Promotion and publicity is a tough game in the world of performing arts. It's a heady maze to stay ahead of the game, site specific work and quirky devised formats seem to hold the heads of traditional writing firmly under the water, so enamoured are they with the general arts bonhomie. In a world where the stunt is the thing, independent new writing has a complex dilemma in how to generate interest whilst remaining integral and relevant to the piece.
Seeing as the show begins from the pages of the personal ads, I decided it'd be a good idea to revisit my initial research for WLTM = (Bait&Switch), delving deep into the personals once again. During my initial research, I purged through many personals both in newspapers and online. I placed a few bogus ads and watched as a few tentative replies came in. I didn't pursue after the initial contact, as I wanted to build the narrative from that initial, tentative uncertainty. The hallmarks of first dates; the skittish awkwardness and nervousness, but also how much people gave about themselves as an introduction. I would love to write in more detail about how much these responses inspired many elements of the show, but the truth is this original draft was very different from the play as it is now. That original draft bears little resemblance to the finished article; it was a four person monologue show which in the end became so mouthy and, dare I say it, boring that I had to change tact. Looking back, I think I over-reached myself somewhat, the play was shoehorned with characters with a little less grace than Spiderman 3. The whole narrative was in drastic need of focusing, so I took on the key elements of the story which I wanted to remain, trimmed the cast to two and so began the show as it is now.
The personal ads in the show are from the newspaper, as opposed to the internet. Maybe it's some kind of snobbishness, but I felt it was deeply necessary to make that distinction clear in the narrative. Of course nowadays the internet is clearly the preferred medium, but it was important to contextualise it for the newspaper personals; the reason being was initially that I didn't want to make it too 'faddish' but moreso that I didn't want it to be too familiar to people. Social networking and internet dating have adapted into a highly accessible medium. The art of online seduction is too easy. I wanted the characters to be immersed in a sub-culture. The personal ads, antiquated but still going strong, seemed ideal. In meeting they could be discreet, but the format and the process in getting there required a full commitment.
I could expand further, but I think that will do for tonight. They're in the newspaper because the internet seemed effortless and easy. And with less than two weeks to go, frantically racking my brains with Ru for a promotional solution, this was effortless and easy (click for larger)
I placed another ad! Pretty plain, I thought... mildly intriguing but little more. Now my next hope was to see what tentative responses I might get. Well, there's a reason for the delay in posting this blog, and for blanking out that text number too. The responses weren't tentative at all. They were immense, and unrelenting.
Almost sixty emails, and the text phone has simply not stopped ringing or going off. I think the texts must be approaching seventy, so far. Clearly this was unprecedented... but all these people? It seems too good to waste. Some of the effort they've gone to has really impressed me. It's only fair that I reward that intrigue. Question is, can I get any of them to go on an actual, real life date?
Better still, can I get them to come on a date to the Oxford Arms in Camden on opening night just before curtain up?... Find out more in part two...