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Texting at the Theater

May 21, 2009

Here is a blog post from the Los Angeles Times by David Ng reporting on some interesting uses of texting at a show. Are they going too far or just really getting the audience involved?


Los Angeles Times

Please turn ON your cellphone? Only at a Neil LaBute play

3:05 PM, April 29, 2009


Poor Neil LaBute. His latest play, “Reasons to be Pretty,” has been struggling to find an audience on Broadway, playing to 30% capacity last week despite strong reviews from the critics and a slew of theater award nominations.

Desperate times call for desperate text messages. In a bid to attract a younger audience — well, any audience maybe — promoters of the show have introduced a texting game in which audience members are invited to rate their own attractiveness as well as the attractiveness of those seated next to them on a scale of Carrot Top to Angelina Jolie.

The results are then texted back to your phone during intermission. You can also check out the results from past performances on the show’s official website.

Could this be the first time that a Broadway theater has actually encouraged text messaging? We’re so well trained by those “voice-of-God-turn-off-your-cellphone-or-else” announcements as the house lights go down that we are thinking about dumping the cellphone entirely.

The marketing gimmick is intended to thematically echo LaBute’s play, the final installment in his trilogy of plays (“The Shape of Things” and “Fat Pig” are the others) about society’s obsession with physical beauty. “Reasons to be Pretty, starring Marin Ireland, Thomas Sadoski, Piper Perabo and Steven Pasquale, follows the repercussions when one man refers to his girlfriend’s face as “regular” during a conversation with a friend — and that gets back to her.

“Reasons to be Pretty” played off-Broadway at the MCC Theater’s Lucille Lortel Theatre in 2008. The Broadway run opened April 2 at the Lyceum Theatre.

— David Ng

Photo: Thomas Sadoski and Piper Perabo in a scene from Neil LaBute’s “Reasons to be Pretty.” Credit: Robert J. Saferstein

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