The Show Must Go On: Lessons From Theatre to #musetech in a COVID-19 World

There is a significant number of individuals in the #musetech community, and in the museum sector broadly, who come from a background in theatre. The processes of theatre tend to be very attractive to #musetech professionals, particularly in the areas of social media, content management, in-gallery interactives, UX design, extended reality, and more. What is involved in the authenticity of theatrical experiences that hold lessons for planning in #musetech? Why do museum professionals prefer in some cases to hire those with a theatre background for museum work? How does the exchange of energy in theatre that also occurs in museums provide for virtual engagement in a COVID-19 world? You direct the conversation! This diverse panel of museum and historic site professionals with backgrounds in theatre will engage in a "Whose session is this, anyway?" style of rapid fire improvisational riffing based on attendee selection of themes.


Max Evjen 00:00
Hey, well, it's 11:03. So places everybody places, started.

Alli Hartley-Kong 00:06
Thank you places...

Max Evjen 00:08
Yes. All right. Welcome, everybody, to the show must go on lessons from theater to musetech. in a COVID-19 world, I'm going to be we're going to be going through a little plan of what we're gonna do. And yeah, we'll get this thing, this thing rolling. first deal is.

Richard Josie 00:30

Max Evjen 00:30
this is a session in three acts. Right? The first act is going to be speaker introductions, we're going to introduce each other short background on why we're here and why we're talking about this, then we're going to do some rapid fire sort of improv discussion around a bunch of themes, you will be voting in a poll on what theme you want us to discuss and talk about, of the five and then we'll, we'll stop at about 10 minutes in and rinse, repeat, do another one until we go through all the themes that we've that we've talked about. And then at the end, we're going to talk about a few successful examples of what kinds of lessons a theater can have for for musetech, particularly as it relates to virtual engagement in a variety of platforms, whether it be social media, or email, or a website, or zoom, or whatever. And we also have a resource guide that we're going to be providing in the chat at that point. So with let's just move right along. My name is Max Evjen. I'm not going to read through all this stuff, just know that I have a lot of experience in theater and a lot of experiencing museums. And I've been talking about theater and museums and MCs a lot in a lot of ways. So that's why I'm here. And that's why I got this group of people together, because there's a lot about theater museums that have in common, and a lot of things that we can be sharing among each other. And I will say that I live in work. And Brad also lives in works on the, the ancestral, traditional and contemporary lands of the anishinabek, three fires Confederacy of the Ojibwe, odawa and Potawatomi peoples. And so I would like to just extend everybody's invitation to learn more about their, the land that they work and reside on, which is has either been ceded or stolen, mostly stolen. So we'll move on to Alli.

Alli Hartley-Kong 02:23
Hi, everyone. My name is Alli Hartley-Kong. I am a museum educator and a digital strategist. And in my last museum job I currently work for an agency but in my previous museum job, I worked at a historic site where we were experimenting and collaborating with local theaters. I've been a theatre person for way longer than I have been a museum person. I've been a lifelong community theater, volunteer stage manager, prop designer. And in addition to my community theater experience, I'm also a professionally produced playwright and I came in through playwriting, through National History Day was kind of my first foray into to writing for for stage performance. And I did it started with museum theater and have now gone on to write for theater projects throughout the country. And I've had plays produced internationally including several virtual productions during the pandemic. And I Sarah and I are both coming from from stolen one sale and off a land we both live in New Jersey.

Richard Josie 03:46
All right, and good morning to you some blessings. My name is Richard Josie. Greetings from Newport News, Virginia. Before anything else, I want to acknowledge the speaking from the traditional Lana politan. And what honor with gratitude, the land itself and the people who steward it throughout the generations. I've been in the museum feel for a little over 25 years, I think I'm pushing on 30 now and, and I my my entry into the museum's was through theater. So, you know, when I was 10, they started a sort of program for African American children, when Colonial Williamsburg was beginning to start talking about African American history. And so I ended up being one of those 10 year olds that came in and that's how and you know, in that process, that's where we were, you know, doing theatrical pieces and being directed and, and oddly enough, I was also doing it in high school as well. And so my whole career has been built up off of the power of character interpretations and believability and, you know, many of the things I'm going to talk about today, doing a lot of facilitation work now, but you know, everything that I do these days is, you know, to try to help people craft the lens of diversity and a practice of inclusion.

Brad Dunn 05:01
That's great. I actually could just sit and listen to everyone's backgrounds forever. I am grateful to be to be part of this group. My name is Brad Dunn. I began my career in theater actually, as a sound engineer and realize that though I had lots of opportunity lined up, I was going to spend the rest of my life with a wardrobe of nothing but black pants and black t shirts and kind of stuck in the back of the theater. And I was getting in trouble a lot because I was attempting to kind of like, find my way hanging around. Like the writers, directors, I wanted to learn more about the storytelling piece. And so kind of flipped my career around. The degree in journalism led me into filmmaking and doing interactive design, and spent a lot of time in design agencies, small agencies, did some advertising work. And being a resident of Chicago, I decided what I would do in theater is I would start improvising. So I spent many years going through conservatory at second city and classes at IO, Chicago, and I improvised IO for many years, and then spent, and then decided what I really wanted to do was direct. So I've been doing interactive and working in game design and social media and digital content by day, and directing theater in Chicago for for a number of years, and I found my way into museums, I'd had some museum clients. And I found that actually, the work that I do at museums is the most perfect fit for all of the things that I've done in the past. Whether it's storytelling through directing, working with actors on stage, to designing game engagements, a game like experiences for clients, doing interactive work. It's sort of all as coalesced of my time at the Field Museum. I don't know if I mentioned that I'm at the Field Museum in Chicago on the Web and Digital engagement director. And I think with that, I'll pass the baton.

Unknown Speaker 07:00
Great. Thanks, Brad. And, again, I'm Sarah, and thanks to Alli on the acknowledgments of being a Nazi and pulling up a land. I also want to add to that, that a shout out to one of my close friends and colleagues, Crystal echo Hawk and the folks that eliminated, who given the content that we're talking about today are really working to change the depiction of and involvement of native and indigenous folks in popular culture and media and messaging. And so I think that's an appropriate place to direct you. Now. I'll also tell you that yes, my background and love is theater has the first place in my heart, even beyond museums, I first appeared as Heidi in a tour of nursing homes right in northeast Pennsylvania. And that led to a kind of long trajectory of being on stage and off my most favorites, and kind of work that I do is, is based in live interpretation in theater and museum spaces. And that work has led through my consulting firm of dialogic consulting, to new opportunities during script writing for gaming, as well, that understanding of dialogue and and human connection, I think, informs tech really well. I'm thrilled to talk more about my experiences, and I share some stuff with you across the course in the next few minutes.

Max Evjen 08:25
All right. So these are the five themes that we're going to be talking about. So we're going to right now go ahead and release the first poll for everybody. And you're going to go ahead and you're going to pick whichever one of these you want us to, to cover to talk about right now. So you're actually directing the session right now. So go ahead. We have a different one different themes are intentionality for an exchange for exchange for a wide diverse diversity of audiences, dismantling oppression, extending grace, tell a story silly or suspending disbelief. So please go ahead and fill out the poll. And we look forward to doing things upon your direction. Okay, and whenever the results of the poll can be okay, looking like we have intentionality for exchange for a wide diversity. So, I will select a Richard and Sarah to start off.

Unknown Speaker 09:38
Awesome. This is that moment where typically you're on stage, you can make eye contact with someone and say you meet me, and which is a little harder to do right now. But I'll say you know, one of the things that I think about when I when I examine the concept of tech technology, theater and kind of the diverse learning styles and the opportunities that are opened up there and is that I'm really particularly invested in museum tech that recreates kind of that feeling of community that we get onstage in theater. Right. And, and I think for a long time, much of our museum tech was at least from, you know, my role as a curator, and as a museum interpreter, was really geared towards individualizing, the experience, right, coming out of that kind of 1990s visitor services approach, right, where we said, Everyone has to be able to choose their own experience and engage in the way that they see fit, which in theory is great in terms of diverse audience engagement. The challenge for that, um, and where I think about the possibilities of theater is that those individualized experiences are kind of cutting off our nose to spite our face, right? museums are intended to be communal experiences, they're intended to have that space, much like a theater, right, where we're pulling and building from the energies of the audience. And yet, there's so much design that is literally right, facing walls, right. I mean, we are building interactive and interactive elements that are not only individualized, but in the way that they're incorporated into exhibit design, direct our attention away from each other, and our physical body language, and towards, you know, kind of walls, screens, blocks, right to our engagement. And, you know, in theater, we call it cheating out, right, this idea of kind of turning your body and working and exposing yourself directly to and not only the other actors you're working with, but to the audience as well. And I'm really vested in not only the physical manifestation, right, of community based and tech, interactive museums, but then also within their design in and of itself.

Richard Josie 11:51
Yeah, I think it's a really good point. And that's why I was gonna really go was it was in the design. Because I remember, you know, when we were when I was at Cologne, Williamsburg, and we were coming up with what we call the revolutionary city, and we took, you know, 17, the early 1700s, up until, you know, after the Revolutionary War, and we began to stage a series of, of chronological series of skits, you know, on the street, and in staged areas. And one of the things and again, this was, you know, in the mid 2000s, and one of the things that I'm really considering now, as I think about intentionality is, you know, you know, we produce these pieces, and the question that we never ask ourselves is to what in that, you know, in many cases, it's, it oftentimes stops at the level of, you know, something that's entertaining, and something that we think is going to be thought provoking. But we never take the time to think about how real change happens within individuals and within groups. And so what I would do differently now is I would be very intentional in the timing and thinking about, okay, yes, it's a 10 minute scene, the the scripting and the placing in the directing, and everything that we do, you know, regarding the scene, is not only grounded in historical fact, it has a rich texture of how do you say, nuance Incorporated, so that a conversation afterwards allows the audience to not only come out of seeing something that's very, you know, entertaining and thought provoking, but it's also something that becomes relative to the lives that they're going to have to enter into afterwards. With that, I also think that there's their intentionality. Our intentionality is limited by our focus. And I think oftentimes we overlook, I think we overlook mental health, for example, and how we think about, you know, how these conversations may happen. And so I'm just thinking about when someone goes to see something, and it can be traumatizing. And it can be triggering, that we've also got to start to incorporate helping people out of that moment that they were in, and what do we what do you do now, you know, we've just triggered you. And now we're just gonna let you go back into the world triggered, like, we got to figure out how to help people re engage into the world. And so so there's a couple of things that I'm thinking about in terms of intentionality. For me, and many of the things that Jamie say, today, it all boils down to this key question. And Sarah, you know, I'm gonna say it, you know, what kind of ancestor will we be? You know, when it's all said and done, when we've done when we've done our thing? What do we want to be known for? Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 14:36
I think it's interesting also to hear you talk about, Richard, this idea of, you know, change, right, what is the impact? What is the change that you want to see? And in this work, and, and I think a lot about that with theater too, because, you know, we know a lot of things about how people move forward to create behavioral change right now that maybe we hadn't as a field examined across decades, right. And, you know, You and I have talked about one of the things we know is that this kind of this sweet spot of getting people to move forward is this space of exposing them to new content, right as one piece of it, and giving new information, the idea that we are kind of poking and prodding, empathy and emotion, right, that we're building emotional connection. And that that third piece is literally the invitation to do something different with that learning, right? And so that, that triangle, and we optimize our chances of moving people forward and behavioral shift as evenly as we can look at those three concepts of that triangle. And so when I think about changing theater rate or change in tech, and it is that gap of what do we do next? Right, what's that innovate? And that's what I'm curious to explore.

Richard Josie 15:50
That's you. And I'll say one last thing, Max, that is an acknowledgement of the fact that as much as I come to this with a, an eye and a desire, or it's how does it create, you know, change. The one thing that I that I want to make sure that I put on the table is that sometimes, and as we're seeing now, in our current circumstance, sometimes that just a mere distraction is enough to provide Jane so sometimes it's not about intentionality in terms of Okay, we want to leave this and, and go change the world. Sometimes it's about, we just want you to have a moment to breathe. So you can think, and I think that's, that's the super important, especially at this point in time. And I want to be clear about that.

Max Evjen 16:29
Excellent, excellent. And I'll just add in terms of like things that we maybe weren't intentional about, but doing this conference last night, we had some karaoke that because we could all choose what songs we wanted to do. That was the first multi lingual karaoke that we ever had. So when you talk about virtual engagement, and then how we can be intentional for these things, but what about going to where people are, let's go put the the next poll up. And now we're going to have you pick up the remaining four themes, just don't pick intentionality this time. So is the dismantling oppression extending grace tell a story silly or suspending disbelief. And as much as I wanted to be in person karaoke with everybody last night, the advent of multi lingual karaoke was amazing. And that might be some some lesson for our museum because where as well as our theater, right, that, you know, if we're truly trying to engage people where they are, Oh, here we go. Okay. dismantling oppression is next. All right, who would like to tag in for dismantling oppression? Let's do Alli, and Brad.

Alli Hartley-Kong 17:55
Sure, yeah, I can, I can get us started with it, you know, in some of our planning sessions and thinking about when you're engaging artists that may not have, you know, the traditional museum background or the traditional content production background, you're opening yourself up for a whole range of interpretations. And, you know, bringing in a multiplicity of voices into our production as museum producers, that you previously haven't had that opportunity for. So that was kind of the first lens in which you you, you know, you can really approach this and partnering with artists, I've always found, particularly for me coming out of creating museum theater pieces, in pretty conservative institutions, in pretty conservative places. I have been has really given an opportunity to open up dialogue, because empowering artists to come in and present a different point of view, opens up a conversation in a way that is, is less threatening to some of our audiences, whether it should be like that is another question. But for my own experience, I've found that, that audiences when they're especially in in historic sites, when you're presenting an artistic interpretation, and it opens up the dialogue in a different way, which can lead to you creating these reflective opportunities because you're as an audience and as participants, you've all gone through an artistic experience together, so then you're reflecting on it together. And so that is a way that can open up conversations that can lead to some of these greater issues.

Brad Dunn 19:58
Yeah, and So I also clarify that this is this is a, this is an area where I don't have a ton of of experience. But in true spirit of improv, I'm never gonna leave someone hanging on stage. So I'm always going to jump in and try to sport. So I'm going to talk, I can talk a little bit about what's going on at the Field Museum right now. And I'm not in the center of that experience, but it is affecting, we are trying to affect the process, which is right now we're in the middle of redoing our native North American Hall. And we have I think the museum has done some really interesting work here. In that they've created an advisory council of Native people, scholars, members of the community art many artists, from all walks of life. And it's from all over North America. So Canada and the US and i think i think the larger group that's that's, that's, that's seen materials that's reviewing a part of the process is like over 70. But there's a there's 14, there's sort of a core that before the pandemic, we're coming into the museum. And so one of the things we're balancing right now, they're working mostly with exhibitions, and we've hired a number of native staff that are helping us through the through the process, in and literally just before the session, I was in a meeting where we're working through our process for how we're going to surface native voices and, and make sure that we're not the museum speaking on behalf but that we actually the the approach we want to take for the show is to actually ensure that it is the voices of Native people telling their own story and and that they are still a thriving community with all they've been through there. They are also not monolithic. And so one of the things we are trying to do right now is is find ways to, to have workflows that surface these artists stories, the surface, the work of the conservators to preparedness both in the work they're doing on the show, and then their lived experience in their lives. And not be and like literally, for me a white person speaking for them, but even the museum not being the people speaking for them. And then also how do we which is kind of what you were sort of alluding to Alli just sort of like how do we how do we also balance that with with reaching our audience and reaching your audience in ways that open them up to what for many of them will be new ideas, that the idea of being an anti racist is not to is not to waste time with the guilt of things of past but to proactively work forward towards changing the trajectory of things in the future. And so how do we bring people along for those narratives? And those stories? How do we sort of deep decolonize the museum in this process in a way that's not just show and not just posts, blog posts or posts in social media, but it's actually that the process behind actually reflects an effort to undo the the processes of the past the way the museum approached the show, say, literally 50 years ago. And and and so I'm, I'm always struck by the balancing act that we're trying to play there. And, and, and even for us on the digital team, trying to ensure that we are taking an approach to the D colonizes all of our content and all of the work that we're doing. So we're telling an honest story to the public, which is often a new story. For many of them.

Alli Hartley-Kong 23:14
I just want to kind of tag in there within like the idea of multiple voices within theater. Um, documentary theater is a genre of some of you may be familiar with Anna Deavere Smith, who played Nancy on the West Wing, but is also an incredibly accomplished documentary theatre producer and play raid. She's, and so I feel like documentary theater is a is a genre from the world of theater that pulls voices. And I, some of you may be familiar with the Laramie project as well, too. That's another pretty famous example of documentary theater. And in documentary theater, it's, it's adding a storytelling approach. There's four, there's a play version of with the prop eight hearings in California in 2008, there was a decision made that there would be no filming in the courthouse. So a theater group adapted the testimony into a script from there. And by using the actual lived experiences of people, and using their words, theatre was a vehicle to amplify these words. And to take something like a courtroom proceeding could seem really dry. But the way that the playwrights worked with the individuals who are telling their stories, to really craft that narrative, makes it a really compelling piece of theatre that is telling this really important historical story and centering the voices. So that's one way that that theater can can work to do that, and I know that It has nothing to do with museums, but it has everything to do with why we all came into music. Okay,

Max Evjen 25:06
and let's do the next poll on you. So you all can choose from the remaining three, extending grace tell a story silly or suspending disbelief. So go ahead and choose those. I'll just add that when we're getting a resource guide later, there's an example from theater. The we see you WAT movement, which is we see white American Theatre, a list of demands from, from bipoc peoples to say, we see your boards, we see the way you hire designers, we see the way that you hire actors we see like all of these things that that are, are oppressive, you know, and I think that list can easily be translated to museums, we see the way that you curate your exhibitions, we see the way you design your education programs, we see you like all this, we see your boards, right, we see how often Okay, tell a story silly. All right. So that I'm, I'm going to jump into that one. And who would like to jump in with me? Well, I'll just start off by saying that. theaters and museums benefit both by by telling stories. And another thing that we end up putting into the resource guide is one of the blog posts from Colleen Dillon Schneider, saying that entertainment is not a dirty word, right? versus education, that, that entertainment is actually what drives people to visit these organizations. And education is the thing that justifies the visit. So it's not saying that education is not important. But it's saying that you have to the way to get people in the way to invite them in is through stories is through these narratives, whether it be documentary style, as as Alli was talking about, or, or just be intentionally looking at stories that you can include, from from different from, from a variety of people as Brad and Richard were talking about, right, so. And then you know, it picking out hot, like, look at other stories about how you want to approach it. I also put in the resource guide, the spot story spine model, which is just one way of telling the story. But it's when Pixar uses a lot of like, a first there was this thing, then this happened, this happened, this happened until one day boom. And that that really, it really tracks onto like every Pixar movie there was that that's been released. But it's actually a pretty effective way of telling the story and pretty easy to follow. So that's going to be in the resource argument. So Brad,

Brad Dunn 27:45
yeah, so I'll jump in, I'm reminded here of something of a book that I read actually just about a year ago and credit for this goes to Amelia long from the Getty, she turned me on to this book, the storytelling animal how stories make us human. It's a great book if you haven't read it. And I mean, the the quick summary, which doesn't do it justice at all, is the idea that people learn through story. The reason that we feel things when we watch movies, the book talks a lot about scientific studies that have been been done to see the way that our brains are operating when we're watching a story. The parts of the brain that experience empathy actually light up when we're watching. And so that's how we're able to feel the heartbreak, the love the joy that we see on a screen. And this starts to begin to get into to research I've been doing purely on my own about this kind of gets to the overlap for me between theater and museums, which is what is the experience the audience is having and what is the experience like both at a theater and at a museum. And it's it's crafting those moments that light up the parts of the brain so that these stories can, can resonate, can stick and it opens up pathways for learning. There's a lot of research done in this area about how focusing I think, as you said, at one point, Max, like the the sort of emotional piece rather than like making sure everything's like factual, you know, like historically, like a perfect timeline. Of course, those things are important. But to teach people critical questioning and critical thinking, it's important for them to sort of like relate to the the, to to this to the content through story because it enables people to personalize it this book, the storytelling animal. And I will admit, I hadn't actually thought of this but that the reason or an element of like using simulators for training, whether it's like literally like a flight simulator, like a pilot learning to fly or in game design, we used to use simulation as a way of training government employees to learn empathy and learn how to relate to people work with people, is the idea that that is actually a story a simulation is the the experience of a harmless story. No one dies, if that plane goes down, no one gets hurt. If somebody One shows in sensitivity in the simulation training, but it is actually the experience of the story that actually helps them learn in a really safe space. And so that's something I've been thinking a lot about as I as I got into museums. And to me, that's the role that sort of story plays it actually facilitates

Max Evjen 30:15
learning. And certainly dragon.

Unknown Speaker 30:17
Yeah, just two quick thoughts. And one of the things that stands out for me about the way that theaters tell stories, right, that we can draw from is the fact that, you know, we talk a lot in our field about relevancy, and how do we bridge those moments between a historic past and a contemporary present? And you think, you know, theater has been exploring that for a long time rate in re in adapting concepts from, you know, 1870s, London to 1940. Chicago, right. And, you know, we change costumes, we change sense, we make the adaptation. And I think that there's some power in that right in thinking about that the fact that the heart of the story is not necessarily involved in the setting and the time period, but it's in those human interactions, right. And so it asks us to think about the trappings of tech, right? And all the bells and whistles, I mean, we all have backgrounds that look alike, but who cares, right? In the love the long term, what this is really about is all of us, right, interacting and talking with each other. And the other thing I would say is, you know, Brad, to your point, I think, um, you know, and I'll be the first as the Director of Education at the Laurie side tenement museum. And in Middletown, New York City, I had a plethora of folks to choose from in hiring processes. But, um, you know, not only is it about finding the right story, it's also about getting the right storytellers, right. And, frankly, I hire I would hire actors and actresses every day of the week, rather than museum professionals or historians. Because Yeah, they had a lot of information, but actors and actresses know how to memorize a good script, they know how to connect and make and you know, build empathy amongst audiences, and they bring that piece to life. And, you know, and I'm not sure what the application of that is purely to check, other than thinking about hiring and finding your best storytellers, right, as part of the team for crafting these pieces,

Max Evjen 32:06
we're gonna go ahead and do the next poll. But keep talking about this volley, do the poll, because I know alley one drop in my dream, I

Alli Hartley-Kong 32:14
wish I had one idea that really connected with all of us in our planning sessions was, we talked a lot about the concept of the authenticity, authenticity of the emotion, and the relationship between them. And especially for me, coming from a traditional Historic House Museum background, you know, sometimes you you either work with people or have volunteers who are like the historical accuracy police. You know, we can't have a theatrical experience, because we don't know for sure that that person said those exact words. And for me, in creating my experiences, it was always very straightforward with the audiences, these are the documents that informed this interpretation, but that we're going for the accuracy of emotion. And I know Richard also, I also worked with, with some that's all I'm tagging here.

Richard Josie 33:09
Yeah. And I'll just say, you know, it, you know, especially building off of Sarah's point and we went through a process where we had, you know, historians or, you know, historical minded people, you know, doing character character work. And, and when we, you know, started this revolutionary city, it was very intentional. We wanted to go to actors, not that, you know, historian minded folks couldn't do the work but that we were very intentional about the need to be intentional about being intentional in the storytellers. Um, and Allah your point you just made an I just, I just drew a blank on it, but let's Okay.

Max Evjen 33:52
Well, Max has to come back.

Brad Dunn 33:54
Yes. I just want to say there's actually some really great conversation in the chat if people aren't looking people are sharing some great resources with one another and so I just wanted to make sure that people knew there's some good things happen in there.

Max Evjen 34:04
Yeah, absolutely. That I know Alisha and some some of the documentary examples and Amanda says we stand calling and also the university Yeah, and but we're gonna move on right now to do makeup because I mentioned some of this stuff, but we use it for timing to move into suspending disbelief, which I have a couple thoughts about that but let's start off with Richard and Sarah.

Richard Josie 34:31
No, actually a bad so I was telling you to go ahead and start off

Max Evjen 34:33
Okay, I'm gonna build up here. It's fair enough. All right. So one of the points of what Brad said before that that it the emotion versus facts situation. I last year's MC and I did the session with castle castle Ken, where we talked about the story spine and talked about like telling stories and how everybody go and tell story and it was really fascinating watching all the museum people struggle with the fact that they Didn't they didn't have to get the accurate information. Right that that that couldn't happen. And some people really have struggled until they just break through and said, No, you don't have to, you don't have to do that. You just have to tell the story. Right? As weird and crazy as it sounds, just get into the method of what what happens when you let go of those things where you actually suspend disbelief for yourself where you say, maybe this isn't going to be totally factual. But what if this happens? And what if that happens, right, that it allows you to, to extend what you're, you're thinking into these these areas that are going to be inviting more people into these wider audiences?

Richard Josie 35:40
Yeah, you know, one of the best programs, one of the best museum programs that I've gone to, and I know, I'm looking in the chat, so I know some of the folks so I know, some of the folks who were actually here in the session now was it was it was a program that was done. It was it was putting George Washington on trial as if the Americans lost the American Revolution. The Americans lose the revolution, George Washington goes on trial, we know that's not backed. But the the idea behind the concept being rooted in history, and you know, kind of alternative history for the purpose of exploring the history a little deeper. And that that was, that was amazing to me. And so when I think about, you know, just this, this sort of idea of creativity, you know, how creative we can be, when we when we don't constrain ourselves, you know, so tight that we aren't able to do the types of things like that, that that help people kind of envision something that's different than what they could have possibly thought, because there's a 90% 99% chance that anybody who comes to your museum historic site is going to know something different that they didn't know when it came. And so, you know, let's, let's use all opportunities to figure out how to help them see.

Unknown Speaker 37:01
Yeah, and I also want to just share this idea of, you know, suspending disbelief. And we've talked about this a lot in our sessions, you know, I it's a great gift, right, that an audience member comes into a theater and they don't look up at me and see like, Oh, that's Sarah furrowed, right. And that, you know, that's my job is for them to suspend their disbelief to believe that I am someone else in a different time in a different space. And that these words that I'm saying are not prescriptive that I'm just coming up with them in a regular conversation, right. So we all they audiences suspend their disbelief in our spaces in theater all the time. Right. And and I only offer that for that moment of, you know, we've talked about the fact that that is a that we don't museums don't benefit from that. Right. Museums don't have that moment right now. People are vested in authenticity. Is it the real artifact? Was that actually there? Are these the actual words? And so thinking about how we flip that rate, what are the possibilities for that in tech. And the last piece I'll say is about that, that power of breaking the fourth wall, right that we have in theater. So this concept of suspending disbelief, right there in disbelief, and with a simple head turn, like in the office, the television show or others, I can add emphasis on that moment and breaking the wall. I only mentioned it because they think one of the opportunities for us and museums is to do a better job of breaking the wall. Right, and it being transparent in this spaces. And it's just a lesson from theater that I think we could we could gain from

Max Evjen 38:28
looking at new science museums.

Alli Hartley-Kong 38:33
You know, with the historic houses, you know, people didn't walk into the historic house and like, stay behind the ropes and walk on the cleanly worked. You know, why? Why are we pretending that this is anything but it's what it you know, but what it is? We, as the behind the scenes, people, we know what went into creating this experience? Why? Why are we so dependent on this fallacy of accuracy? When we know, you know, we know that nothing can ever be 100% accurate? Why don't we just take that as the way that theater has and use that as a jumping point for creativity?

Max Evjen 39:21
Okay, well, we can now move on to the last we don't have the last poll because we're on the last theme, which is extending grace, which I think a lot of us need during this time of this pandemic into these virtual channels. So who would like to start with that? But I mean, I can start with that. Okay, so I've even heard things at this conference about different things with video production and social media, about how even if it's not the finished products these days, people are just fine to have it right. People are still accepting In an understanding that maybe this isn't like this not to be the big produced thing. On the flip side, there's also been instances of people looking at what's that listen to what the background like what what is what is prep for this exhibit look like, right? And you know that that thing that those moments can be really exciting to people, right? That what what is what is prep for for theater look like I you know, we were in the department theater at NSU. We I we did a digital strategy. And in that saying like, okay, we need to like show the process of production, right? show what how this thing is being built. Right? What that means, because a lot of people don't get to see that. Well, same thing with museums show the process of building your exhibits, show it show the boring meeting that you're in while you're doing your education goals, right? Like I whatever it is, right? Like, show people what what it means to do museum stuff, right? show what it means that you're at your computer all the time, show them the code, right? Show, whatever that looks like in musetech. Be mindful that people want to know really what we all do, and, and are willing to extend us some grace. So let's extend them some to if they have issues with bandwidth, if that like little bandwidth for zooming into things. If they had issues with getting to a place there's so there's so many barriers to people just being able to like transport in one way or another, whether it be in person or whether it be virtual. So understand that maybe some people can't get to where what you're trying to offer and try to look at the alternative ways that you can, you can figure out what your offerings are, even if it's not tech, even if it's something else I heard about the Crystal Bridges Museum, like providing food for people because their food service people were getting the food, right? Because that's what their audiences wanted. Right? They didn't really want visual virtual engagement, they wanted food. Right? So figure it out, figure out when the virtual thing isn't the right thing. Right?

Brad Dunn 42:01
Yeah, I think I'll jump in on that, as I was preparing for this and thinking about extending grace, to me, I translated that max to, for me to be about kind of like user first design putting audiences first and then ironically, I do, I think that there's times for us to sort of put a stake in the ground and say, we're gonna try this thing and see if this works. But I also think that there's and I think we all struggle with this, we want to put so much of our ideas onto the audience. If we do if we design this thing, people will do this, if we do this, people will want to do that, when in fact, it's it doesn't have to be a hit to our egos to simply let go and realize that sometimes Yes, someone needs to charge the phone, someone needs a space to manage their, their upset toddlers in our space, someone does want to go through and learn something about our ancient America's exhibit. But they don't necessarily want to go through whatever, 100,000 square feet, it's the longest show that we have. And it takes people so long to get through it. And there's, we we waste time. And we we fail to extend grace, when we expect people to learn in the ways that we want them to learn or that we expect them to learn that sometimes less is more, and that that can still be a great museum visit. And I think that being the person who's not the expert, pedagogy here, I think that I always want us to pause when I talk about the sort of like, I think it's important to identify like educational outcomes, I work with our learning team a lot, they have a huge amount of respect for them. And my wife is a teacher. But I also think there's times to sort of say, this is what we hope people get out of this, but they may not. And there's other things they'll get out of it that's relevant to them, that is just as important and we don't need to sort of push our glasses of our nose. At that experience. We can accept that because everyone needs something different. So I love this topic. Extend grace to our audiences.

Alli Hartley-Kong 44:05
I think in thinking about extending grace to the idea of the back channel is something that's very prominent in the virtual world. It's something that I've been experiencing going through this conference that you know, we're in this conference, where some of us are tweeting about what's going on, we have the chat you have listening. And to an extent, that's always been an aspect of museum visitation. No one's going into a museum and saying like, turn off your phone. You can't tweet about this. You can text a friend about this. But you go into a theater and you know, the announcement is turn off your phone. But now that theater has moved virtual back channeling has become an aspect to theater. And you know, theater B is becoming also part of this, I guess divided attention culture and i don't i don't think there's anything wrong with divided attention. I'm really excited about The opportunities were a divided attention. But I think when I hear the term extend grace, it makes me think a lot about the, our asks on attention and also our are changing the ideas of what it means to engage and how we can take advantage of this. institutions.

Unknown Speaker 45:20
Also add and this is kind of riffing off something Richard started us off with, right about trauma and self care and, and I almost feel like I'm saying something that's kind of very little in that scope. Um, but you know, when I think about extending grace, I don't want us to forget the idea of extending grace to ourselves as well, right, as a field as practitioners. And, you know, any, I think a lot about I've been on a lot of theater selection committees, right, which is a group of folks who work with the theater who select the season for the year, right. And I work with a lot of really struggling theaters. And you know, the this idea that kind of pervades that script selection process, we're like, we're gonna do three for the audience and one for us, right? We do four shows this season. Three of them are Neil Simon moneymakers, right one of them are like old chestnuts that we call on the theater, and then this one is going to be the one that's pushing and challenging and revolutionary, and we do it, we do it hoping that an audience is going to grab it and love it. Right. But that there's also a piece of that, that is about finding energy and care and enjoyment and challenge for us as practitioners. And I think it's okay for us to be a little selfish, right? I want to be audience centered 75% of the time, and I want a little bit, that's gonna keep practitioners pushing and challenging and keeping staying in our field.

Max Evjen 46:40
Yeah, well, and, you know, Museum, people are people too. Okay, so we're gonna move on

Alli Hartley-Kong 46:46
that we would like, just extend from that. We are also all people going through a global tragedy and multiple global tragedies and multiple global crises right now. And I think in, in thinking about any of these topics, it's really important to remember that and us and the audience's like, we're all having the collective experience of this right now. And it affects us all in different ways, like any collective experience, but it's just important to realize that,

Max Evjen 47:17
yeah, maybe we're even more connected in some ways because of it. Okay, so we're gonna talk about a few successful examples of how this can museums have been doing this. And then I think Alli is gonna be just putting in the chat, a Google doc and PDF as well, I think, or maybe Max,

Alli Hartley-Kong 47:36
I am attempting to share a PDF in the chat, which is not. So maybe I will just drop my email, if you need the PDF,

Max Evjen 47:47
and we can drop it in slack too. I will drop it in slack. Yeah, so I think I think maybe, Sarah, and you both have a few examples to start with. And Richard, you do as well.

Unknown Speaker 48:02
I yeah, I'll just name a few. We can drop them in some of the things that I've loved recently that I've seen that have a kind of a virtual or online platform, but also at the ethical component to it. And, you know, to to Alan's point about backchannels I work with companies who recently I've kind of been embracing the nostalgia, it's nostalgia for me, right now, you all know my age, around MTV, like VH one pop up videos, right? This idea of, we're going to look at the theatrical production, but we're also going to get all these little comments about, you know, from the tech team, from the actors themselves little interesting factoids. And I think the puppet video concept has been really fun, um, in terms of being you know, kind of transparent and that breaking the wall moment right within theater that I've enjoyed watching. And I will say that I am really love a virtual and interactive in Eastern State Penitentiary, his questions in the age of mass incarceration exhibit. And they are in the interactive, they're using tact to help people assess their own levels of privilege, right within the concept of mass incarceration. And but what they did, which was genius, when I think about concepts of sharing stage and with an audience member, right, and actually putting actors in eye contact with each other. Right, and they reorient, they oriented, the interactive so that all four people were actually looking at each other while they were doing it. And also had the ability to then see each other's Oh, you know, shock moments and response moments and choose to actually share their responses with other folks and who were doing the interact with the same time. I think that's really effective and builds on the power of theater. And then the last one I'll add is, you know, we talked about dismantling oppression and, and diverse audiences. And I think one of that is one part of that is talking about our audiences as creators. So though it sounds really silly, I've got a almost 12 year old Tick Tock obsessed and I really found joy in this concept of Tick Tock duetting. Um, and if anyone hasn't seen the brief Broadway musical of we're fighting in a grocery store, on Tick tock, you definitely need to look at it is a quick Tick Tock Pisa we're fighting in a grocery store that's beautiful and embraces every Broadway musical trope you've ever thought of. And then it was quickly duetted from the you know, 10s of different perspectives of the other things that were in the grocery store, including, you know, the child and the late night worker and the ding dong of the door and a can of soup. And I thought it was kind of genius and fun. And we'd love to see us kind of infuse the two fields I love in better ways like that.

Max Evjen 50:49
Okay, well, just y'all know, you out there, the resource guide has been put into the chat by from our alley, it's a Google Doc, but you can ask us for a PDF, you can make a PDF from it, I think too. So and we'll drop a PDF into the slack for everybody. So we do have about five minutes for any particular questions that anybody might have. If they want to put it in to the q&a, we can certainly take a look at that. Scene questions right now. But you know,

Brad Dunn 51:27
let me let me while we're waiting for a question, I have a question for my panelists, which is, love this idea of grace. And so does anyone have a an example that Grace has been extended to them a way in which Grace has been extended to them recently, or which you've extended someone else? Or you've seen it on your staff or at your museum towards visitors? Something recent? Could be small. Could be a grand gesture.

Richard Josie 51:57
Yeah, I'll I'll say one thing. And that is, and this may be particular to, you know, some of the organizations that I worked with, because the, they have a reputation of their, they have a reputation for their authenticity. Right. And so when when they begin to move some of their presentations to a virtual platform, you know, I saw I saw a young lady portraying an enslaved woman in her in her living room, like the whole background was her living room. And, and because those and it was it was interesting, because these organizations had that reputation, the level of grace that the people offered, you know, of not having to be, you know, videotaped on the slave quarters, is in that sort of environment has been very, has been very interesting to me. And I've seen that with with presentations, both at Colonial Williamsburg and George Washington's Melbourne.

Brad Dunn 52:55
Oh, that's beautiful. Yeah, that's really nice

Alli Hartley-Kong 52:59
example of grace that I've seen his grace around partnerships as well, too. I've seen a lot of theaters that are now producing virtual have, you had and have now theaters that have now become film companies, because they're producing virtual of the the idea of partnership with other organizations, I've heard examples of museums that have or historic sites that have extended their locations as places where filming can happen from theatre companies that they were previously not as affiliated with. But I think it kind of like, brings home the point that during these times we meet each other and are the ways that we used to think about our work and like kind of silo, our work between organizations. If we can't do that anymore, if we're going to survive this.

Max Evjen 53:59
I would also add that it's not really either Museum, or either specific, but just from a personal point of view. I'm lucky enough to be in a situation in my work, where I have colleagues that, well, we'll go over what has to be done. And there'll be a question of, do you have the bandwidth for that? Right now acknowledging that there's so much other stuff that we are trying to do and to accomplish? And is this something that I can ask you to do or not? And it's totally fine. If I If not, right? And that makes a huge difference. In the scenario where in some museums, I felt like that would never have been asked to me, you know, so just thinking about like, how we relate to each other as people. You know, theater is a very empathetic art form, right? So let's like extend a little empathy toward each other, right? and extend the empathy toward toward our visitors and the people who are want to experience what the museums have to offer.

Brad Dunn 55:01
I have just a quick 15 second example I'll give and some of you may have seen this, but in the MC n 2020 caregivers Slack channel yesterday kovan made himself very vulnerable and just admitted he was having a terrible day trying to run school for his, his his young child and also be engaged in the conference and do his job. And just I think right now, it's a 21 replies, people just jumping in and saying, You are not alone. We like many of us are going through this together. And it's just sort of nice to be reminded that that's what this community is about is supporting each other and showing that grace to each other.

Max Evjen 55:45
Any last thoughts? Because that that's almost all the time we have. I want to thank all the presenters here for engaging this awesome discussion. And I want to thank all of you who attended. If you haven't any other questions for us, please feel free to reach out to any of us specifically, or reach us in the Slack, which is, you know, all the rage now for NCM these days. So, thank you, everybody. And we hope that this has been something that can be useful for your practice moving forward.