(Ex­ple­tive) ti­tle gives City Lights a mar­ket­ing chal­lenge

The Mercury News Weekend - - LOCAL NEWS - Sal Pizarro Colum­nist Con­tact Sal Pizarro at spizarro@ba­yare­anews­group.com.

City Lights Theater Com­pany doesn’t shy away from provoca­tive work, but the first play of its new sea­son — which opens Satur­day in down­town San Jose — pre­sented quite a mar­ket­ing chal­lenge. How do you get the word out when the ti­tle con­tains a word that’s of­ten un­print­able?

The play, “Stupid (Ex­ple­tive) Bird,” is Aaron Pos­ner’s con­tem­po­rary take on Chekhov’s “The Seag­ull,” and Pos­ner used pro­fan­ity in the ti­tle in part to pre­pare peo­ple in no un­cer­tain terms for the stage ex­pe­ri­ence that they were head­ing into. Af­ter the play was se­lected, Re­becca Wal­lace, City Lights’ mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor, talked strat­egy with Ex­ec­u­tive Artis­tic Di­rec­tor Lisa Mal­lette and Busi­ness Man­ager Anne Younan. They de­cided to use the full ti­tle on their web­site and post­cards. “Af­ter all, that’s what the play­wright in­tended, and he had a def­i­nite rea­son for it,” Wal­lace said. “We also de­cided: Hey, this is a fear­less adap­ta­tion of a clas­sic, and City Lights au­di­ences are equally fear­less.”

But the theater’s down­town lo­ca­tion across the street from Notre Dame High School pre­sented a chal­lenge since the mar­quee faces the school. The so­lu­tion was to drop a sin­gle let­ter, break­ing up the po­ten­tially of­fen­sive word. “It seemed more re­spect­ful to leave a gap in the ex­ple­tive,” Wal­lace said. “We have an ex­cel­lent re­la­tion­ship with Notre Dame High School, which is a huge sup­porter of the arts, and we wanted to be cog­nizant of the stu­dents across the street.”

There were sur­prises on so­cial me­dia, too. Twit­ter and In­sta­gram weren’t a prob­lem, and nei­ther were reg­u­lar Face­book posts with the ti­tle. But at­tempts to boost posts and place ads on Face­book were con­sis­tently re­jected. Wal­lace tried us­ing as­ter­isks, but was still bounced for pro­fan­ity and Face­book wouldn’t budge even when she ex­plained it was the ac­tual ti­tle of a play. In the end, she sub­sti­tuted a long un­der­score for the swear word, as the New York Times had in its re­views, and fi­nally got through.

The play runs through Oct. 15 (get tick­ets at www. cltc. org), and Wal­lace shouldn’t have these prob­lems with the sea­son’s sec­ond pro­duc­tion, “Miss Ben­net: Christ­mas at Pem­ber­ley” — un­less Face­book starts ob­ject­ing to Christ­mas. ZUCK AT THE ZOO » Speak­ing of Face­book, its founder and CEO Mark Zucker­berg was spot­ted Wed­nes­day at Happy Hol­low Park & Zoo. There was no big oc­ca­sion, just a South Bay dad en­joy­ing some fam­ily time it seems. STAR CHEFS ARE BACK » One of Sil­i­con Val­ley’s most fla­vor­ful char­ity events, “Star Chefs and the Wines They Love” re­turns Sun­day in down­town San Jose with a stel­lar line-up of South Bay chefs who’ll be serv­ing gourmet dishes and rais­ing money for the Sil­i­con Val­ley Chil­dren’s Fund, a non­profit that sup­ports fos­ter chil­dren, and TeenForce.

Among the chefs signed up are Jeff Fitzger­ald of Black Sheep Brasserie, Yu Min Lin of The Sea by Alexan­der’s; Jef­frey Stout of Or­chard City Kitchen, Sushi Con­fi­den­tial’s Randy Mus­terer, Jarad Gal­lagher of Chez TJ and Ross Han­son of Oak & Rye. Each chef’s dish will be paired with wine or beer.

It’s all hap­pen­ing from 4:30 to 9 p.m. at For­ager Tast­ing Room & Eatery at 420 S. First St. Tick­ets start at $100, and you can get them as long as sup­plies last at www.svcf.org. PLAY­FUL IN PALO ALTO » The Palo Alto Art Cen­ter’s free Fri­day Night at the Art Cen­ter event should be a lot of fun. The 7 p.m. event cel­e­brates the open­ing of its new ex­hi­bi­tion, “Play!” and will fea­ture minia­ture golf, a pin­ball ma­chine, soft-serve ice cream, bal­loon art and some art­mak­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. Of course, there’ll be some play­ful and cre­ative art on dis­play from some well­known names, like Andy Warhol and Billy Klu­ver’s “Sil­ver Clouds” and Wil­liam T. Wi­ley’s “Pun­ball.” Go to www.city­of­paloalto.com/art­cen­ter for de­tails.

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