I recently heard a story about the famous American Playwright, Edward Albee. He was once asked by a journalist to describe his play in 100 words. I’m sure I am paraphrasing, but his reply was simple, ‘If I could tell you what this play was in 100 words, I wouldn’t have written the rest of them.’
It’s incredibly hard to distil your art into a marketable chunk. As visual artists, words don’t necessarily come easily to us. But it is evermore essential, as our work travels from venue to venue, that we get our marketing right. It seems like something distant from the art – talk of marketing campaigns, audience development strategies and targeted social media plans, but it’s intrinsic to our work. We aim to get new audiences into theatres and excited about the work that happens there, so of course it’s very important that our first message, our first point of outreach conveys what we are about, what we are trying to present and hopefully how exciting it is.
But how the heck do you do that? It’s a question we constantly wrestle with. You can’t possibly convey every nuance of your show – the elevator pitch always leaves something out. And that something is always an essential component to the show, otherwise why would you have it in there?
Currently we are chatting about our poster for Fisk. The image looks great and we are all happy with it, but there’s still a question there – great image, what is it? If you saw a poster for Fisk in a multi-arts venue how would you know it’s a piece of theatre and not a movie or art installation. What words can convey this in the shortest way possible. A new story? A theatrical production by Tortoise in a Nutshell? An atmospheric experience? A visual theatre show? A new play? What describes a piece of art best? What distils the performance into a pure form that encapsulates how it works? We will land with something. We will try it out. We will experiment. But the poster itself is a work of art, it will never be perfect. So we will try and test, fail and succeed. And hopefully people will see our efforts, feel our excitement and come and get excited with us too.
If a written paragraph could convey the world and all of the feelings of Fisk, there would be no need to make it. We take a risk in trying to open the door a crack and give a visual insight into the emotion and world we are creating, hoping our audience will be intrigued enough to leap in.