How an OKCupid Dating Experiment Turned Into a Hit Musical Comedy

Interview   How an OKCupid Dating Experiment Turned Into a Hit Musical Comedy
 
This Second City alum created Off-Broadway’s #DateMe based off of 38 fake online dating profiles and the messaging that ensued.
Robyn Lynne Norris
Robyn Lynne Norris

Robyn Lynne Norris’ new Off-Broadway show #DateMe: An OKCupid Experiment (currently playing through September 8) is called an experiment because it began as one. In 2012, the comedic performer and playwright—an alum of Chicago’s Second City—had recently moved to Los Angeles when a friend suggested she try out the popular dating site OkCupid. What she did, instead, was create a fake profile under the moniker of Tracy Loves Cats.

This was the inspiration for what would eventually become #DateMe, a hybrid show that arrives Off-Broadway following hit runs at Second City Hollywood and the Up Comedy Club Chicago. After Norris’ original cat-loving character was inundated with messages—from the silly and funny, to endearing and thoughtful—the comedian decided to perform an experiment. She created 38 OKCupid profiles, using photos of herself and friends, that were all “undateable personalities” and purposefully absurd. “We waited for people to interact with us and play along, we weren’t trying to catfish anybody,” explains the comedian.

After several months, Norris, along with her collaborators Bob Ladewig and Frank Caeti, used the real conversations from their experiment to create Undateable, which debuted in L.A in 2013. The show wove together, along with some improv and a couple of musical numbers, the verbatim transcripts from OKCupid with a narrative that paralleled Norris’ real-life story: that of a single woman alone in a new city. “There’s nothing from the show that wasn’t in the experiment. It’s all real,” says Norris. “[And] it’s the journey of what I was going through in my life. Even though it’s funny, I was very lonely at the time.”

From there, Norris’ experiment has continued to grow. The expanded, two-act version of the show, now titled #DateMe (and developed with producer Diane Alexander) arrives at New York City’s Westside Theatre with a new director (Waitress choreographer Lorin Latarro), new cast, producer Elizabeth Williams attached, along with some exciting new technology. Every audience member will have the chance to download the #DateMe app and create their own online dating profile. This will allow the actors to interact with the audience throughout the show, as well as theatregoers to connect with one another (and, yes, see who might be single in the crowd).

As she’s seen the show do in L.A. and Chicago, Norris hopes that the production will bring New Yorkers together in a meaningful way—just as the show has done for her. Initially an experiment to help combat loneliness, #DateMe has lifted her up in ways she could have never anticipated.

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