Can you tell what these people are looking at?

A car accident?  A celebrity?  The naked cowboy?

None of the above.

They are all looking at . . . themselves.

Forever 21 recently installed a brilliant video billboard in the heart of Times Square that takes a live video image of the street below, and then broadcasts it for everyone to see.

So what happens?

People walk by, and stop . . . and look for themselves on the big screen.  They wave, jump and down, and generally make fools of themselves, just to see themselves broadcast over Broadway.

I shot this pic on a Sunday evening, and what struck me as this gaggle of folks stared at the billboard (and as I stared at them) was the diversity of the people drawn to this phenomenon.  All different types were trying to find themselves on the screen, from kids to seniors, from Europeans to Oklahomians, from lower economic classes, to a bunch of brand-wearing snobs that looked like they just got off a yacht.

You’ve felt like these people, too . . . don’t tell me you haven’t.  Maybe you were at a Yankee game when the camera swung your way, or you walked by the NBC studios during a taping of The Today Show.

Audiences, no matter where they come from, or what they do for a living, have certain things in common.  They want to be noticed.  They want to be recognized.

And they want to be a part of the experience.

I’m not saying every show has to pull a person on the stage for the rest of the crowd to see . . . but the audience wants to see themselves up there somehow, whether in a character, in a story, or yes, getting pulled on the stage for the rest of the crowd to see.

They want a little attention . . . it’s just not apropos to wave your hands and jump up and down in a theater.

– – – – –

Side note:

One year ago I blogged about the very first video billboard in Times Square.

And now there are seven.

Comments
  • I took pics of this was about to blog about it, myself. It’s like a big window on Manhattan. The people who coded this billboard were very smart, especially as the model on the billboard “snaps a picture” and then shows them the picture of themselves while they watch a picture of themselves looking at the picture of themselves!

  • SusanMKim says:

    I loved Hair. The music was great, the message was still relevant, and the dancing was fantastic. But you know what I remember most? Being able to get up on stage at the end with other audience members.

  • Cas Marino says:

    I live around the corner, and I stopped and watched the mayhem for a full ten minutes the other night. It was even better with ice cream.

  • Max Koknar says:

    Ken,
    Thanks for the post, this really captures one of my ongoing rants about theatre and our need to take advantage of sharing that live space with our audience. Live performance is about an experience as much as is it is about story, and the experience is almost always taken to ‘the next level’ when the audience feels somehow part of the event, the show etc. You are correct though, it doesn’t have to always be about pulling an audience member up on stage, elegant and creative ways of engaging and involving the audience is where we can have half the fun.
    Thanks again, this helps me look afresh at some of my own writing projects exploring these same principles.

  • janiska says:

    Hey, don’t insult “Oklahoma.” It’s the state that inspired the show that started Broadway singing a whole new and better song.
    Watch any music award show and you’ll see. Our SINGING and our MUSIC is still the best in the world!
    We’re not ‘Oklahomians’ either. We’re Oklahomans. And we’re proud.
    Despite what the elitist sardines crammed into NYC might think, we’re not all from lower economic classes either.
    In fact our state is in fine shape. Low unemployment and lots of OIL!
    AND, we’ve got the best stories of any place in the world including NYC too.
    Come see us sometime and you’ll see.
    Janis
    http://www.historytheater.org

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Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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