Thursday, January 21, 2010

Meet Your Audience Where They Are

The Folsom Prison scene from Walk the Line is so fantastic, I had to use it again.

The prison warden cautions Johnny Cash (Joaquin Pheonix) not to sing a song that reminds the prisoners they are in prison. Cash looks up and says, "You think they forgot?" He then walks out on stage, thanks the men for being "the best audience we've ever had" and sings Cocaine Blues:

When I was arrested I was dressed in black They put me on a train and they took me back Had no friend for to go my bail they slapped my dried up carcass in that country jail

How do the men react? They love it.

The scene has a decidedly redemptive quality to it. Out of respect for their current state, Cash chooses to sing a song about a criminal going to jail. And this is actually what enables the audience to transcend their current state and sing and cheer joyfully along with him.

From the Green Room: Whether you have bad news to give or you're speaking to an audience who's going through a rough time, don't hide from it. Go there with your audience. This kind of sincere honesty is both respectful and redemptive.