What I like most about what I do is the finding of ways to captivate an audience with a story they believe that they already know…to engage them in Rediscovery.
Rediscovery, as I define and strive to create it, is an experience more subtly profound, nuanced; running deeper than recall or remembering. Most simply; Rediscovery is created through sublime Evocation, while memory is stirred by Articulate Reminder: two very different things.
This is why I so eagerly embrace opportunities that come my way for writing, staging and telling of oft-told stories: taking cultural legends, myths, traditional folk tales that are multiple generations old and weaving them into ceremonies, theatrical shows or presentations for multigenerational audiences. Finding ways to give an Old Story new resonance with today’s aspirational, global citizens while maintaining the integrity sought by the elder parts of a given audience is the welcome creative challenge for the entire team.
Burnishing the patina of an old story and helping it evolve to emerge in unexpected ways, taking a more circuitous path toward denouement such that the reward of recognition takes on greater, more expansive power and release: these are the challenges that, as they become realized, excite and empower the creative teams long before audiences get to experience them.
That is the process that compels and fulfills me.
Gathering a creative production team of artists, designers, technicians, engineers, composers, choreographers, logisticians, cultural experts and anthropologists, even the occasional dramaturg, and studying the kernel of the story is where this energy begins for me.
Exploring together the possibilities of a story; creating a backstory or peripheral bit that can be obliquely expressed, deepening the connection by subtly opening an emotional door in the heart of each audience member…these are the little mysteries that, as solved, become the compelling beats of a well-told story.
This is how I’ve come to create terms such as Successive Revelation, Subliminal Engagement, Comfortable Disorientation… Give the story to the audience in such a way that it becomes personal to each individual member out there; evoking imagery and motivation, hinting at possibility, crafting the unfolding of the story in such a way that each person is psychically seeking, virtually leaning forward and reaching out for the next revelation, the next step, with breathless, sotto-voce gasps of recognition as conclusion nears…
This has to be Built with a team that is willing to go there with me; willing to not know how we’re going to tell this story when we first gather. As I share for the first time the vision I have for a given show, spectacle or experience; what gives me the most pleasure is to see professional eyes around the table light up with inspiration as the initial concept is shared. Seeds of ideas are planted in those who will ultimately create dimension and bring the story to life. Personal investment is made on the part of each player and the dynamic that begins at the front will yield idea after passionately collaborative idea as the process unfolds.
Essentially, every story I tell has had to become personal to me, or I cannot make it personal to the audience.
So, yes; sometimes there may be a bit of weeping.
This is me, after all.
After all these years at the Fair, I’m glad to know that I have not (yet?) become jaded. I consider myself lucky to have this healthy, compassionate inner child; to carry within me this unfiltered heart…as it is this heart through which I find each disparate Pathway to Story.
Simply put: when I can move myself, I can move you. Thus, that’s my method.
For this wet-eyed trait, I do take no small ration of good-natured ribbing from colleagues and crew who work often with me; though, when the voice shakes a bit in the telling of the tale and tears hint at appearance, we know we’re on track.
It’s a dependable barometer.
IMHO; We can show people images of something happy and make them smile or even cheer at the recognized, remembered event or moment. We can show people pictures of very sad things and give them a sense of sadness.
We can show them images of places they’ve been, things they’ve done, people they’ve known and elicit fond, happy or wistful memories…creating an excellent and memorable show experience.
Yet we can ease all the way into their heads, plumb the protected or even forgotten depths such that they are no longer seeing through their eyes but are rediscovering something precious and wonderful within themselves.
We can take them to another plane of experience…and when that is accomplished, as this shared experience becomes uniquely personal, the House, Arena or Stadium becomes filled with a different sort of silence.
Palpable silence, almost velvet-like, as each person in the audience privately experiences this thing that belongs only to themselves.
Just for a moment. A shared, intimate Moment all the more powerful in that throughout the space each are having their own, unique experience, en masse.
Taking an audience to that place keeps my own heart alive, my muse nimble, myself fulfilled. It is the pursuit and sharing of that Moment that keeps me inspired…and keeps me working!
Anecdote: Some years ago, I created and delivered a 13-city tour of a full theatrical production for a well known University development campaign. Believe me, this alumni body knows everything about their school and could call it up and quote it at will. Crafting an Experience that took these men and women all the way back to Discovery was no small feat.
As I characterize it, “…we raised over $1 billion and left rooms full of weeping millionaires in our wake…” An apt enough description (though they weren’t actually all millionaires nor did all of them weep).
For our closing celebration, before the team disbanded and went on to other projects, I wrote an epic poem of commemoration; the final stanza of which strives to articulate that Moment when we truly have a trusting audience in our intimate grasp. I think it may apply to any and all of us who do what we do.
“But there was a moment, in every city
When what we did went to profound from pretty.
When guests became silent, when hearts skipped a beat,
When each person settled more into the seat.
The air in the room became quieter, still;
And breath was abated as hearts took the thrill.
That’s when we touched them, that’s when we knew
We’d delivered completely on our Mission, true.
No one will ever accomplish again
What we have given to those where we’ve been…”
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