Behind the ‘Lightning Thief’ Twitter Curtain: A Tony Winner

Ashlee Latimer fostered a young online community through the musical’s social media. Fans know her better as Mx. Thief.Ashlee Latimer was hired away by the production to run its Twitter account during the show’s Broadway run.Credit…George Etheredge for The New York TimesThe Twitter account for “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” has more than…

Ashlee Latimer fostered a tender on-line group during the musical’s social media. Fanatics know her higher as Mx. Thief.

Credit score…George Etheredge for The New York Occasions

The Twitter account for “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” has greater than 50,000 fans. Ashlee Latimer is aware of them higher than maximum.

She is aware of their names and handles, their within jokes, their favourite Percy fan theories. She is aware of which follower is a large Taylor Swift fan, and he or she is aware of {that a} delegation of Norwegians loves the musical. When she posted a tweet with a couple of cryptic emojis, a wink to a lyric at the then-unannounced forged album, she knew precisely which sleuthing follower would answer inside of mins and crack the code.

However the display’s enthusiasts know subsequent to not anything about Latimer.

They’re lots acquainted, despite the fact that, along with her modify ego: Mx. Thief, the gender-neutral alias posting memes and motivational notes at the @LTMusical account because the display’s run Off Broadway in 2017. Mx. Thief has transform a moderately crafted and recognizable voice — in some posts mysterious and teasing; in others, urging fans to unfold kindness. Infrequently, Mx. Thief is instantly sass, a camp counselor crossed with an older sibling, calling out trolls, or skilled theater critics.

The result’s a Twitter account that, past its objective as a advertising and marketing software, doubles as a virtual amassing position for enthusiasts of Percy Jackson, the demigod protagonist of the musical and Rick Riordan’s best-selling kids’s collection. Few different Broadway displays have matched this stability — or choice of fans — on their social media accounts.

And now that the Broadway run is over — “The Lightning Thief” had its ultimate efficiency on Sunday — Latimer, 28, is popping out from in the back of the curtain for the primary time.

Mx. Thief turned into a fan favourite, now not not like the characters onstage on the Longacre Theater, receiving presents and artwork works from fans — together with a demonstration of an nameless determine with a thick, old-school pc track for a head and a collage despatched from Australia of the artist’s favourite Mx. Thief tweets, revealed and fixed on blue cardstock.

“Getting messages and tweets and feedback concerning the ways in which the display has modified their lifestyles, and in addition how the social has impacted them, has been so particular,” Latimer mentioned.

However for 3 years her id remained nameless. This isn’t abnormal; maximum emblem accounts don’t have any reason why to expose the social media supervisor pulling the strings. But if fans started to invite questions — Who precisely used to be operating the account? Used to be it a member of the forged? A personality from the Percy Jackson books? — it used to be determined that Latimer will have to take care of the mystique.

Whilst the musical used to be met with harsh opinions and occasional weekly grosses, its social media presence helped to herald first-time theatergoers, mentioned Carl White, considered one of its manufacturers.

“Hamilton” and “Expensive Evan Hansen” have a ways better Twitter followings, however “Lightning Thief” used to be on par with the long-running “Phantom of the Opera” and “Waitress,” which additionally closed on Sunday.

And manufacturers inspired Latimer to push positive envelopes: After opening-night opinions had been lower than stellar — Jesse Inexperienced in The New York Occasions referred to as the display “a failed try to board the teenage fantasy-angst educate” — the account answered.

“I don’t assume there’s anything else improper with clapping again at one’s critics,” mentioned White, who praised the account for prompting “super” engagement. “We all know {that a} client is much more likely to hear the advice from a pal than they’re essentially a critic.”

For lots of enthusiasts, that’s what Latimer turned into. Fans ultimate yr gave her the identify Mr. Thief, prior to she asked a correction that stuck on: Mx. Thief can be a more sensible choice, to keep away from making an assumption about her id. (Latimer is gender-fluid and makes use of she/her pronouns.)

In 2017, Latimer used to be running on the Pekoe Staff, a theater advertising and marketing company, and used to be assigned to tackle “The Lightning Thief” and its social media. After the Off Broadway run wrapped up, the musical’s manufacturers employed her without delay to stick on thru ultimate yr’s nationwide excursion and the switch to Broadway.

Since August 2019, she has additionally been an affiliate at TBD Theatricals, the place she juggles a full-time inventive construction gig along with her “Lightning Thief” duties.

There’s some other beautiful large Mx. Thief element that fans don’t learn about: She has a Tony Award. Latimer used to be a manufacturer on “As soon as on This Island,” which gained the most efficient musical revival prize in 2018. (A video of her weeping on are living tv throughout the acceptance turned into a little bit of a meme.)

Latimer isn’t a lot older than the essentially Era Z fan base for “The Lightning Thief,” however there are sufficient years between her and her target market to have had what she calls “‘Freaky Friday’ crypt keeper” moments — the use of acronyms and slang from her teenage years that now not translate.

She grew up within the technology of Myspace and nonetheless has anxious reminiscences of the worry that got here with by accident overusing pay-per-minute web on her cellular phone. “I think like the children are going to listen to this and be like, wow, she is historic,” she mentioned.

Her closest tie to on-line fandom used to be thru now-defunct Harry Potter message forums, the place she may publish dissertations on “Part-Blood Prince” fan theories. Speedy-forward a decade, and he or she’s the only serving to “Lightning Thief” fans meet kindred spirits in different time zones.

Fanatics shouldn’t mourn Mx. Thief simply but. The display may have some other nationwide excursion, despite the fact that Latimer gained’t be in the back of the account anymore. “There can be a brand new Mx. Thief,” she promised, “whoever they finally end up being.”

Within the intervening time, it used to be Latimer as Mx. Thief who mentioned good-bye after the manufacturing’s ultimate Broadway efficiency, quoting a lyric from the remaining quantity: “we adore you, demigods. thanks for an unbelievable quest.”