Why a Rain Dance reminded me what Theater can (and should) do.
I was in suburban Massachusetts last weekend visiting the ‘rents, when I stumbled on a story of a small town Selectman that reminded me of what our shows should endeavor to do.
There’s a bit of a drought in central Mass, believe it or not. In some locales, they’ve instituted daytime watering bans, encouraged people to cover their pools, and tried to educate the public on a myriad of other water conservation methods.
But, from what I’ve heard, it wasn’t quite working. No one was paying attention to the flyers and signs and overly didactic articles about saving water (boring!).
So one politician from a small town with Native American roots tried something a little different.
He put on a show.
He contacted a Native American tribe from the area and asked them to put on a Rain Dance in the town square on a Saturday afternoon. He publicized it as a free event for all ages. Bring the whole family and watch this ancient tradition. They added some food and arts and crafts, and all of a, sudden it was a Rain Dance Festival.
And a ton of people showed up.
Once in that small captive area, the town leaders were able to speak directly to the audience about water conservation, hand out flyers, and educate what was previously a reluctant group on the current drought, and what everyone could do about it.
And while the town citizens learned . . . they had fun.
This politician used entertainment as a way to get his message across. And isn’t that what great theater is supposed to do? It serves an audience spoonfuls of sugar with songs and dancing girls and big sets, but some of the best shows out there (West Side Story, Kinky Boots, etc.) deliver an important message to the audience without them even knowing it.
People go to the theater for one primary reason . . . to be entertained. That doesn’t mean you can’t educate them at the same time, but the job of the Producer and the Playwright is to entertain first and educate second.
(By the way, the same way this politician used entertainment to deliver his message, so can CEOs, Pastors, Managers and anyone in a leadership position.)
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