The Art in the Art

              There is a saying around the theatre community that states, “the show must go on.” This maxim has duplicity regarding application to entertainments. Not only does it speak to the avalanche of the production process and the inevitability of opening night, but also the phrase applies to the very nature of entertainment. There is a reason that the performing arts are called show business. Their audience is there for entertainment. The more self-important a production becomes, the less likely it is to draw an audience. In short, part of the job of creators is to give the audience what they want – not necessarily how they expect it. But if you are not putting out a product that has aspects of engaging the audience, beyond the cerebral message you are attempting to convey, then you are producing a list of beliefs, not an art. Artists can have a manifesto, but the manifesto is not the art.

              Productions do not have to be littered with gags, skin, and light topic shows – devoid of message. But neglecting the show aspect deprives your audience of a vital component of entertainment. That is what makes performance an art form. Anyone can create a work that talks to the audience, directly or indirectly, but the art lies in finessing this message into a spectacle. There can be focused moments – heavy-handed storytelling – this not a total admonishment of that, but you must not forget to entertain. That is the truth of this art form; we are not meant to sermonize the audience. We can moralize. But we cannot abandon the audience’s wants, or the audience will abandon the production.

Memory, Our Faithful Friend

The past passes. One of the reasons behind our society’s love of nostalgia deals heavily with the idea that if there is a return to the past, there will continue to be a future. It is a reassuring notion to know that when you see something set in the “ye olde times,” no matter how dark it is,  that civilization will continue until time catches up with the present. The uncertainty of the future drives our thoughts backward instead of forward. We cannot imagine, with any assurance, what tomorrow or ten years from now will look like, but any period entertainment will remind us of our accomplishments as a society — filling us with pride over the difficulties we have overcome and the science that we have invented. Reassuring us that humanity is, on the whole, a species of survival. That the problems humanity encounters can be conquered in the face of an unpromised sunrise.

If you need a bump in audience frame your entertainment through the lens of by-gone, easily recognizable era to gain the need exposure to help you keep creating. We love being reminded of our greatness as a species, even if it does bring up troublesome aspects of our past – the audience can brush off that old wickedness as something not from the present, rarely does it stick that many of the problems of the past remain in today’s society. They are mistakes of a less enlightened time rather than a lingering sickness that needs attention.

This nostalgia notion is the same time of circular logic many politicians use to garner votes. By returning, to yesteryear think we are promised a tomorrow because we made it to today. Paradoxically, they don’t see fault in their thought. You cannot bring back the past any more than you can advance into the future. The revisitation of the past would mean institutionalizing, again, the same problems of the past. In essence, any person offering a return to ideologically is offering their listeners a hamster on a wheel proposition and knowing the solutions to problems that the reenactions of policy that society has already solved. It is the same as a professional theatre company only producing a single show over a ten-year run. Sure the faces might change in the cast, but the same story is told. There is no forward momentum to this thought, which is what some want. The deification of nostalgia creates an audience ill-equipped to deal with new concepts in entertainment. In a way, it is a form of monopolizing the market. If enough creators only produce nostalgic works then when a creator attempts something not reliant on glorifying the past, the audience rejects the new work opting for the safety net of nostalgia.