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Strangers unite for dancing flash mob to promote Cleveland Play House production Backwards in High Heels

Jacob Martin

Issue date: 1/21/11 Section: Focus
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The Cleveland Play House took a different approach to publicity for their production of Backwards in High Heels. They created and executed a "flash mob" to promote the play, which runs through Jan. 30. Case Western Reserve University class of 2011 Theater and English major and Cleveland Play House digital media intern Britt Goodman was involved with this PR move and artistic venture.

Backwards in High Heels is a musical based on the life of legendary dancer Ginger Rogers, highlighting both the private and public life of Fred Astaire's most famed dance partner. With great dancing and the timeless original music of Kern, Berlin, and Gershwin, the flash mob just seemed to fit.

"I saw the show as a patron and really loved it! I loved the rhythmic and sophisticated dance numbers and looked forward to hearing new takes on old musical numbers," said Goodman. "I was not involved with the production; however, I was the main point person who was the stage manager and director of the flash mob. I created the mix of music for the mob, helped recruit participants, and filmed the dancers and audience."

But what exactly is a flash mob? "We went with this definition on Wikipedia: 'A flash mob is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual act for a brief time, and then quickly disperse,'" said communications & public relations Manager at the Cleveland Play House Lisa Craig.

"Our artistic director Michael Bloom loves the recent flash mobs performed by Opera Company of Philadelphia Chorus and wants to bring the flash mob concept to live theater," Craig said. "He asked our marketing department to produce one, and we felt the dancing in Backwards in High Heels would be the right way to go. The challenge was to understand whether this is an artistic project or a marketing project - or both, as we came to learn. For our first time out of the gate, it was a marketing project."

The project worked in the sense that it generated plenty of internet buzz during the time it was put together. The hardest aspect of a flash mob is to make something that is planned on many levels seem completely spur-of-the-moment. While it was the Cleveland Playhouse's first production of a flash mob, it was clearly fun and engaging.
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    posted 1/23/11 @ 6:21 PM EST

    No links to video? Most promotional flash mobs document the events as the marketing continues to grow on its own after the event.

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