After 30 years on the creative side of advertising, I was just schooled in the pure, authentic exercise of spontaneous creativity by an off off broadway troupe last weekend. I was there by chance (isn’t everything?) because my wife was being held hostage in London by an unpronouncable volcano. So with a suddenly open Saturday night and more proof of the fallacy of freewill, I headed to the lower east side.
The show is called Give Us Bread. It was created by a production group called “The Anthropologists.” (http://www.theanthropologists.org) The show brings to life a time period and event that didn’t generally make the first chapters of the history books – the food riots of 1917 in lower Manhattan – but is very timely today for a number of reasons that include price fixing, fraud and manipulation of the huddled masses.
Off Off broadway plays share some wonderful things. They’re often created by younger artists, and are generally spirited, high-energy, risk-taking endeavors. Not to mention they cost about the same as one Saisson Dupont.
The Anthropologist actresses delivered their historically-accurate, elegantly-written roles with passion and, given they spend the bulk of 2 hours running laps around the stage, with great energy.
The play was entertaining, moving and informative of a time period in New York – and American – history that still rumbles the tummy today. But what most impressed me about this delightful 2 hours was the ‘Aha’ I enjoyed as the story unfolded.
Several scenes seemed, at first, to be astonishingly tailored to the talents of the performers. There was a story line about a young Russian girl who played the violin as many did back then. The actress from the troupe played it very well. I started thinking wow she really applied herself to the role and learned to play that thing like a pro. Then another actress playing a new immigrant mother from Italy started ranting (very funny ranting) in Italian and again I thought what a coincidence that this actress in the troupe could pour herself into the funny, ranting Italian momma role and speak the language with a near-perfect accent .
Then the cobwebs cleared and I realized this group created the show from the ground up. Old school. Completely organically. They started with a raw concept: immigrants and the food riots of 1917. Then they immersed themselves into the time period, added their natural skills (one played the violin since she was a child and the other grew up speaking Italian at home) and baked themselves a handmade, delicious, all-natural show.
Why don’t we do that more often in advertising I thought?
So I committed our agency to do exactly that on our next project. We are preparing a new campaign for a high-end maker of headphones and other listening devices. First thing I want to do is assemble the entire team who will touch this TV commercial right up front, before we start creating the concepts and the storyboards. Some critical people are usually left to simply follow orders and maybe add a little of their experience and talents at the end.
For this project – which is about a quality listening experience – I’m going to pull the sound engineer, music composer and mixer into the very first meetings. These pros are traditionally left to the end of the process. Now, they will have much more influence on the final product by participating at the very start.
I’m convinced this will result in a more informed and exciting and breakthrough concept.
I think I’ll call this ‘Give Us Bread’ process, ‘Give Us Cred.’