Continuing my musing on the Effect I want to have on people. The Effect I want NPT to have on the world. This weekend we took an impromptu trip to Boothbay, Maine. Perfect weather and a really enjoyable trip. Part of the allure was that the hotel had a "package" deal of: 2 dinners, 2 breakfasts, 2 nights stay and a sailing trip for one very low price.
When we got there we found that it was a new thing they were trying (I am a big fan of "packaging" for theatre's too) and that they were ironing out the kinks. One kink was that they had not actually told the captain of the Lazy Jack, Capt. Joe, that they were offering this!
He was very gracious and took us out on a two hour cruise even though we were his only passengers for that time! Of course I asked him tons of questions about his business and his experience as a captain. He was a terrific sailor (his ship is a Schooner with four sails) and I found out he actually used to be a record producer in California and then Nashville! We spoke about the entertainment business for a bit and then about his current business.
Even though our hotel had not cleared the "packaging" with him, he was all for it and recognized the good business sense of the concept. He said he had tried that with a few other places as well because he has competition from other Schooners and larger cruise vessels for the tourists. He has to make all his money in the four months that Boothbay operates as a tourist attraction.
Here is where my theatre comparison comes in. Like a hard core actor who is proud of the craft they have developed, Capt. Joe is an amazing sailor. He really knows his craft. Perhaps the effect he hopes to have on his customers is that they see what a great ship he has and how good he is at what he does. Also he hopes to make money. I jokingly suggested that he use an unemployed actor in the area to dress up like a sexy pirate with fishnet stockings and serve "grog" on the trips. Pirates are hot. Or hire an unemployed singer to sing karaoke tunes that have the theme of "water" or "sailing". Lead a fun sing-a-long on the trips.
We laughed, but I was kind of serious. My point was that if he wants to blow away his competition, being the "best sailor in the harbor" is not the advertising to do that. He might think of it as pandering to the masses, but if he made a bit of a concession to "spectacle" or "pizzazz" they might board his ship more often and then he could show off his skill, and his amazing boat.
Back to theatre. I know we actors want to prove we are great at our craft. Theaters want to prove they are producing the most artistic shows. But we have to make a concession to the idea of "where is our audience's head". They are staying home and watching, The Voice, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, The Real Housewives of.... and on and on. I don't love those shows (well, I do love Dancing with the Stars) but I realize that for some folks who don't know much about singing or dancing, it has at least gotten them interested in it.
Then as the HAND OFF to the real artists who do this in REAL theaters we have to make a bit of a bridge for the masses to come our way. We have to help them transition with some pomp and circumstance to get them to our actual shows and out of their living rooms. If that means employing a sexy pirate girl :) just to get them to our ship, then fine, hire a sexy pirate girl...or boy... since it's mostly women buying tickets for shows.
I don't see this as "giving in" or betraying our art. I see this as finding and audience and understanding that they need education. We educators realize that you sometimes have to meet your students where they are. With what they already love and pay money for.
Meet them there and then guide them gently over to the "real art". That is the Effect I want to have on people and that I want NPT to have on others.
Ultimately I want them to experience the effect that real theatre can have on them.