Saturday, July 11, 2015

An Exclusive Interview with Rick Miramontez, O&M Regarding Cell Phone Charging Press Conference

Rick Miramontez,  President of O&M

In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.
--Andy Warhol

The above statement was made in 1968 for an exhibition of his work at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. Photographer Nat Finkelstein claims credit for the expression, stating that he was photographing Warhol in 1966 for a proposed book.
A crowd gathered trying to get into the pictures and Warhol supposedly remarked that everyone wants to be famous, to which Finkelstein replied, "Yeah, for about fifteen minutes, Andy." (Source: Wikipedia)
That was eons before i Phones, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all other forms of social media.  Trust me,
Pandora's Box has been opened and there is no turning back.
Anyone reading this blog would have to be under a rock not to know of the brouhaha surrounding Nick Silvestri, the Long Island teen who tried to plug his cellphone into a fake outlet at Broadway's Hand to God.
Within days, he was all over social media and the mainstream press.
The man behind that press conference is Rick Miramontez, the president of O&M Co.They are renowned for meshing “big-picture ideas” with tireless dedication to details.
In a statement to me this morning, he stated that the reason for the press conference was "He was there to apologize. Sorry we invited the vultures."
I reached out to Rick this morning for his thoughts on yesterday's press conference. There are plenty of articles on the incident itself.

I wanted to talk to Rick specifically about the press conference and the aftermath.
There was a YouTube video that surfaced. Playbill ultimately identified the young man who did this. O&M, publicists for Hand to God, were getting phone calls and from the media inquiring as to who this person is.At the time, O&;M did not know who he was.
They learned Nick's name and got in touch with him. Nick called O&M back on Thursday. Rick had a conversation with him on Thursday just to get a little understanding about his situation.
File photo. Actress Patti LuPone performs a scene from 'Gypsy' at the 62nd Annual Tony Awards in New York, June 15, 2008. (REUTERS/Gary Hershorn)
Nick Silvestri was not the only one to have an incident with a cell phone this week. Patti LuPone had her own encounter with a cell phone incident. With Ms. LuPone, cell phones in the theatre became the huge topic of the week.
In conversation with Nick Silvestri, Rick found him to be somewhat contrite. Rick suggested to him that it might be a good idea for him to apologize to Broadway. Rick thought it would be a very good gesture and a way to move this interesting and important conversation forward and Nick agreed. They worked together on his comments. All of his comments were sincere. He is not much of a theatre goer so that is where the disconnect sort of happened in his presentation and his demeanor in the press conference. He was very gung ho about getting his message out there and Rick, being a PR person, knows that people pay attention to Broadway. This is a very serious issue.
If Rick is going to get out the news media to pay attention to Broadway, and get any respect, he is going to do so. Therefore, he made this press conference happen.  
Nick Silvestri had to be pulled off the stage of the Broadway play moments before it started. Photograph: Mark Kennedy/AP
Nick came out and read the statement. Rick takes full responsibility. He realizes in hindsight that he should have: yanked him out of there and sent him home" after the statement was read. He should not have answered any questions. He is not a politician. He is not the kind of person to do that.
The other culprit in all of this is the television news media. Rick will not say all of them, but if there is one thing that REALLY gets Rick's blood boiling is the New York press corps that not only does not cover Broadway, but act as if they've never even been to a Broadway show themselves!
It is those "vultures" who treated this boy with hideous disrespect that really yesterday made the press conference a little distasteful.
All in all, how everything went down is fine. If there are any other complaints, particularly within our community, Rick doesn't know what they are and frankly, he doesn't really care.
Once again, Rick would not have allowed Nick to answer any questions to the press. Not that they were hiding anything, Rick prefers that any Broadway activity to have the elegance of the industry, itself.
Christian Borle and company of Something Rotten (Broadway.com)
Yesterday's press conference seemed a little bit more like City Hall. It ended up being a little inappropriate and Rick takes full responsibility for that.
What worked, as usually happens in a kerfuffle, after all is said and done, there is a lot of talk about how one behaves in the the theatre. That conversation was not going on in the theatre before this past week, and for that, Rick says, "Hallelujah!"

Coming out of this experience, there are two things that Rick would like to see happen. Broadway is a very inclusive place and it is exciting when someone who never goes to the theatre comes into town with his family to celebrate and they go to see a new American play, as happened here, to celebrate the kid in the family.
Exclusive! Meet the Guy Who Tried to Charge His Phone on Stage at Hand to God By Robert Viagas Playbill.com
Rick feels that that is terrific and appropriate to an important play like Hand to God. That's the way Broadway used to be and Rick applauds him as much as he would like to throw eggs at him. Secondly, it is a wake up call for all of us about how we engage with our audiences and what we expect of audiences and how everyone is responsible for that. Rick says himself, most importantly, because he always wants to protect his actors on stage. He wants them to feel very safe and engaged with their audiences. Part of his job is to not only help get that audience through the door, but expedite their experience.
Steven Boyer and Tyrone in Hand to God
Photo by Joan Marcus
The take away from this is that in a new world, we have to pay attention to how we behave in a theatre, how we court our audiences, and how we teach the new audiences to experience Broadway shows.
 I would personally like to see pre curtain speeches that are more welcoming than a pre recorded announcement. Welcome audiences to the theatre and ask them to turn off their cell phones, etc, and really engage them before the show starts. (I'm ready for the job, by the way!). It happens on television. I think this is the new way to go. I suggested this to Rick. I think that people tune out to these announcements and aren't really paying attention, almost like pre-flight announcements.

Audiences need to be re-educated. Cell phones are not going away. As a matter of fact, one prominent Broadway producer had a tweeting section in his show and encouraged audience members to text and tweet during the performance.
Rick says it is a mixed message that we are sending to our audiences.

It is a producer's prerogative if he or she chooses to have audiences engage in that way. Rick finds it very interesting and doesn't have a personal feeling one way or the other other than the fact that it is a mixed message. If we are trying to teach definitive theatre etiquette, that's definitely not the way to do it. Rick doesn't blame the audience member who is going to be casual about it if they've been told to tweet or engage in a social media practice in the theatre. That becomes a difficult problem. Regarding my earlier point regarding audience engagement during the pre show welcome, Rick says, "Absolutely!".
It is such an important issue that engaging the audience and making the point preferably in an entertaining way addresses why they are in the theatre in the first place, to be entertained. That is always a good thing. Rick LOVES a clever curtain speech or a way of making the cell phone announcement more entertaining.

When they were in Chicago with Kinky Boots, Harvey Fierstein, Jerry Mitchel, and Daniel Sherman, who was in the show, came up with the curtain speech with that show, it really, to Rick, said, "We've got a great hit and we've got something that's going to indeed please an audience."

There was something about that cell phone announcement that set the tone for the evening. That is important.
The thing to remember is that it is not the actors on the stage verses the audience. It is a communal experience. The conversation needs to be a little bit more civil and engaging. Calling this kid a moron and a fool is not particularly helpful regardless of his total lack of consciousness on the evening in which he tried to plug his cell phone into a non working socket which was part of the set!
Something that Rick would like to address, and something that has been discussed specifically
yesterday, there is a big difference between publicity and a publicity stunt and publicity on behalf of Broadway, no matter how it is doled out is a spectacular and urgent thing. Rick believes that everything that happened regarding getting the message out about this young man, particularly his rather lovely statement apologizing, is completely appropriate and necessary.
Thank youRick Miramontez for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!

With grateful XOXOXs ,

 



 

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