What the black/blue or gold/white dress debate means for your show.

They’re calling it “The Dress That Broke The Internet.”

I’m talking of course about that blue and black dress . . . or is it gold and white . . . wait, hold on, it’s blue and . . . nope, white.  Damn it!

You know exactly what I’m talking about.  It’s the dress that caused knock-down, drag-outs at the water cooler late last week because some people adamantly saw it black and blue and others saw it gold and white.

There are all sorts of super-sciency reasons why people see the dress as different colors, as written about in this New York Times article (and now can we pause for a moment to reflect on the fact that the New York Times covered this crazy story?).

But for me, the matter was quite simple.

People see things differently.  And that goes for cheap dresses on Tumblr, and it most certainly goes for art, and yep, theater.

Ever hated something that your friend just loved?  Ever laugh at a line of dialogue while everyone else sat stone faced?  Ever see someone crying at the end of a play and wonder if you saw the same show?

The truth is . . . you didn’t see the same show.  Everyone sees things differently, thanks to their own tastes, their own sensibilities, and their own personal experiences.

It’s imperative for you to remember this when you are developing your own shows, because the feedback you get is going to run the gamut of blue and black to white and gold and every color in between.

And look, when I’m creating a new piece, no one asks for more feedback than me (I’m the guy who does this for all his shows, remember?).  But while it’s important to weigh every opinion you receive, at the end of the day, you must create the show that you want to see.

For this simple reason and this alone . . .

If your show doesn’t work, you want it not to work based on what you wanted, not based on the opinion of other people who may see things differently.  Because the only thing worse than a flop is a flop that isn’t what you wanted it to be.


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  • Debbie Saville says:

    This is a great message Ken! As I created Heart of Steel, I stayed true to my intention of creating a show featuring the band within the production. As I moved along and faced the difficulties of working with musicians never involved before with the theatre, I started doubting my intentions. But the point is, deep inside I never lost what is was I wanted to accomplish which was taking creative musicians to the theatre stage elevating them to another level of performance. It is a difficult path to create something from nothing, It is a difficult path believing in something that others at times raised their eyebrows over. But, when we premiered three nights to sold-out performances with multiple standing ovations, as we played to diverse audiences (some who never saw a musical), it was worth every worry line that it created! If the show was not well received, I would have still felt a sense of pride creating an original musical, something I never knew was coming my way over three years ago.

    Although I struggled at times in this journey, I never lost faith in what I wanted this to be. As I faced those who doubted, there were always supporters like you who helped keep my dream alive.

    So to all who might read this, as you move along your path of creativity, believe in the dream you have inside and face the struggles of taking it into reality. Keep your intentions close as you smile knowing anything is possible.

  • Alan Langguth says:

    The dress controversy brings to mind the same effect in another situation. I sometimes conduct wine tastings and at one of these events a man came up to me to complain that I had stated that a particular wine had strong peach flavors. In the discussion with this man I happened to ask him where he was basing his peach memories. It turned out that the only peaches this man had ever eaten were the ones purchased at a Chicago area grocery store. Those peaches are like eating an apple! I think they even put some sort of wax coating on them to keep them from bruising. He never traveled down South and had peaches directly from an orchid where they are grown. I told him that those truly fresh, ripe peaches when bit into unleash a world of flavors as the juice cascades down your arm.
    You see I believe that ALL sensory perceptions are based on one’s past experiences. It is the rock that a person builds upon….and yes sometimes it makes one see a glass (or theater) as half-full while another sees the glass as half-empty.

  • Walt Frasier says:

    I teach my Improv students, the audiences imagination is a major part of the equation. Same is true of any minimal theater. And to a lesser degree all live performance. 100 guests have 100 unique experiences based on their own lives.

    Of course, we learn when you over expose a photo some folks are very gullible.

    I remember your post from a few weeks ago about ticket prices and varied perception of “value”. Everyone hears and sees the world through their unique lens. And with live arts every performance is unique, not matter how cookie cutter the staging may be.

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