In L.A., a new play's ads are rejected for inappropriate sexual content, 3/29/11

[Last night] at the Geffen Playhouse, the world premiere of The Escort by Emmy-winning playwright Jane Anderson [started] previews. If you haven't heard much about it, there could be a reason. The theater's ads have been refused, kicked over into the online ghetto of adults-only advertising, or forced to be toned-down and run without the name of the play. Google banner ads featuring the naked blow up dolls seen here were rejected, as were ads without the faux nudity and showing just the dolls' faces.  Says a theater staffer, "We also had to change the name of our campaign and be careful of what we say in our other online text ads as pornography and escort services are, understandably, not allowed to be advertised on the sites that theater buyers frequent." The Geffen also received a note from one of its online partners "threatening to close our account if we tried to submit the ads again." Wait, there's more: "Our usual billboard partner rejected the art and, after going through a few rounds of edits, we eventually were forced to run a text-only ad without the title of the play [and] with the copy: 'Nothing is taboo.'  On public radio our spot copy and song bed were initially approved, they ran for a week, and then we were asked to edit it due to its inappropriate sexual content."


In Chicago, a revival of the original 'R-rated' version of Grease sells out its run, 3/30/11

You think you know Grease. An original Broadway production that ran eight years, a major revival that ran nearly four years, a third revival that ran a couple seasons, and a film version that has been viewed by millions. Co-creator Jim Jacobs wants to clue you in: You don't know Grease. At least, not the Grease that he and Warren Casey created in Chicago back in 1971.  Jacobs likened the difference between that original production and the one that bowed in New York in 1972 to the divergent characters of John Gotti and Pee-Wee Herman. "It went from an in-your-face show about delinquents to a colorized gang of lovable people singing rock 'n' roll."  A revival entitled The Original Grease [begins] performances at American Theater Company April 21 [with] "the real nitty-gritty story of the kids I went to school with and the birth of rock 'n' roll." The show was full of blue language... [and the] characters talk the way real teenagers do.  "I're going to have to put in a sign in your box office saying this is R-rated," Jacobs said. "We know people are going to try and bring their kids. And I don't want them leaving saying, 'Oh we're so embarrassed, that was so un-P.C.' Well, I'm sorry -- this is how it was."  Advance sales were steady, and the run through June 26 is already sold out. Whether the show will extend or transfer remains to be seen. Another open question is whether this old/new version will be licensed or recorded.


In D.C., controversy is central to a theater's programming -- and success

Washington City Paper's "Best of D.C. 2011" feature

"I've got 10 things I'm not supposed to tell you but I'm going to tell you a couple," says Ari Roth, Theater J's artistic director, at the top of our interview. He brings up some influential parties that were pissed off by his company's recent staging of the Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv's Return to Haifa, about an encounter between a Palestinian family and an Israeli one in the 1960s. It's a truism that controversy sells, and Roth loves selling it.  At Theater J, the in-house company of the D.C. Jewish Community Center, you'll see lots of plays with controversial subject matter, and, from time to time, plays that generate lots of controversy. It's helped build his company's stature in recent years. "The irony has been that in these recessionary times, in a concession to the realities of the ticket-buying market, we've made some of our more populist, call them safer, choices," he says, referring to productions like this season's The Odd Couple and The Chosen. "At the same time, we've been more publicly identified as the go-to theater for mixing it up, and for serious drama. That is a really great way of being able to have your cake and eat it, too."


Commentary: "Controversy actually sells tickets..."

10/4/08 interview with playwright Tony Kushner, News & Record [Greensboro NC]

"Certainly things have advanced in terms of acceptance of gay and lesbian issues. A play such as Angels in America is not going to cause the controversy that it once caused.   But other issues could cause that controversy ... If an arts organization can't present certain kinds of plays or say certain things in public because the community won't support them or retaliates against them, and as a result the theater decides not to do certain kinds of plays, then I think the theater is giving up its reason for being.  In almost any instance of this, I would say, be brave. Do what you feel you need to do, what you feel needs to be heard. ... Then if the theater gets shut down, you have to deal with that.  But in my experience it rarely means that. Controversy actually sells tickets."


Commentary: ...except when it doesn't

Jane Wells, CNBC correspondent, 3/25/11

We've been told repeatedly that Charlie Sheen's "My Violent Torpedo of Truth" tour sold out in a record 18 minutes on Ticketmaster.  Oh, really? I went on Ticketmaster last night and found I could easily get tickets to opening night at the Fox Theater in Detroit. I found two side-by-side seats on the main floor. When I clicked on the special "Meet and Greet Package", four seats in the front row were available. On Ticketmaster.  In case you're worrying that the entire nation has gone nutty and bought tickets to see what will pass for a performance from what many consider a very troubled man, turns out a lot of tickets were not bought by fans. They were bought by secondary sellers.  A lot.   The theater in Detroit holds 5,049 people, but when I checked Stubhub last night, this site had 1,449 tickets available for the show! Even more surprising (maybe), many tickets are selling for LESS THAN FACE VALUE. I found main floor tickets that cost around $52 on Ticketmaster (plus fees) for $35 on Stubhub.  On, they're even cheaper...$27.  Talk about a violent torpedo of truth. These sellers are bleeding Tiger Blood on their investment. If Charlie Sheen was a futures market, it might be time to short.  Losing!

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