“Is it me? Am I the drama?” I’m going to be completely honest with you. Sometimes I am the drama. But I have my reasons! Hear me out. 

I’m a social media manager at Fun Love Media, a Houston-based social media and content creation agency. One of my clients is Stages, one of Houston’s oldest and largest theatre companies. In Stages’ 2023/24 season, the company will produce eight plays and musicals with a wide range of stories, styles, aesthetics, and audience bases. To say there is something for everyone would be an understatement. While the full spectrum of Stages’ work attracts a diverse audience base, it also poses its own set of challenges for social media management. Put simply, every show requires a different strategy that supports the overall social media strategy for the company. Stages’ recent production of Switzerland by Joanna Murray-Smith, which ran from October 6-November 12, 2023, was no exception.

Switzerland is a psychological thriller that fictionalizes the final days of famed murder mystery writer Patricia Highsmith who penned The Talented Mr. Ripley and the screenplay for Strangers on a Train. When a handsome young emissary shows up at Highsmith’s secluded home in the Swiss Alps, things get… interesting. The play’s vibes are very Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie. It’s mysterious! It’s gripping! It’s set in Switzerland!

For the content shoot, I had 30 minutes with the cast and crew and I put these folks to work. I shot b-roll of the show and interviewed the cast and director.  For other content, I decided to lean into trending TikTok audio. I used the play’s dramaturgy, plot, and characters to curate old and new trends that would fit within the world of the play. To find these, I searched for content made about Knives Out, Clue, Alfred Hitchcock films, and Agatha Christie stage adaptations. I also found it useful to search for keywords like “psychological thriller” and “mystery.” Once I found appropriate audio, I wrote on-screen text that would match the audio and the play’s plot and characters. Essentially, for Switzerland, I created a set of video memes to promote the show. 

Below I highlight two ways that I harmonized TikTok’s trending culture with Switzerland.

“She’s a Rockstar”

The role of Patricia Highsmith was played by Sally Edmundson, who is as close to a rockstar as they come. The beloved Houston actress has been a staple at Stages since the early 80s. Put simply, Edmundson is an actress that Houston theatregoers know and love. With this in mind, I wanted to create content that showcased Edmundson and played up her stature with Stages’ target audience for Switzerland. This demographic will buy tickets just to see Edmundson. She’s that good.

I paired Edmundson’s local celebrity with the “She’s a rockstar” sound bite, a well-known TikTok audio meme featuring Kris Kardashian from Keeping Up with the Kardashians. In this case, I included b-roll of Edmundson typing vigorously on an old-school typewriter while Kris Kardashian tells us she’s a rockstar. To keep the video visually interesting—and retain viewers—I pan across Edmundson in a semi-circle motion. The video is in constant movement, which is a proven strategy for social media videos.

"She's a Rockstar" featuring Sally Edmundson.

She’s a Rockstar featuring Sally Edmundson. Photo provided by the author.

“Is It Me? Am I the Drama?”

Sally Edmundson wasn’t the only star in Switzerland. Edmundson shared the stage with Ian James, who played Edward, the young emissary who shows up at her reclusive Alpine home and disturbs her peaceful routine. Edward’s intrusion drives much of the play’s earlier plot. He brings the drama. 

With this in mind, I used the  “Is it me? Am I the drama?” sound bite. I added on-screen text to add another layer to the video’s storytelling. Moreover, on-screen text encourages viewers to read and, as a result, stay on the video longer. James’ playful expressions nail the video (he’s good, folks!). 

Ian James in <em>Is it me? Am I the drama?</em>

Ian James in Is it me? Am I the drama? Photo provided by the author.

So What?

Videos like “She’s a Rockstar” and “Is it me? Am I the drama?” play to multiple audiences. Casual onlookers will inevitably grasp the meaning of the video simply from having heard the audio on TikTok—or even Reels—so many times. The target ticket-buying audience will learn more about the play: What is the dramatic tension? Who is in the play? Why are people commenting on the video with knife emojis? It’s all part of the ecosystem of the on-stage production.

While posts like this might seem silly, they can be integral parts of a theatre’s marketing strategy. Because of social media algorithms, these posts can reach hyper-specific demographics (i.e., viewers who might become ticket buyers). Of course, not everyone is on social media and social media posts shouldn’t replace analog marketing strategies that historically work for the theatre and community in question. Organic social media marketing is a critical part of this package through. While social media strategies can run the gamut, my trending audio strategy for Switzerland worked. These marketing efforts helped ensure the production met its goal. And if that isn’t bringing the drama then I don’t know what is.

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.

This post was written by Trevor Boffone.

The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.