaving the theatre. It’s still a work-in-a-progress, but it’s starting to really work.

Everyone may not want to participate, but for the many who do, it’s been a unique way to connect to a show they care about. And for those who have won the contest and come backstage, it’s been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you’d like to come observe the process, let me know.

-Jordan Roth

At 19 June, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...


Props to you for writing and further illuminating us on your practice.

As I hope I made clear, my concern is not that your calls will interrupt the show -- I actually trust you to be prudent.

My fear is that by encouraging audience members to text message while in the theatre (albeit during intermission ) that some will inevitably fail to turn off their phones during the second act and find themselves receiving unintended incoming calls from elsewhere.

And last I heard, isn't it still technically against New York City law to have a cell phone on inside a theatre, period?

Thanks again for commenting!


At 20 June, 2007, Anonymous Esther said...

Well, I can certainly understand wanting to give the fans of Spring Awakening a memorable experience. I understand wanting to take advantage of the latest technology. But why does it have to involve cell phones and text messaging during intermission? Why not make an announcement 10 minutes before the show begins asking people to text their information, then make the usual announcement asking people to turn off their cell phones. You could still notify the winners after the show.

At 27 June, 2007, Anonymous K said...

I'm really torn on this whole idea. On one hand, I think it's great that they are trying to engage audience members by using technology- clearly Spring Awakening is doing lots to appeal to a tech savvy audience- offering a special promotional code to facebook/myspace users, they even had the cast members texting/blogging updates throughout a portion of the Tonys.
On the other hand, I would be so furious if I heard people's cells ringing during a show. I think Steve's fear is legit, it could be a huge distraction to an amazing show. However, it sounds like the people in charge are aware of the concern and are working to make this a positive experience without interrupting the performance.

At 27 June, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks for your comments, K! I think we're in agreement on using technology to reach out to new audiences. The fact that Spring Awakening is out there on MySpace with 8909 friends and counting says something positive about their efforts (I'm among those friends, BTW).

And as I said before, I trust the marketers not to interrupt the show, but worry that if an audience member keeps his/her cell phone on during the second half of the show in anticipation of winning the chance to go backstage, inevitably, someone will call that person and spoil the performance for the audience.

At 27 June, 2007, Anonymous K said...

Yep- I think the technology piece is great in the sense of reaching a new Broadway audience- I'm just unsure about actually bringing the tech aspect IN to the theater....(for the reason you mentioned of people not turning their phones off again and interrupting the show) It'll be interesting to see how/if this marketing plan impacts other shows in upcoming years...

At 27 June, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Time will tell since Jujamcyn is on record as looking toward expansion of this program to other shows.


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