Producers hoping plays can market themselves

NEW YORK — When is a blog more than a blog? How about when it’s a piece of theater?

Several Off Broadway projects are trying to capture the nuclear energy of the blogosphere by making online writing an integral part of live performance. Producers hope to create fresh artistic product that, thanks to the viral power of the Web, markets itself.

“The Fabulous Life of a Size Zero,” Marissa Kamin’s surreal drama about a young girl who imagines her life as everything from a reality show to a play, opens June 17 at the DR2 and already has proven itself to be techno-literate. Several characters are obsessed with celebrity gossip, and pop-culture blog Jossip.com will supply a regular stream of tidbits that will be incorporated into the script. Pictures for each juicy item — also provided by Jossip — will be projected onstage.

Meanwhile, the lead character — played by “My Girl” alum Anna Chlumsky — will spend several scenes reading from her fictional blog. But her entries won’t be written by Kamin: They will be transcripts of actual blogs by young women on sites like Live Journal and MySpace. Producers are also running a contest for budding female bloggers: The girls submit their favorite entries, and the winner gets her piece included in the show. (Quoted bloggers will be acknowledged in the program.)

While these touches enhance the authenticity of a play about current youth culture, they also conveniently provide free advertising. Unsurprisingly, for instance, Jossip.com will promote “Size Zero,” instantly letting the show reach a nationwide readership.

Some might dismiss this type of blog-legit synergy as a gimmick, but producer Isaac Robert Hurwitz argues it’s an organic evolution for shows dealing with cyberspace.

“Most established institutions — like commercial theater and TV — are saying, ‘We have a product, and now we have this new thing that we can use to sell the old product,’ ” Hurwitz says. “With ‘Size Zero,’ the story we’re telling already exists in the world of the Web. There can be a much more natural and expansive melding of product and marketing.”

Another show aiming for this natural blend is “My First Time,” a “Vagina Monologues”-style play bowing July 12 at New World Stages. Writer-director Ken Davenport had based his script on the Web site MyFirstTime.com, where anonymous users write stories about their, ahem, maiden voyages.

If either of these Web-inspired shows attracts an audience, it could inspire a mini-genre. Hurwitz notes, “If we can find the economy to support this niche programming, then we already have the tools at our disposal to keep it going.”

Another element of that niche is the growing circle of bloggers who write about the theater. In New York, that group includes everyone from established journalists (“The Clyde Fitch Report” is run by Back Stage editor Leonard Jacobs) to industry pros (an anonymous casting director writes “Moxie the Maven”). On June 3, 14 of them were invited to participate in a piece dubbed “The Impending Theatrical Blogging Event.”

Held at Brooklyn’s Brick Theater, the meta-show asked bloggers to come to the Brick, sit among regular audience members and blog about it. Their posts were then projected onto an onstage screen. Appropriately, the event helped launch the theater’s tongue-in-cheek Pretentious Festival, which runs through July 1.

The blogging event provided instant marketing for the fest — participants had an obvious reason to plug the Brick on their Web sites — and it highlighted theater bloggers as a growing resource to help spread the word about shows.

“I think of them as expanding theater coverage beyond established newspapers,” Brick a.d. Michael Gardner says. “They’re becoming their own media outlet.”

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