Taking people with you

Come from Away was one of the Broadway shows David and I chose on our recent visit to New York. An unlikely and poignant musical based on the 39 planes which were diverted to a small Newfoundland town for a week during the 9/11 disaster.

The story centred on the interactions with town of 7000 people accepting an equal number of bewildered stranded travellers desperate to be with their work colleagues or families.

The story centred on the interactions with town of 7000 people accepting an equal number of bewildered stranded travellers desperate to be with their work colleagues or families. The awkwardness, delights, and setbacks which any new relationships include made the story easy to relate to within the dramatic heart rending setting of this life event.

It was a full house and the cast returned twice to the standing ovation. The emotional tone of audience was appreciative, poignant and filled with hopefulness. Then this was cut short. Two actors came onto the stage and proceeded to invite donation for an aids foundation. They championed the director of the foundation and his work, and directed us as the audience to leave our donations with the ushers at the exists.

The emotional tone shifted from tender appreciation and reflection to practical action. Most people left the theatre rapidly including us. Few donations were collected. By not tuning in with their audience, these two actors drove their own agenda, although for an obviously good cause, cutting across the strong feeling of audience appreciation.

My own feeling was of being held captive for several minutes, as if for an advertisement which yes, a compelling essential cause but the timing, channel of communication and not taking the audience with them, had me wondering how to escape the theatre. The shift from being skilled actors and entertainers to being opportunistic fundraisers was intrusive and not welcomed. My appreciation of the show lessened. The actors let their own political agenda drive their audience interaction. That didn’t work for me, and from what I saw and sensed, it didn’t work for many others.

How often do you cut across the warm up of your team, and don’t take people with you? How often do you fail to think through the consequences of your communications and let the impact of your specialist knowledge and interests dominate the interests of the groups you work with?

© Diana Jones