A cinematographer friend of mine, who is also a fantastic chef, served me some goat soup the other day. It was delicious. Halfway through my bowl, he told me that he based his version on a Korean recipe for dog soup.
I suddenly stopped eating. Dog? No, he explained, off my worried look. Goat, not dog. He substituted goat in the recipe for dog, since we don’t eat dog in America.
Of course, really where do you draw the line, cat, dog, goat, sheep, cow, horse… But since animal rights is not the subject of this blog, and I will leave that for you to ponder and instead get on with my point…
And that is expectations. And more specifically, audience expectations. I was expecting goat soup. Which was very exotic for me. It was my first time trying goat. When he said dog. I became upset. That was too exotic. Had I been tricked? Was I actually eating dog?
In the same way, if I buy a ticket to, say, Sound of Music, I am expecting songs and (subconsciously) Julie Andrews, and I will be upset if that is not what I get. If I buy a ticket to Macbeth on Broadway, expecting to see a fully mounted staging of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and instead I get Alan Cummings’ one man Macbeth… How may I feel?
So where do these expectations come from?
In part, ourselves, but really our first impression of theatre or film comes from the advertising and marketing material. Thus these materials must BOTH properly orientate the perspective audience member to what the piece is, AND also get them to buy a ticket; often two conflicting objectives.
The balance is a fine but important line.
If your advertising poster promises a night of glamour and dancing and you deliver instead, depression and suicide and you will have an angry audience. Thus, clearly communicating what your show is – before the audience buys a ticket is an essential job of both the marketing folks and those creating the piece.
Thus if you are selling me a dog, first understand I am looking to make soup or have a best friend follow me about New York City.