Miami students may have noticed posters hanging around campus advertising the arrival of “The Latest Show,” a talk show stopping in Oxford as part of its College Tour. Those who attended the showings, however, realized that this was not an actual filming of a real talk show, but a play made to appear like one.
“The Latest Show” was the final production of the Independent Artist Series, a series of performances compiled and directed by theatre graduate students at Miami. While the play was written by the ensemble, David DeVita, a second-year masters student at Miami, directed and starred. The plot centered on the filming of a late night talk show on a cross-country college tour. Its unstable and belligerent host, Scott Thompson (DeVita), is unceremoniously fired from his position and replaced by the charismatic keyboard player in the late show band in a dramatic and humorous series of events.
The play ran from April 5-9 in the TV production studio in Williams Hall. This location allowed for the audience to feel truly immersed in the setting and believe that they were a part of the live audience at a real show.
“The idea was for people to come in expecting to see a live taping of a talk show,” said Nate Bissinger, a theatre student who played the head writer of the show.
DeVita and his team supported the show’s feeling of authenticity through a number of creative promotional choices. None of the advertisements, online or print, mention that “The Latest Show” is a play. Rather, they present a professional portrait of DeVita as Scott Thompson with information on showtimes and tickets, creating the illusion that this was a legitimate late-night production.
DeVita and his team also used social media to promote the play as a talk show. Those interested by the posters could use the tag #thelatestwithscott to access regularly updated Instagram and Twitter accounts, as well as a Youtube channel. They could follow the show’s page or even watch old guest interviews, produced by a media and culture class in collaboration with the ensemble.
DeVita also held a promotional event in the week leading up to the performance dubbed “The Latest Show takes O’Pub” in which the ensemble stayed in character while leading a game night and had the band play at O’Pub to publicize the show.
DeVita also reached outside the theatre department to help create his show. The Department of Media, Journalism and Film played an integral role by providing their TV production studio for the set as well as a large portion of the labor and knowledge necessary for the production of a professional-looking talk show. The music department also provided the musicians necessary for the band.
“This was truly a multi-disciplinary effort” says DeVita, “It wouldn’t have been possible to be as successful without the help of other departments.”
Freshman theatre major, Rian Sondag, who played one of the guest celebrities on the show, agreed that assistance from other departments was essential to the success of the show.
“Theatre is such an isolated department because we are so small,” Sondag said. “If we didn’t have help from the music department, we wouldn’t have had the band. If we didn’t have help from the media and culture department, we would not have had the studio and wouldn’t have been able to run this type of show.”