I’m at the Shakespeare Theatre Association conference (up until 5pm it was the Shakespeare Theatre Association of America, but now the organization is embracing the whole world). Between the gorgeous mountains and the amazing minds congregating here, I am immensely inspired and, basically, on fire.
The first speaker today was Tina Packer, Founder of Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts. Her talk was titled, “Where are we going? What are we doing?” It was a fascinating talk that wove together Shakespeare, psychology, rhetoric, neuroscience, and the philosophy behind the writing of the King James Bible. I could write a multitude of posts on various topics inspired by this one hour, but Tina said one sentence within the first ten minutes that will drive this particular response.
“[The Internet is] severing the idea of thought and feeling in the body and the process of communicating human being to human being.”
Those of you aware of my obsession with Twitter can begin to imagine how hard I had to sit on my hands and not respond until the Q&A portion of the hour. When the session was opened up to the floor, my hand would be held back no longer. First I quoted the Pew Internet & American Life Project study which said:
Compared to those who do not use the internet, internet users are 42% more likely to visit a public park or plaza and 45% more likely to visit a coffee shop or café.
The findings go on to say:
We found that ownership of a mobile phone and participation in a variety of internet activities were associated with larger and more diverse core discussion networks.
I can definitely say that this is true in my case. The friends I’ve made on Twitter and, more specifically, the 2 am Theatre community, have expanded my world exponentially. And, these relationships have and continue to translate into a much more active social network “in real life.” Now, when I visit new cities (like Boulder, for instance), I have friends to meet and relationships to expand. There are theatres I would never even have heard of that now I want to make special travel plans just so I can check them out.
I can already hear nay-sayers, “But, you are already invested in the theatre world, what about all those ‘kids’ out there who aren’t tapped into our community?” My answer is they are out there, waiting to be engaged. I believe the Internet has simply made it more impossible for us to blame the potential audience for not finding us. It is easier and more vital for us to be present in the conversation. LISTEN! They are talking about issues that we explore every day. Talk to them, ask them questions, get to know what they are looking for and how we fit into their lives. But, above all, listen.
Over lunch a few of us got into a conversation about the perceived generation of “dabblers” out there, the idea that everyone wants to sample. However, what I’ve found is that while, yes, people want to sample lots of things they may not have sampled before (and that is a GOOD thing), we also are seeing folks wanting to dive their entire souls into in-depth research about niche topics like never before. I believe that it is our job to provide samples that make the dabblers want to dive in. What is on your website that allows people to dig and dive?
One of my favorite quotes from Tina’s talk was:
“We have the run down of human conscious and a multiplicity of points of view embedded in Shakespeare.”
This is so true, her example of the characters in Julius Caesar was perfect: Cassius and Brutus on the same side but for intensely different reasons. Antony and Octavius, the same. However, the same quote could be talking about the Internet. We have the opportunity to use technology and the Internet to introduce ourselves to our potential audiences, draw them in, and hook them so that they can’t wait to get through our doors. The conversation is happening, with or without our points of view. But, they can’t get hooked if we don’t show up.