You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Auds of all ages sign on to ‘Really’

Signature play aimed at youth aud earns wider interest

WASHINGTON — It’s tough to get younger crowds into regional theaters. But Signature Theater in Arlington, Va., is having luck with “Really Really,” a new play benefitting from edgy subject matter and a focused marketing campaign that has managed to pull in auds of all ages.

Written by 26-year-old playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo, the seven-character dramedy is a blunt examination of the consequences — both positive and negative — of the self-absorbed mindsets often exhibited by the twentysomething members of “Generation Me.” It is the first of a trilogy of Colaizzo’s works focused on the lifestyle of his contemporaries.

The show, which opened Feb. 12, centers on a group of college students at an unnamed school recuperating the day after a typical beer-binging party. The atmosphere quickly sours when one participant claims she was raped that night. Whether she was or wasn’t is a key question posed by the quirky whodunit.

The unexpected, cross-demographic success of the production could serve as an example to other theaters that might otherwise shy away from plays with a youthful edge for fear of scaring off older audiences. As “Really Really” suggests, such work doesn’t always do so.

While college students are taking advantage of a discount program to account for 15% of overall single ticket sales — an unusually high ratio for the Signature, especially for a world preem in the company’s smaller venue — the theater reports healthy sales to under-30 buyers who aren’t students or couldn’t get in on the limited discount. Overall, the show is selling at 90% to 100% capacity.

The play has earned strong reviews, generating buzz among legiters in Gotham and beyond, with a number of theater types heading to D.C. to check it out for future stagings.

Part of the appeal is the subject matter. Signature a.d. Eric Schaeffer admits he booked “Really Really” with an eye toward younger auds, but he’s since discovered the play’s appeal to older generations, who maybe recall similar situations from their own college days. “As a result, we are able to market it traditionally while also attracting a younger audience that we wouldn’t otherwise reach,” he says. “We sold 150 tickets from a single e-mail blast targeted to people under age 30,” said Schaeffer. “That never happens, unfortunately.”

Young-skewing marketing tactics include $20 tickets for people under 30 available the week of a performance, as well as the theater’s promotional activities on area campuses and social networks. The most satisfying boost, though, comes from word-of-mouth circulated via Facebook and Twitter, Schaeffer adds.

Keeping the creative vibe young, Schaeffer tapped Signature’s 27-year-old associate a.d., Matt Gardiner, to direct the show after Gardiner approached Schaeffer about the script.

The play is first of Colaizzo’s to be produced, although he previously was the associate writer for Broadway’s “Sister Act” and also was behind the Cubby Bernstein Web series that was part of a 2008 Tony campaign for tuner “Xanadu.” An October 2011 Gotham reading of his play “Pride in the Falls of Autrey Mill” was directed by David Schwimmer and produced by Jeffrey Richards (“The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess”).

The success of “Really Really” has been a learning experience for all involved, beginning with unexpected accolades from Signature’s inner circle at a private preview. “People of all ages are gravitating to this,” Gardiner says.

The unexpected, cross-demographic success of the show could serve as notice to other theaters that might otherwise shy away from plays with a youthful edge for fear of scaring off older audiences. As “Really Really” shows, such work doesn’t always do so.

Popular on Variety

More Legit

  • Stephen Sondheim's 'Follies' in the Works

    Stephen Sondheim's 'Follies' in the Works as a Movie From Heyday, BBC Films

    David Heyman’s Heyday Films, whose credits include “Gravity,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Marriage Story” and the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts franchises, and BBC Films have secured the film rights to Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s musical “Follies.” “Follies” will be adapted for the screen and directed by Dominic Cooke, a four-time Olivier [...]

  • Tina Turner The Musical

    How 'Tina: The Tina Turner Musical' Tells the Icon's Traumatic Story

    It wasn’t the response Tali Pelman had hoped to receive. The group creative managing director of Stage Entertainment had traveled to Küsnacht, Switzerland, with one goal in mind: Convince Tina Turner that her life could be the stuff of a successful stage musical. “We walked in the door,” Pelman remembers. “Tina was already there, and she greeted [...]

  • Ben McKenzie

    'Gotham' Star Ben McKenzie to Make Broadway Debut in 'Grand Horizons'

    “Gotham” star Ben McKenzie will make his Broadway debut in Bess Wohl’s “Grand Horizons.” He joins a cast that includes Oscar nominees Jane Alexander (“Kramer vs. Kramer,” “The Great White Hope”) and James Cromwell (“Babe,” “L.A. Confidential”). The show has a strictly limited 10-week run and begins previews on Dec. 23, 2019, before officially opening [...]

  • The Great Society review

    Listen: Brian Cox on 'Succession,' Shakespeare, and the Crisis We're In

    Brian Cox is having a pop-culture moment with “Succession,” the buzzy HBO series in which he stars. But he’s also an accomplished theater actor with plenty of experience doing Shakespeare — and it serves him well in both “Succession” and in his current Broadway show, “The Great Society.” Listen to this week’s podcast below: Cox [...]

  • Scooby Doo Ella Louise Allaire Martin

    Scooby-Doo Live Theater Tour Is Goofy Dane's Latest Adventure

    From its 1969 start as a Saturday morning kids mystery cartoon series “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” starring its titular, talking Great Dane and his four teenaged friends, has made adventure its staple. Once Hanna-Barbera’s successor, Warner Bros. Animation, took the leash, Scooby and company became a comic book, a board game, a series of video [...]

  • Tootsie Santino Fontana

    'Tootsie' Ending Broadway Run in January

    “Tootsie,” the critically acclaimed musical adaptation of the 1982 classic film comedy, will play its final Broadway performance on Jan. 5, 2020. When it wraps up its run, the show will have logged 293 regular and 25 preview performances at the cavernous Marquis Theatre, where it sometimes labored to draw big crowds. Last week, “Tootsie” [...]

  • Laurel Griggs

    Laurel Griggs, Broadway and 'SNL' Actress, Dies at 13

    Laurel Griggs, who starred in Broadway’s “ONCE the Musical” as Ivanka, has died. She was 13. An obituary posted to Dignity Memorial indicates she died on Nov. 5, and Griggs’ grandfather wrote on Facebook that her death was due to a massive asthma attack. Griggs made her Broadway debut when she was six years old [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content