So I have an idea for a play. My issue is that I have characters and a setting, but not a story. No narrative anywhere. This idea is like the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is ironic, given that the setting is Occupy Wall Street… However, people generally don’t want to sit for endless hours in a theater waiting for a story to occur.
Bear with me as I’m in a state of half-delierium and half clarity. In working through a proposal to a major government agency for my employer, I have realized part of the reason why public media is by and large failing online. And I mean spectacularly failing at least in comparison to its broadcast audiences. Even you NPR. I think I’m channeling Michael Rosenblum.
The reason is we are trying to be a religion that attracts people through building the best churches you can imagine. Churches (or temples or mosques) with a lot of high production value, snazz, zing, pretty Ken Burns pictures, rich audio, yadda yadda. This was semi-workable when media productions were all incredibly expensive to create but the Internet changed the economy of media creation. Now, some people will come to the faith because of the pretty building, but today major religions rely on modern missionaries, who focus on connecting with millions of people, one community at a time around the globe, and working with them, listening to them, to make their religion relevant for them (I’m blissfully ignoring the forced conversions that missionaries inflicted on many many people for millenia). Not so much on building the big church with the naves and the stained glass windows. Building online communities in public media means that the organizations need to act like missionaries and less like temple builders. At least then you’ll get people in the door. Now, whether you’ll get a revenue stream is another issue.
Muppets and Bohemian Rhapsody. Need I say more?
(Note, I’m not in the theater business, but this is how I feel).
Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?
Philip Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
Hugh Fennyman: How?
Philip Henslowe: I don’t know. It’s a mystery.