The marketer in me berates the obnoxious artist "how the hell are you going to convince anyone to see your show if you are obstinately refusing to define or even accurately describe it?" True, I suppose you've got a point, me. But I respond "we've made a show built around the idea of building an idea in front of the audience. Whatever I explain to you will be a fence-walking attempt to get you interested enough to see the show while trying to give away as little as possible as to what the show is actually about." (Faith Helma was put on the spot Tuesday to do precisely some of that fence-walking during a chat with Stumptown Magazine). This is further complicated with Uncanny Valley because of our intentional conflation of the fictional show-world and reality (getting curious?). How accurate are we to be with you, our wonderful audience, about what the show is? Do you want the description that brings you closer to actual reality or closer to the fictional reality? And will you feel misled once you find that what you thought was the actual reality is really just more of the fiction ... and then you find out that the fiction was real all along, just steeping in metaphor... or is it steeping in your own mind ... (note: I'm just trying to confuse you)
Okay I'll stop pontificating. My point is not actually the specifics of the show, but more of the complexity of marketing and growing an audience for this kind of contemporary performance. This seems to be a recurring question posed to Hand2Mouth, particularly with work-in-progress runs, where part of the point of performing in front of an audience is actually to figure out what it is we are making. How do we market this? What do you put in the press release? How do we build an audience for a production that is necessarily a kind of question mark? (if you have any ideas, you should make sure you're at one of our post-show discussions this weekend--Sat eve or Sunday matinee).
Now for the point of all this--I just got to attend a great conversation between Chris Coleman and Michael Kaiser, the president of the Kennedy Center in D.C., on the challenges of maintaining and growing non-profit arts organizations. One of Kaiser's big points was the essential (and oft overlooked) art of institutional marketing for arts organizations--this is essentially marketing that supports positive public consciousness of the company as a whole (as opposed to programmatic marketing which is about selling specific events). It struck me as very applicable to H2M's problem. What we are asking from potential audience is the commitment to the idea of the company as a whole, to participate in a culture of continuing support for our mission, without necessary parsing individual events. It is about the excitement of new work and the chance at being part of the process, not just a witness to the product. I'm not saying we must always ignore the specifics of our work, but I feel a lot better about sharing with you that what we're doing on the Reed College Mainstage starting tomorrow night is collaborating on something completely new, something experimental, collaborating with you. Will it work? Only if you come and play your part.
See you there!