Buzzwords are big in the non-profit arts world.
I’m sure we’re not the only industry that embraces buzzwords, but we do have more than our fair share of fashionable, overused phrases or words.
For a long time all we could talk about was “the creative economy.” Then there was “creative placemaking” and “audience engagement.” I could go on and on.
I rarely buy into these phrases.
I might agree with the concept, but it’s like the KT Tunstall song “Black Horse & The Cherry Tree.” I loved it at first, but hated it by the 387th radio play.
The buzzword I’ve heard used lately is “authenticity.”
Our work should be authentic. Our communications should be authentic. Our Facebook page should be authentic.
My initial reaction to the call for authenticity was “duh!” Our performing arts center has always been authentic.
But my latest interaction with our local theater company made me realize that not everyone understands the concept or grasps it’s importance.
The company went through a sudden change of director earlier this year and as someone who wrote her graduate school thesis on emergency leadership transition (brag, brag, brag), I thought they handled the situation quite well.
The message they presented to the media and their constituents was consistent and, although it was clear the change was not entirely voluntary, neither parties disparaged the other publicly.
It was well-reported and undisputed that the departing director held the rights to the company’s final show of the season and it was likely it would not be performed. At least not here.
Earlier this week I, as a season ticket holder, received a letter from the company.
The gist of the communication was “You told us that you wanted more musicals, so we’re replacing the last show with a musical!”
The letter made me inordinately angry. I wanted to yell, “That’s not why you are changing shows!”
Everyone knows they no longer have the rights to the originally planned performance so they should have just admitted it.
They didn’t have to go into the details. All they needed to say was, “You may have heard that we are unable to produce ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ this year. Instead we’re bringing Cats!”
But they chose to make it a “see how well we listen to our audiences” moment, self-congratulatory and downright inauthentic.
Maybe authenticity is the newest buzzword for a reason.