Twelve Months do a Naughty Spammer make
Last summer the American Shakespeare Center hired a new, talented Tour Manager named Darlene. Before coming to the ASC, Darlene worked as an Art Director at a major publisher and spent a semester at a nearby institution of higher education as a Typography professor. Darlene presented herself as professional, thorough, above reproach. Little did she know that, by simply joining the ASC staff, she had started on a pathway to notoriety and repeated email “black-listing.” Several months and 4 new emails addresses later, Darlene is just coming to terms with the precarious moral position her new job has placed her in. Who would have guessed that booking early modern plays with university professors and performing arts centers would lead Darlene to become known as a “Naughty Spammer”? What follows is her story.
12 Months ago
The titles for the Almost Blasphemy tour went to press, and the members of the Shakespeare Association of America, meeting in Chicago, were among the first to see that ASC on Tour would be performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Winter’s Tale, and, the root of all the difficulty, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore. The Shakespeareans were, by all accounts, delighted to hear that this rare John Ford play was to be featured in the ASC’s repertory for 2011-12, many a scholar stopped by our table to express his or her delight and share his or her wish that ASC would bring the show to their campuses.
9 months ago
Darlene joined the ASC staff. She immediately went to work filling in the blank spots left in the upcoming 2010-11Restless Ecstasy tour, featuring Macbeth, As You Like It, and Measure for Measure. These titles shot across the Internet without any problem, and Darlene quickly filled the openings, which enabled her to move onto the pressing demands of booking 2011-12.
6 months ago
Darlene began working in earnest to sell the 2011-12 tour, sending out emails aplenty. Strangely, though, her emails were not reaching the recipients. In case after case, Darlene called to follow-up and spoke to patrons who “never got her email.” Darlene and the IT team (actually, the Director of Education and a contracted tech wizard) tried and tried to figure out why Darlene’s emails weren’t going through. Then, there was a break-through. One of Darlene’s contacts called her to report that the University where the contact works had “black-listed” Darlene. Darlene created a new email address (the second of four), and began sending out emails advertising the plays again. Again, the emails failed to make it to their intended recipients.
3 months ago
After creating a third, and then a fourth email address, Darlene realized that her increasing isolation might have to do with the content of her emails. So, she went on a clean up campaign.
Exhibit A: The text from the original email, and the relevant text from the “clean” version follow:
The American Shakespeare Center on Tour
Now Booking the 2011/2012 “Almost Blasphemy” Tour
The American Shakespeare Center on Tour, the touring arm of the American Shakespeare Center
and the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia, presents three plays on its tour:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
by William Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s theatrical spell is powerful enough to make audiences of all
ages believe in anything. Shakespeare’s ravishing comedy of lovers, heroes, fairies, and
rude mechanicals is his tribute to humankind’s power of imagination.
The Winter’s Tale
by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare’s magnificent play is a roller-coaster ride from romance to tragedy to comedy
and finally to a place of transcendent beauty that few other works of art have ever gone.
“A sad tale’s best for winter,” says Hermione’s young son—but after unleashing a wintry tempest
onto his characters, Shakespeare ultimately conjures spring’s miraculous rebirth.
‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore
by John Ford
John Ford’s brilliant re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet leads audiences deep into a story
of passion, lust, vengeance, greed, incest, and murder. After almost 400 years, ‘Tis Pity She’s
a Whore‘s tale of forbidden love remains controversial, shocking, and theatrically spellbinding.
The American Shakespeare Center on Tour
Now Booking the 2011/2012 Almost Bl*sphemy Tour…
‘Tis Pity She’s a Wh*re
by John Ford
John Ford’s brilliant re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet leads audiences deep into a story of passion, vengeance, greed and murder. After almost 400 years, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Wh*re’s tale of forbidden love remains controversial, shocking, and theatrically spellbinding.
By trying to sell Tis Pity She’s a Whore, ASC Tour manager navigated the slippery slope to Naughty Spammer status. What began as an attempt to bring an early modern play to new audiences has ended in four email addresses, multiple black lists and, well, an almost completely sold out tour. If you want to find out what all the fuss is about, maybe you should give Darlene a call and book the tour for your campus. It could be that the email Darlene originally sent never reached you, don’t let Internet censure-ship stop you from booking the ASC on Tour. Oh, do be sure do put firstname.lastname@example.org (or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) on your “protected list” so her emails can get through to you.
Facebook conversation about the play title:
Author: Anyone out there have a reaction to the play early modern play title “Tis Pity She’s a Whore”? I just wonder what people think the play might be about just based on the title…
○ Is that the original Pretty Woman?
○ Author: ha! ha! That is awesome, K—-. I’m afraid its much more insidious than Pretty Woman–incest, murder, mayhem…la.
○ Missing subtitle: (‘Cause she’d make a great [insert amusing occupation here]).
○ Author: : )
○ ”That’s my suyster!” – to quote Jonson
● M— posted a link to the Lost Plays database and I’m currently compiling a list of the ones I’m having the most fun with, in terms of trying to figure out their plots based on the names alone.
○ I don’t know, but it is hands down my favorite play.
○ about a guy who falls in love with a whore and she can’t change her ways???
● one of my favorites.
○ sounds good to me… it must be good
○ One of my favorite early modern.
○ Author: good guess, r—. its actually sort of a really screwed up romeo and juliet where those two characters are brother and sister (ewww) and then there is murder and villiany and a heart on a knife.
○ wow. nasty, odd play though
○ I got to play Vasques in college. To this date, one of my favorite roles and plays. Incest, revenge, humor, and lots of blood. What’s not to like?
○ One of my favorite plays! Does that make me all bad?
○ we put that on in Austin in 2003. A good number of audience members arrived expecting a comedy.
○ Author: hey M–, who? who did it? how’d it go? just wondering about how one markets this title…when internetisms block the whole “whore” and “incest” bits…
○ B— F— did. Sadly, the company website is down at the moment, so no lurid copy or gory pictures. But the single most consistent audience response was some variation of “we though this was going to be a comedy” (with “I really want to go take a shower” a close second). It went well. Or maybe it sucked, but we certainly had fun with it, and people seemed to like it. Gasps and audible disgust at all the right places. Great fake heart. Lots of blood.
○ I think you said it: Incest, Murder, Mayhem…La!
○ Just as gruesome as Revenger’s Tragedy, which has my current top spot for a Jacobean tragedy.
○ Before I ever actually read it, I figured it would have something to do with a woman cuckolding her husband. Don’t remember for sure if I thought it was going to be serious or funny.
○ I LOVE this play! In terms of marketing…how about “The play that closed the theaters” cause I’ve always though this was the one that pushed the Puritans over the edge. Or “Romeo and Juliet with a twist” which will at least let people know to expect a tragedy.
○ People really should know that “whore”=tragedy. When there are whores in comedy, they turn out to be maids. Or plot devices.
○ Author: Thanks guys!
(Posted by Cass for Sarah, who wrote the article, but who is en route to the SAA Conference today).