How Facebook Chat helped two high schoolers become playwrights

adventures of boy and girlWhen you think about high schoolers chatting on social media, it’s easy to be less than charitable. You might assume they’re communicating solely through inscrutable online slang and emoticons and that their messages are littered with hashtags and YOLOs and emojis. 

But that’s not always the case; as evidence, look no further than New York’s 2013 Fringe festival, where playwrights Rachel Kaly and Alec Grossman are staging “The Adventures of Boy and Girl.” Their play, described as an anti-romantic comedy, was born on Facebook while the playwrights were in high school. So appropriately enough, Digital Trends caught up with the duo on Facebook Chat.

Kaly and Grossman explain that the decision to use Facebook Chat to write their play was somewhat spontaneous. They hadn’t been talking over Facebook much before they started the project, and they didn’t even really know each other that well. But they’d briefly chatted about writing a play together, and one day, Kaly made a move and sent the first monologue.

“It was over winter break and Alec had suggested it was a letter writing type play and we ran with that and decided to write it in monologue form. I wrote the first monologue and from there we just did it back and forth – he was the boy, Rick, and I was the girl, Trish.” she says. They wrote the bulk of the first draft in a flurry, sending each other monologues back and forth. “We mostly talked about it on Facebook because it was winter break, but as the play started coming together towards an end we talked about it in person a bit more,” Kaly explains.

The initial writing via Facebook Chat was more about getting words out there rather than belaboring small details. “Nothing was really planned or thought out too well,” Grossman says. But the final product is the result of careful revision and editing. “We wrote these things separately and didn’t think about the future of the play while we were writing it; but once we had a draft that we had written separately, we went back and edited with more thought and care. But the fluidity of Facebook Chat made it very easy to just get everything out there,” Kaly says. Looking at their old Facebook Chat records, Kaly notes that it took only nine days to write the first draft, but then a couple of months to edit it into the final copy.

 In addition to using social media to create the play, Grossman and Kaly are also using it to promote their show. “We’ve almost exclusively used Facebook and the Internet to advertise our campaign. We have a website, a Facebook page, and we’ve been blasting our Indiegogo link on our page and profiles. We’ve created a few YouTube videos and we also created a Tumblr, which we think is a unique way to use social media to grab people’s attention and promote the tone of the show.” (Emma Watson would agree.)

The Tumblr page promoting the show is especially clever, since it solicits submissions asking people to say why they’re glad they aren’t dating their ex. The page is full of interesting confessions, and Kaly confirmed that they’re 100 percent user submitted. “We’re also going to promote with post cards and through a website called ‘Theater Mania’ but I think social media will be most effective,” Grossman says. He and Kaly explain that they’ve received some re-tweets from play promoters in New York that may help draw an audience to their show.boy and girl two

But the glut of social media options makes it difficult to keep up with every single available social network. “I don’t think we’ve used Instagram at all,” Grossman says, “Since we already have a bunch of friends on Facebook I think that’s been the most effective.” Kaly says they may start using Instagram more frequently as the play starts rehearsing, but right now they’ve chosen to focus on the networks they believe will have the biggest impact on sales.

Social media is an important promotional tool, and the New York Fringe Festival encourages all of its participants to take advantage of free ways to drum up publicity online. “They suggest the basics,” Kaly says. “Make a website, Twitter, etc., and they provide us with a lot of discounts for email blasts and stuff like that, different marketing techniques that utilize social media. But the more creative stuff is up to us entirely. It’s a very DIY mindset.” Although it’s very DIY, Kaly and Grossman aren’t totally on their own. They have a social media and PR person to help them navigate the sometimes overwhelming arena of social networking self-promotion.

“The Adventures of Boy and Girl” opens Saturday, August 17 and plays through the 24 at the Craine Theater in the East Village. Any New Yorkers interested to see how a simple Facebook Chat can mutate into an entertaining play should check it out.

And will the young pair (who are now in college, Kaly at Weslyan and Grossman at Skidmore) work together again? Next time perhaps composing a drama from Twitter direct messages? They’re mainly working on independent projects right now, although a recent piece by Kaly is deeply rooted in social media. “The last play I wrote individually was almost exclusively about social media – it was about a closeted gay kid being cyber bullied, and one of the main characters is actually a computer screen that displays these IM conversations,” she says.

[Photo credit: Kevin Chiu]

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