Random Thoughts About Problems and Practices

I got recruited at the last minute to teach a public speaking class this semester. After a week, I have already started to make my problem their problem.

I asked the students, in a time when technology adds so many distractions on top of everyday concerns, how did they see themselves rising above or breaking through the noise of these distractions to communicate what is important to them.

What would they do to connect with people and convince them to become invested in the same thing they are? Would they try to use the media that was providing to be so distracting or would they do something different to set them apart?

In many respects, people trying to advocate for early childhood education, political candidates and delivering a speech at a conference all face the same challenges as arts organizations do in terms of trying to find an effective method of communication. People are distracted by cell phones, watch content online, skip ads on a DVR, read fewer newspapers and magazines, all of which makes it difficult to target your message effectively.

My students didn’t have an answer. I have just gotten them started thinking about these issues. They may not be aware that it will be a recurring theme throughout the year.

Another little anecdote I wanted to share. Last week, the drama department held auditions for the first show. I asked one of the students to perform her monologue for my students today so they could get a sense of what it is all about. It seemed to be a good experience.

However, one thing I started to notice over the last year was that the cast list is no longer being posted on the call board. Everyone is contacted via email. I feel like this robs something from the process for the rest of the community. There is no opportunity for even those who didn’t audition to stop by the board to at least mentally celebrate with those who got cast and commiserate with those who didn’t.

I am sure email or text is much more efficient for the directors. They can inform people and get a response relatively quickly rather than having to continually check if someone swung by the call board to initial next to their name and then chase them down to find out if the lack of an initial meant the actor was too lazy to check or they were affronted to be offered a part they felt was beneath them.

But the situation makes it harder for a person like me who is interested and part of the arts community to get invested in the show. I can’t ask cast members how rehearsals are going in passing because I have no idea who is in the show. I am going to have to make an effort to find out.

When I do know someone has been cast, seeing them on the streets or at gatherings reinforces my association of them with the production and as an artist in general.

I wonder if not posting a cast list becomes one of those tiny changes that alters the dynamics for the performing arts. Without insiders closely invested in a production, does that weaken the bonds the general public feels with the arts since word of mouth from people with expertise becomes weaker?

Or am I just perceiving it that way because I haven’t been connected to anyone in the casts via social media like a normal person would be?

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 (artshacker.com) 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. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the 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.


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