November 5, 2006 11:25 AM PST

Blue Man Group show has a text message for you

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Puck Quinn, Blue Man Group's artistic director, told me that the concept for incorporating Mobkastr came from conversations the troupe's organizers had with Counts Media. And Quinn said that he and the rest of the Blue Man Group leadership had been intrigued by the description of a system that would get audience members involved by utilizing technology that nearly everyone has in their pockets these days.

"We both worship technology, and we're technophobes," Quinn said. "We're the first to love a new technology and point out that this is worthless."

He said that the concept of Mobkastr in the context of "How to be a Megastar" was to offer viewers some extra explanation of the symbols and metaphors on display during the show, and to do so in a way that enhances their experience.

"It's dangerously close to being at a concert and having somebody texting you during the show," Quinn said. "So (we are) trying to time it so it wasn't pulling you away from the show."

Pyle, meanwhile, was nice enough to forward me the text message logs from someone else who was at the same San Jose show I went to Friday night, and by reading through them, I was able to get a sense, albeit an unemotional one, of what I missed.

The basic idea seems to be that at a series of points in the show, viewers who opted-in got messages asking them questions and tasking them with sending back replies.

"R U a Megastar?" one of the messages asked. "True or false? You ride to work in a bus that has your name airbrushed on its side, along with a giant picture of an eagle. Reply Y/N."

Another began, "OK, it's 'time to take this climb' to the roof: According to rock lore, Green M&Ms were demanded backstage by: PLEASE REPLY A) Eminen B) Ted Nougat C) Van Halen."

The user responded, "B," and the system shot back, "B. Sorry. That was a lame pun. Pathetic really. Except what's more pathetic is that you picked it."

This text-message-based banter went on and on throughout the show, with each new volley furthering the story line, Quinn said.

System signals show's progress
The several additional prompts to the entire audience--the ones that I followed--to text in codewords were actually meant to signal specific points in the show's progress to the Mobkastr servers, Pyle said, since rock concerts don't always proceed with precise timing.

Thus, Pyle said, the codewords were meant to alert the Mobkastr servers that those specific points in the show had been reached and that it was now appropriate to proceed with a new round of messages.

Hearing about all this after the fact is annoying. I feel like I missed out on something that, while largely mundane and meaningless, would likely have been fun and made me feel connected to the larger experience.

On one hand, I feel stupid for having failed to properly reply to the initial opt-in message. On the other hand, I feel a little bit like the Mobkastr system should have announced itself through a better message than one that seemed at the time, and still does now, as nothing more than an ad.

Pyle suggested I could participate from afar during Saturday night's show in San Diego by texting from home to at least see how the system works. But that didn't sound like much fun.

Nevertheless, I really do wish I had been able to participate on Friday night.

After all, said Quinn, "I think the Mobkastr is fun. It's a nice little bonus thing. It's like the audio tour of the Museum of Modern Art where there's this pretentious voice in your ear telling you what you're seeing. In this case, it's our pretentious voice that's texting you."

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