Are We Not Men?

A couple entries in the recent past on Donor Power Blog about interaction with one’s constituents caught my eye.

The first, Do Your Donors Think You’re Indifferent, links to Customers Are Always blog which notes a recent study found that perceived indifference by a company causes far more people to sever their relationship with a company than cost and quality issues.

Donor Power points out that indifference is in the eye of the beholder. “It’s important to note here that indifference only be perceived. People cannot know other people’s motives; they can only deduce them from the actions they see. So you can care passionately and still be perceived as indifferent.”

It was hard for the second entry titled, How to position yourself as human, not to catch my eye. Especially since the first sentence was “What are you doing to persuade your donors that you aren’t human?”

The entry links to another blog, What’s Your Brand Mantra. Like Jeff Brooks at Donor Power, I too focused in on the point about writing to appeal to your audience rather than using language which only has relevance to insiders and alienates or confounds your target audiences.

This is a point I have made in the past about press releases and marketing material. But I figure now that organizations are gearing up to announce their new seasons in the next few months, the concept bears repeating.

Food for I

I didn’t come across anything today that would inspire me to write a lengthy entry. But thanks to Tyler Green at Modern Art Notes, I learned that the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego has created a very cool and fun website to introduce their free admission policy for people under 25 made possible by underwriting by QUALCOMM.

I had a lot of fun playing with the website. Makes me wish I lived in San Diego. I also wish I was still 25, but that is for myriad other reasons besides free admission.

Perils of Live Performance

I have written about increasing the interactivity of performances at least twice before. While increasing interactivity is something that may be key to the continued survival of the performing arts, involving the audience more integrally in a show isn’t necessarily going to always be constructive and enjoyable.

Via comes the story of an incident that occurred while Mike Daisey was performing his one person show at American Repertory Theatre. The show had hardly begun when 86 people stood and exited the theatre with one man going up on stage and dumping water on Daisey’s outline for the performance. The whole thing was captured on tape. Daisey includes the video on his blog where he explains what happened.

What is so compelling about the video is that because the show is extemporaneous and has no set script, Daisey goes with the moment and gets up and asks why they are leaving. He mentions that he can regulate his language if that is what offends them and invites them to return so they can have a conversation. The only response he gets is one person saying they are Christian.

After the group has departed, Daisey engages in a conversation with the audience about what has happened and how the destruction of his outline, which he makes small alterations to everyday, means that he will have to spend the next day reconstructing his show.

According to his most recent blog entry he actually got in contact with the group and the man who destroyed his notes. His discussion of his interaction with the man shows sensitivity and empathy in a situation where anger and derision for those who offered insult might be expected. (Though on the night of the show he was quite angry and called those who were departing cowards.)

The quality of the writing and insight he offers is what I have envisioned when I suggested artists keep blogs about the creative process for audiences to access. It is just too bad an incident like this has to be the impetus of it.

Which is not to say that his other entries on the American Repertory Theatre blog don’t have value, he does a great job addressing why his extemporaneous performances may appear to be memorized for example. The entries and video on the walk out are just great examples of what the performance experience can be for artist and audience and superb lessons to artists about how to deal with people who are angered by your work in a constructive, non-dismissive manner.

You Must Be This Tall To Clap

As I noted earlier, my involvement in Take A Friend to The Orchestra Month this year took little effort on my part since the Symphony came to me. For the first time in a long while, the Symphony came to perform a school outreach on my stage. Many of the musicians commented on that fact and hoped they would be returning for future events.

The program certainly had a greater reach than anyone anticipated as mothers showed up with infants in hand while accompanying the older siblings. We had ten strollers parked in the lobby during the first concert. Four people used our stage as a diaper changing area prior to the performance which left us concerned some of the babies would roll off.

I didn’t get to watch the whole thing, but the concert started with a short sample of John Williams’ “Theme from Superman and the ended with the full work.

What really stuck out from the whole experience was the audience’s reaction to the second piece they performed. Because they were trying to demonstrate varying tempo, they performed Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King.”

Before the piece was over the entire audience was clapping along in time with the music. I am guessing this isn’t a common response from the way the conductor commented on how the audience had really gotten into the piece. The symphony had sent CDs of the program to the schools in advance so they could prepare so the students could have been introduced to the idea of clapping along in the classroom. Though honestly, if you listen to the music, it doesn’t take much impetus to get you clapping.

Some of the volunteer ushers the symphony brought along commented how great it was that the kids enjoyed the music so much that they were getting involved with it.

I couldn’t help but wonder how old the kids would have to be before that sort of behavior was no longer tolerated from them. There is already a debate about aplause between movements, clapping during the performance would certainly be sacrilege. Certainly, social conventions require that you stifle such impulses to allow other people the opportunity to listen to the music.

On the other hand, symphonies often talk about how composers were the bad boy rock stars of their day so I suspect that people might have had a less restrained reaction to the music than they do these days. I came across a reference to children following Grieg around the streets of Bergen whistling tunes from his Peer Gynt Suites. If you followed the “In the Hall of the Mountain King”link earlier (or right here) you will see that the popular appeal of Grieg’s music lives on today. (Though in some cases, it seems to be a mutant life form.)