John Stokvis

August 9, 2022

Trust the audience

A post by Sheila O'Malley reminded me of a subtle lesson from my theater days:

"It's for the audience to decide."

Most people get into something (theater, product, engineering, history, philosophy, sports) because it moves them in some way and they want to bring that feeling to others. But you can't feel it for the audience/reader/listener.

They have to feel it for themselves.

A lot of people have trouble with Shakespeare and I think it's because so many teachers will go straight towards "understanding the reference." After all, when you love something, you've gone deep.

But Shakespeare wrote 100s of years ago. Those are some dated references.

I was in Comedy of Errors for high schoolers with an actor who did the opposite. There's a whole scene where Dromio and Antipholus (master/servant who are also buddies) are making jokes about European countries.

But the actor playing Dromio knew: it's not about the country reference, it's a butt joke. Kids will get a butt joke:

DROMIO OF SYRACUSE No longer from head to foot than from hip to hip: she is spherical, like a globe; I could find out countries in her.
ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE In what part of her body stands Ireland?
DROMIO OF SYRACUSE Marry, in her buttocks: I found it out by the bogs.

The joke killed. Every time.

The kids didn't need to understand that Ireland is well known for having bogs. Or even what a bog is.
It's a funny word. And butt jokes are universal. (🍑 👈 clearly)T

rust your audience to get there. If they do, they'll go deeper just like you did.