Last night, I met some great people with whom I’ve corresponded in the social worlds for quite a while, and we put faces to names (not just screen names to avatars) for the first time. We had a quick chat about our upcoming projects, and I told them about the blog I’m creating for Feeder: A Love Story. One suggested it was about marketing and hooking an audience, and I tried to explain that it’s not just about putting butts in seats but about telling the story.
This is a common misunderstanding when it comes to transmedia storytelling. Certainly, it’s a way to “hook” people, but I prefer the word “engage.” When I first thought about creating the problog for Noel and Jesse, I hadn’t heard of transmedia storytelling. I just wanted to find a unique and interesting way of telling and expanding their story. Eventually, after working on it for a while, I discovered the world of transmedia storytelling, or deep media storytelling. There are stories in the problog that are only briefly mentioned in the play, and the play has stories not even referenced in the problog. The pieces are meant to work together to give the audience a richer experience of the tale.
Theatre is a unique and special experience. Like any live performance, it allows the audience to congregate and trek through events and emotions of the characters. It should make the audience curious to know more. I don’t know how many times (especially with this play) people remark, “I wish I knew more about that character.” To put everything in the play, however, doesn’t make sense. There’s subtext. Human behavior. Uniquely theatrical journeys. As a dramatist, I don’t want to tell everything in the play. That’s where mystery and magic lives.
So, why tell back stories on another platform at all? I dislike dramaturgical notes.
With Feeder: A Love Story, one of the first questions audience members ask is: “Is this real?”
Yes, it is. Do I want to put that in a paper program people read before the play begins, detailing out what the fetish is, how people live it, or how I found it? Not really. That takes people out of the play. Generally, theatre could do a better job of pointing the audience in the right direction to discover these answers for themselves.
As theatre-makers, our job is to create worlds that entertain, enlighten and excite. If we have to explain why we wrote something in a dramatugical program note, aren’t we falling short somehow as storytellers?
Of course, sometimes audience needs explanation. Pieces may be completely avant-garde or experimental with no story at all, or perhaps a company re-envisions a classic play in a new setting or time period. There are ways of giving context without writing a four paragraph manifesto on why this piece exists. I don’t care. I don’t usually read them. If I am not moved to laugh, cry or dance, the performance doesn’t succeed.
If and when audience requires context, why not share it in other mediums? There are loads of ways to achieve this. Direct an audience to source material on the internet, tell a classic story in a two minute video with puppets, or create an interactive game that reveals more about the live performance experience. Make dramaturgy a fun discovery, not a return to the classroom. No body wants to feel like they must learn something to enjoy art. But, if art spurs people to learn because it engages, a dual benefit manifests.
We aren’t printing a program for Feeder: A Love Story. We’re going green. Our program will live online at the terraNOVA Website. But, we’re not going green just to “go green.” We’re doing it because we want to direct people to the back story. Back to the problog. If an audience member hasn’t discovered the problog before the play, she or he can dig deeper on their own.
Hopefully, it engages in a fun and fantastic way.