The voice behind the discount ticket service’s witty Twitter account is also a budding playwright.
By Kris Vire|
“A DOLL’S HOUSE to the left of me, HEARTBREAK HOUSE to the right. Here I am stuck in the MIDDLETOWN with you.”
“Not to give too much away, but we have tickets for SCHMILLION SCHMOLLAR SCHMAURTET this weekend. You should schmet schmum.”
“Somebody call Phil Ponce cuz we’ve got CHICAGO tonight! And the next night and the night after that too!”
Tweets like these greet the Twitter followers of Hot Tix, the half-price ticket service run by the League of Chicago Theatres. Besides creatively letting its tweeps know what shows are available on its list in 140 characters or less, @HotTix links to theater news and reviews and engages followers with trivia questions and hashtag games.
Most of Hot Tix’s thousands of tweets have come from Joe Wescott. A Hot Tix employee for four years, he was recently promoted to associate manager of the service, which sells tickets both online and at a pair of brick-and-mortar outlets, one in [node:31168 link=the Loop;] and the other on [node:32306 link=the Magnificent Mile;].
“I did it every once in a while, and then it was like, ‘Joe’s good at this, we need him to do it,’ ” Wescott says of the Twitter account. “I would get phone calls if I was at the other location saying, ‘Will you tweet this?’ ”
Over coffee one recent morning down the street from the Randolph Street Hot Tix outlet, Wescott, 25, says he thinks of his role on Twitter as an extension of what he and his coworkers do at the physical locations. “Theater advocates is what we’re called. Because we don’t always sell tickets; we don’t get every show,” he says.
The shows on Hot Tix’s list range from big Broadway in Chicago musicals to improv at ComedySportz; the various League member theaters work with the service on different terms. Some may allocate a certain number of tickets at the beginning of a show’s run; others release seats to Hot Tix only for same-day performances.
Hot Tix employees have to keep abreast of the theater scene citywide in order to field customers’ questions. “People ask, ‘What’s good?’ That’s the hardest question in the world, because everyone’s different,” Wescott says. “It’s impossible to know too much. When you first start it’s like, you need to start reading reviews. You need to know what people are thinking of what shows.”
A native of Wichita, Kansas (“a.k.a. the state with no arts commission now”), Wescott arrived in Chicago as an undergrad at Roosevelt University’s Chicago Conservatory for the Performing Arts. He studied acting there but became disillusioned with performing. “It became my opinion that actors are professional auditioners, and I don’t like auditioning,” he says. “I figured out that I could control writing more than I could control acting.”
Now a budding playwright, Wescott marks a milestone this week with his first professional production; the Artistic Home chose his “Sixteen Tons” for this year’s Cut to the Chase festival of one-act plays—another short form, appropriately, for a guy who’s practically begun to dream in tweets: “I thought of one last night just before bed. ‘Oh, that’s a good Hot Tix tweet.’ ”