Saw Death of a Salesman Sunday, in New York. One of the most memorable productions I’ve ever seen, it and Fences with Denzel Washington and Olivia Davis, are two of my all-time favorites.
With Mike Nichol’s inspired* direction, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and an equally stellar cast bring Arthur Miller’s seminal play into the 21st Century.
At the root of both pieces is the timeless tale of a secret. varnished with layers of lies so thick, each member of the family is emotionally paralyzed with brooding rage that ultimately explodes. While altering the course of everyone’s life, the denouement frees them to live more authentically, if they so choose.
The need to be seen and have one’s life seen in a certain way is universal. But when that need becomes the goal in and of itself, it is hollow. What we now call “the elephant in the room” keeps people, and those in the conspiracy with them, from achieving authenticity.
As time goes by, those who hire performers (as well as our entire culture!) continue to ask for more and more authenticity. Producers’ way of asking is to say “more conversational, non- announcer” or words to that effect. They and we want the true you, not the varnished version that makes you look and sound like who you want us to think you are.
That motif harkens back to the Parental Culture that gave rise to the model of perfection that is impossible to achieve, keeping people guarded and fearful of being found out. In its early seasons, Mad Men showed us that model in exquisite contrast to the dark underbelly of each character’s all-too-human flaws.
Ironically, it is now our flaws and imperfections, rather than the façade of perfection that makes us more appealing.
There are a variety of vehicles and venues to market oneself and stay on the radar.
The “elephant in the room,” to my mind, is not so much the investment, whether on a personal site or elsewhere, but if what’s being said lives up to its promise, instead of trying to look like it does.
If it’s the latter and not the former, no one is fooling anyone, except perhaps, oneself.
When Bonnie finds Clyde not up to the mark in lovemaking, she says “Yer advertisin’s just dandy, nobody’d ever guess you got nuthin’ to sell”.
Marketing and advertising present ideas, images and identities in as favorable a light as possible, but if it is found out to be overreaching, the backlash can be ugly. People resent being misled.
Make sure performance not only delivers on its promise, but (even better) outperforms, so that how it looks tells the truth about how it is, and then some.
* Mike Nichols and The Graduate were the inspiration for my becoming a director.