“Noo!!! You’ve got to feel the way those words make you…It’s like when you bite into your favorite piece of cake that you haven’t had in years! You’ve GOT TO have that energy SEEPING THROUGH you, that FIRE! It just makes you so giddy, you just…just…aahhhg!! It’s WONDERFUL!…You know what I’m saying…?”
We had an idea of what she was talking about – even though it was Shakespeare we were working on. But, in truth, there was NO WAY we could get to that level of understanding…not yet.
But there stood this powerful woman with the strength, passion and animation of an 18 year old – urging us to take the text to a deeper level. She was fearless and commanded an incredible amount of respect. And even though she was in her 60s and stood just over five feet, she towered over every one of her students with love, ardor and anxiety.
We spent many an hour dissecting scenes, working the iambic pentameter and trying to make sense of what ‘Billy Shakes’ was trying to say. But more than anything else, we were trying to humanize characters like Iago, Bottom, Petruchio or Katherine. HOW could we make their lines relevant to our audiences? What would make them care? How can we make them ‘get it’ and not feel restless after the first few minutes of a play? Keeping an audience happy (or from getting bored) with a contemporary play is hard enough.
But our professor was tireless in her pursuit to help us make it important for the audience – they have to care about what you’re saying and who you are. We had to work with what we had – nothing more. We couldn’t dress up the passages with some slang. We weren’t allowed to throw in some nonsense from our own particular bag o’ tricks. We would try. But she would thump us quickly, screaming from the back of the auditorium, “No-No-Noooo!! That’s not gonna work here, buddy!” We had to keep simple. We were building a foundation and framing for a home she would tell us – “Once that’s firmly set, then we could see about painting the walls with our own colors and patterns.”
Yes, it was a little nutty, but it worked. And here’s how it works for me today:
- Dissecting the Text – As we found the rhythms and meter (the iambic pentameter) in Shakespeare’s plays, we’d find some incredible nuggets in the words he wrote for his actors. Much like this dissection of our characters, I make sure that everyone in our team takes the time to pore over whatever documentation our clients give us when we begin a new relationship. By doing this, we often find some aspects of their business that, quite frankly, has been overlooked – especially if it’s a more tech-oriented company.
- My Bag O’ Tricks – By getting my hand slapped (most of the time vocally with a ‘Nooo!’) whenever I would try to bring in a familiar look, voice, etc., it helped me to understand that there really are a variety of ways to do a scene. This has translated so well in PR and Social Media, since our whole goal (as an industry) is (or at least it should be) to deliver a message in a unique and meaningful way. No BS. No Tricks. A good strong message will carry you through. And it will most certainly support a myriad of ideas and tactics…easily.
- Keep the Audience Awake – Shakespeare done well (truly) is a lot more difficult than you may think. So when you see it done right, it’s a ROCKIN show. One of the things that supports this occurrence is when you keep an unbiased eye on as to what your play is telling an audience and how. In PR and Social Media, your overall approach is so very important. In fact, the infamous and insightful Richard Laermer said yesterday on Twitter that “Tone…is everything.” How you say something to your audience (be it your current customers, potential customers, business leaders, in a social network, etc.) can damage/propel a company’s reputation faster than you may think. Consider the messes made when you think about Motrin or David Letterman.
What tactics are you using today that you learned from an odd job growing up? Who is your nutty n’ loving inspiration that keeps you digging in deeper for something better today?