CLEVELAND: It was a social misstep that inspired writer-director Renee Schilling to write Doug Is a D-Bag, the new interactive play running at Cleveland Public Theatre through Dec. 14. Schilling recalls riding in an elevator with a man and a woman who clearly worked together. As the man was “engrossed in complimenting himself,” as Schilling puts it, his co-worker was texting her honest thoughts on the conversation to a friend. To her dismay, the man’s phone lit up with the incoming text. The man held up his phone and said, “Really—I’m an asshole.” While the remaining elevator ride was uncomfortable for all parties, it was also inspiring for Schilling, who marveled at how technology—meant to connect people—could also be a “dangerous thing” for relationships.
Doug Is a D-Bag is a workplace comedy about relationships, but when you walk into the thea-tre, don’t expect a “Please turn off your cell phone” announcement. In what the author calls a “big social experiment,” audiences are invited to text with the characters in the play throughout the performance. One can ask questions of the Omniscient Narrator or chat with the characters in the play-and messages from spectators can impact moments in the show. In order to keep responses and characterizations consistent, Schilling intends to be onsite for every performance. She has also devised a “texting script” for the cast. In the end, both audience members and performers will come away with at least one significant lesson: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t text at all.”
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