Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Beowulf, 1k Years of...

I've been busy orchestrating test plans, feedback and all the other important little details of early customer testing for Tonian. There has been little room for mental exercise, but I did get out a little.

I squeezed in the wonderfully irreverent Beowulf at ART: "A Thousand Years of Baggage"  In word, song and pantomime the Banana Bag & Bodice company walked the audience through the epic poem that we know and (probably do not) love. Beowulf's baggage is historical, critical and contemporary. The studying of Beowulf is unavoidable in American High Schools and a rite of passage for the English Major.  

There are no surprises in the fight scenes. The audience is even pre-conditioned by English teachers to see patriarchal and matriarchal motifs. Yes, Grendel is killed. The male bloodline continues into old age - until a dragon (hubris) does him in. What can you do when everyone in the audience knows the story?

First, be creative. We didn't come for the story. We came for the experience. Banana Bag & Bodice's performance started in the audience with music.

Second, get your audience involved. In 1k Years, the lecturers on stage who introduce the poem were clearly caricatures of our English professors - including one who quoted comments on a blog as if it were a fine critical source.

Third, focus on what you want me to hear. Where Beowulf the poem is repetitive, Beowulf the musical moves through quickly. 1k Years spent more time riffing on "Themes" than is did on old English.  

Finally, keep up the pace. I know what is coming next, don't waste time setting it up for me.

These same lessons are true if you selling technology. Our audiences are know so much that we need to approach the subject fully aware of their knowledge and why our approach is creative, empowering, focused and engaging.

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