Monthly Archives: June 2011

Kiss My Bootycandy: Tales of a Marketing Strategy Gone Oh-So-Right

When the Marketing Department at Woolly all sat down and started brainstorming how to get exposure for Bootycandy, we may not have known about the butt lollipops in our future, but we did know that we needed to reach out to one community in particular: the gay community. Those of you who’ve seen it, you know what our line of thinking was. It’s a play about labels and identity, and how you combat the labels thrust upon you by society. Plus, many of the characters happen to be gay, so it’s a natural fit. That’s when we became a community partner for Capital Pride. From a marketing standpoint, it made total sense: discounted ad space, reaching out to a group that our show was perfect for, all that jazz. Plus, it was a great way to hand out all those goodies I was telling you about in my last blog.

Last week, Box Office Manager Timmy Metzner and I ran around to prepare for Pride. He would be running the parade troupe, while I would be running our “Kissing Booth” (lovingly crafted by Master Carpenter Joel Garcia) at the Pride Festival the following day. And despite the fact that we were barely ready, it came. Our hour had arrived:

When I got to Woolly early Sunday morning to meet coworkers for the Festival, I had no idea what to expect. I had heard tons of things about Pride and how awesome it was from friends and family, but I had always been out of town or too busy or whatever BS things life throws at you to ever attend myself. Now I can say I have been, and let me tell you, any place that lets you do this

…is okay by me.

In all seriousness, Pride was fantastic. We talked to people about the show, the butt lollipops went like…well, butt lollipops, and the kissing booth was a smashing success.

But the best part of Pride really wasn’t the simple success of a marketing strategy. Throughout this entire campaign, we noticed a difference in the community we were reaching out to: people actively came and spoke to us, offered to support us, wanted to help and do anything for us. Sitting at the booth during Pride, all of that sense of community came in floods. People were curious, came up to us and talked to us. They wished us luck. Many of them had already seen Bootycandy and wanted to share their thoughts, their reactions, things they felt were powerful, things they weren’t sure about. We had more feedback, emotion, and passion in those four and a half hours then I’ve seen throughout the entire run (and this is a show people TALK about, let me tell you).

And so, being a community partner for Capital Pride turned out to be one of the smartest things we have ever done. Not for the discounts or the advertising placement, but for the chance to reach out to the audience and the freedom to converse with them in a way that we could never do simply online; for the free hugs, the sense of support, and of course, the thousands of kinds of love.

~ Katie Boyles, Marketing and Communications Assistant

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Lobby Design and Woolly’s “Total Audience Experience”

If you’ve heard Woolly staff members talking about “Connectivity” recently, you might have asked yourself hm, what’s that? Connectivity is a department of our theatre that bridges the traditionally pretty separate “marketing,” “development,” and “artistic” sides of the theatre, attempting to connect to new audiences, build relationships, create linkages between Woolly and our community, and enrich and enliven the theatergoing experience. Connectivity works cross-departmentally and collaboratively on all these goals… particularly the last one. You may have noticed this year that we experimented with unique lobby designs that match the artistic themes of our productions, such as with the “Apple Orchard” for The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. Recently I spoke with our Connectivity Director Rachel Grossman who gives us some insight into the lobby design for our current production of Bootycandy:

Brooke Miller: How did the idea of lobby designs for our shows come about? How does it fit in with Connectivity programming?

Rachel Grossman: One of the four areas of focus for the Connectivity Department is what we call “total audience experience.” This is, of course, an incredibly collaborative process that all grows from the play we’re working on, the playwright’s intent, the director’s vision for the play in production, and the audiences’ reaction to the play. The Marketing and Communications staff, Literary staff, and Connectivity, in consultation with the design team and Claque members develop a vision for the playbill, lobby, and programming (discussions or special events) that draws audiences into the world of the play and then expands it to overlap venn diagram-like with “the real world.” Connectivity ends up carrying the vision of the lobby forward with heavy collaboration from the Props Department and front of house.

BM: Where did the idea for live & leave your label and the sexual euphemism alphabet come from?

RG: Both ideas were hatched in a brainstorm session we had with the entire Woolly staff after reading the first completed draft of Bootycandy in December 2010. Multiple staff members came up with variations on these ideas, which were then brought forward to the “Bootycandy Working Group” (a committee of staff, board, and Claque members as well as a few general community members interested in the show’s subject matter) who refined the ideas slightly. But the real shaping of both came from a meeting between me, Max Freedman, Connectivity Assistant, and Timmy Metzner, Box Office Manager. Timmy had worked with many different graphic socio-metric tools in college and was instrumental in shaping the final products.

BM: How do the themes of the lobby design tie into the themes present in Bootycandy? What did Robert O’Hara have to say about them?

RG: The lobby was meant to engage audiences right away in acts that ask them to publicly make choices about the language they use to identify or reveal and conceal. Bootycandy explores the dynamics around the language we use to label ourselves and others, particularly in relation to sex, sexuality, and race.  Robert O’Hara was brought into the conversation early in the conception process for both the labels and the alphabet, and strongly supported both. I then connected with him and the cast and crew to brainstorm the actual words we would but on the labels. I would say one-third to one-half of them came from that group. It was hilarious to watch Robert and the design team (let alone the Woolly staff) walk around the theatre during preview week with labels on themselves.

BM: How does the lobby design add to the play-going experience? Have we gotten any feedback from audience members about it?

RG: We are definitely seeing the lobby more as the truly transitional space it is—moving from the “real world” on the street into the world of the play in the theatre. My hope long-term is that part of the excitement of coming to Woolly is linked to how we break expectations for the entire theatre-going experience for every production. The experience of coming to Woolly is just as quirky, unexpected, and, dare I say “convention defying” as our productions are. Maybe this would then change the way theatre-going works in the country? Lofty goal…

We are just starting to get direct feedback via email and some of our surveying about the lobby. One of our first responses over email included: “Kudos… on making a very fun lobby experience! I found the whole labeling process to be interesting because what was being labeled (your self-definition, your identity within the context of the audience, etc.) was left slightly ambiguous. Typically I would not label myself as “gay,” as I don’t feel that’s what defines me. But in the context of the evening, I would say that I had a completely different experience with the show than a straight male and that that was significant. It was a fun activity that has kept me thinking.”

Bootycandy was the first time thus far that the pre-show or lobby experience has been incorporated into reviews (See: BYT). Yeah, I think that’s correct.

BM: Any ideas/thoughts for the future?

RG: In many ways we are in a perpetual state of experimentation at Woolly. Certainly with our plays and productions…. And so logically with everything else. I am looking forward to our audience being excited to attend Woolly because the entire experience, from their first point of contact with us or at least from when they walk through the front doors, is provocative and playful, allowing them to connect with the work and even one another.

~ Brooke Miller, Press and Digital Content Manager

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History of Dirty Words

*Note- this entry uses “adult language,” but we’re pretty sure if you’ve seen Bootycandy, you’re ok with that…

Did you know that our best dirty words began as euphemisms? Seriously – if you look at the etymology of “cunt,” while the origin of the word is debated, it probably evolved from a word meaning “slit” or “sheath” or “to hide.” Same goes for good ol’ “fuck.” The precise root is uncertain, but suggestions range from Middle English fike meaning “to move restlessly” to Swedish fock meaning “penis” to German ficken “to itch or scratch.”

This is kind of counterintuitive, though, because the tendency is for dirty words to actually become LESS offensive over time… as well as less specific. The first instance of a written form of “fuck” is in the 15th century, but it wasn’t added to an English language dictionary until 1966. In fact, the word was outlawed in print in England (by the Obscene Publications Act, 1857) and the U.S. (by the Comstock Act, 1873). Another example – “shit” has been taboo since the 1600s, and was omitted by the Webster dictionary until 1970. “Bastard” used to be so bad that in Shakespeare’s time, it was usually written “b—–d.” Now, it’s considered tame.

Then there the story of comedian George Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words:” a comedy bit about how the words “cocksucker, cunt, fuck, motherfucker, piss, shit, tits” were completely unusable in any social context. Carlin was actually arrested in Milwaukee for disturbing the peace during one performance of “Seven Dirty Words” and a radio broadcast of his monologue is in large part what prompted the Federal Communications Commission to issue indecency regulations regarding American broadcasting.

But in 2011, these words are fairly common – our own former President Bush has used a few on public occasions, most notably when he told UK Prime Minister Tony Blair that the United Nations needed to “get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit.” There is a play running in New York right now called The Motherfucker with the Hat. The movie The Boondock Saints uses “fuck” or a derivative 246 times, and our very own Mike Daisey peppers his shows with comic obscenities.

Perhaps the reason these words are so usable now is because of that lack of specificity I mentioned earlier. There is an entire book about the history of the word “motherfucker” called The Compleat Motherfucker, by Jim Dawson, and in the first chapter he explains that by now, “Motherfucker has come to mean almost anything, and nothing at all.” “Fuck” itself has become desexualized, a process started by soldiers in WWI and continued to the point that the eff word most commonly expresses anger or irritation. An article in Slate from 2007 claims “shit” as one of the “most versatile vulgarities in our language,” and a dictionary entry lists myriad phrases and meanings like “shit-faced” or “the shit hit the fan” or “to not give a shit.”

So MAYBE people make up euphemisms because they are trying to protect their children from dirty words or real life, or maybe the extant words for body parts just don’t mean anything anymore. Little do your parents or your youth leader know… that if the usual trajectory for crude words is followed, their euphemistic phrase will eventually become taboo – then banned – then vulgar – then eventually part of the English lexicon.

Does this mean “bootycandy” will go through this process over 500 years? Well, gatdammit, I sure hope so.

~ Maura Krause, Literary Assistant

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Giving Voice and Creating Space

I work with adolescents, on a daily basis, assisting them in making informed decisions about their sexual health.  As the Director of Sasha Bruce Youthwork’s P.O.W.E.R. Program, I coordinate our STD/ STI and unplanned pregnancy prevention efforts and work with staff and peer educators to remind young people of the power and responsibility inherent in surviving as a sexual being.  I work from a harm-reduction/ risk-reduction model because I think it is empowering, honest and effective in creating sustained behavior change.

A lot of what I do centers around helping people tell their stories.  What types of sexual risks are they taking? What role does sex play in their relationships and their lives? Identifying ways that they have protected themselves in the past that could inform future behaviors.  These stories have to be client centered, authentic and raw in order for them to be transformative.

Enter Young, Sexy & Safe with Bootycandy, a special afternoon performance geared towards young adults, peer educators, and members of the sexual health community.

Bootycandy is a bare bones, wide mouthed, unapologetic critique of life, labels and love.  One is brought on a journey through the playwright’s life, in both realistic and bizarre frames of reference.  The young people I work with live many of the experiences played out on stage, but they have not taken pen to paper to work out and work through the mess.  I feel that Bootycandy gives the audience permission to not have all the answers, to question what is normal and to be our raggedy selves, on and off stage. Young adults need that space, that permission to be loud, bold, wrong, right, and human.  The special event we dreamed up for June 18th came about because creating space and giving voice is what this target audience needs.  It’s actually what we all deserve.

Young, Sexy & Safe with Bootycandy will take place on Saturday, June 18th. Following the 3pm show, audience members can choose to participate in one of three 45-minute workshops, led by local professionals, using Robert O’Hara’s explosive new play as a catalyst for explorations of sexual health, sexual identity and relationships, and creative self-expression. For more information please click here.

~ Margaux Delotte-Bennett, Claque Member

The Claque is a community of highly engaged Woolly audience members working to advance the theatre’s mission through its connectivity initiatives. Interested in joining up? Send an e-mail to claque@woollymammoth.net.

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Let’s Talk About Sex

Teen Mom, 16 & Pregnant, Juno, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Knocked Up…the list goes on and on. I’m talking about the overwhelming amount of sex-focused or unplanned pregnancy-related TV shows, movies, and other forms of popular culture. To me, the central issue in all of these programs centers around the type of sex education taught to children by their parents and in schools.

Being a Gleek myself, the most recent example I can think of is Quinn Fabray, the President of the Celibacy Club on the TV show Glee, who gets pregnant while in high school and has highly disapproving parents who even kick her out of the house for a bit. The debate over the type of sex education to teach in schools is personified by two contrasting teachers at the school: Emma, the school psychologist (who herself is a virgin, but that’s a whole other story) preaches that kids shouldn’t be “corrupted” at too young an age, and we must teach them abstinence only. On the other hand is whacky substitute Holly (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) who says that teaching kids abstinence- only sex education is unrealistic, and we should give them the proper information to make informed decisions about sex.

I tend to associate more with Holly (and can I dance with Matthew Morrison too please?) and here’s why: I’m of the belief that you can try to shelter kids as much as you want, but they’re going to find out about things somehow, they’re going to be curious and want to experiment sexually, and wouldn’t you rather them be informed about STDs and pregnancy than not?

A study that came out last year said that the rate of teen pregnancies has increased for the first time since the late 1980s. The study largely attributed abstinence-only education during the Bush Administration as the cause of this trend. It pointed out that during the ‘90s when there was a steady decline in the number of teen pregnancies, there was increased access to contraceptives as well as programs aimed towards sexual health education for teens and young adults.

As this Time Magazine article points out, I don’t think the problem with abstinence-only education is the abstinence, it’s the ONLY. I’m not advocating that 13 year olds should be having sex, but I don’t think that teaching them about it and teaching them how to be safe is necessarily going to cause them to do it. To quote from the article, “The most effective message, as evidenced in every other industrial country with teen pregnancy rates far lower than ours, is to advocate postponement of sexual activity while providing full and complete information on contraception, decision-making and disease prevention.”

But is abstinence-only education the only thing to blame? Probably not. We live in a highly sexualized culture: in a recent interview that I sat in on with Bootycandy playwright and director Robert O’Hara, he made the point that when any sort of new technology comes out, the first thought is “how can I get more sex with this?” Kids grow up with celebrities like Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and Katy Perry who wear skimpy outfits, dance provocatively, and sing songs like “I kissed a girl and I liked it.” And more often than not, most kids will learn something about sex from their peers, even if they’ve never talked about it with their parents or learned about it in school yet. They see sex scenes on TV and in movies by glamorous celebrities that they look up to, but they’re then told that they shouldn’t be having sex. It sends mixed signals.

As you’ll see, our current show Bootycandy deals with how we talk about sex- the language involved, and how parents teach their children about it as well. We have a special performance called Young, Sexy & Safe with Bootycandy on June 18th, aimed towards young adults and their families. Click here for more information, and stay tuned for an additional blog post on the subject written by one of our Claque members Margaux.

What do you think about sex education and our sexualized culture? What did you think about the portrayal of sex and sexuality in the show? Let us know!

~ Brooke Miller, Press and Digital Content Manager

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