Bigger Source of Pain- Hamlet vs. Dentist

They have probably been advertising it for a long time now and I have been ignoring the content of the commercials but I just realized that Oral-B has been promoting one of their tooth brushes as having an on board computer.

My first thought was that the thing was going to report my brushing habits to my dentist. (Avaunt thee, traitorous dental implement!)

The truth is, no matter how high tech his practice becomes in its information collection and interpretation, my dentist won’t be terribly effective if he doesn’t have a good bedside, or in this case, spit sink side, manner. Sure he may have lots of patients. But dental visits are the cause for a lot of anxiety as it is. If his manner is a contributing factor to people delaying a return visit, he is failing the purpose of his profession. (Unless we are to believe Little Shop of Horrors)

I am sure you see where I am going with this. I can easily foresee that the use of RFID chips or something similar in the future will allow arts organizations to capture more data about audiences, especially those who walk up to a performance, than ever before. But performing regression analysis on the demographics attending each performance is only going to go so far in cultivating relationships with people.

It certainly isn’t going to tell you a person is on crutches and should be diverted to another door before they arrive at the main entrance so they don’t have to hobble all the way back. A well trained house staff will tell you these things after they have attended to the patron’s needs.

Dentists have a much higher barrier of entry to overcome than arts organizations do. (Though some people have a better sense of what to expect at the dentist.) There is no reason not to aspire to providing the same level of reassurance and comfort that a dentist office needs to extend to make their customers comfortable.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


2 thoughts on “Bigger Source of Pain- Hamlet vs. Dentist”

  1. “Dentists have a much higher barrier of entry to overcome than arts organizations do.”

    But you are supposed to visit a dentist twice a year. That’s probably a minimum of 100 to 120 visits in a lifetime (plus bonus visits for cavities). There is no minimum of visits to an arts organization. Indeed, probably most people never visit or interact with an arts organization ever in their lifetimes.

  2. I can only speak for the theatre I see in Scotland, but it always disappoints me how little effort theatre companies make to reach out to, and learn about their audiences. Programmes may contain details of how to join a mailing list but few actively request responses to a show, and that is missed opportunity that is largely unforgiveable.

    Only Rapture Theatre really grasp the chance to engage their audience with feedback questionnaires distributed at each performance, and at *every* performance of theirs I have attended the creative team have been out front in the foyer before and after the show doing “meet and greet” and “thank you for coming” chats and seeing the faces of their customers.

    While technology and databases can add information about audiences, nothing can compare with the personal interaction that so few take advantage of.


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