Friday, 24 December 2010

Bleeding Edge Marketing

 The case you are about to read is true.  The names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

Dear Bill,

XXX Insurance Company is pleased to provide you with this desk calendar for your home or office.  You'll notice it resembles three people linked together, like our logo.

[skip the paragraph that explains what the three people in the logo represent and the one telling me how wonderful their insurance is, ending with this sentence:]

And should the unexpected happen, rest assured that XXX will handle your claim quickly and efficiently.

To our valued customers, we hope you enjoy this small token of our appreciation . . .

I'm sorry, I just can't go on.  I got this dizzy, disoriented feeling like I had been whizzed back to the 1950's, before the days when absolutely every machine that has a computer chip in it boasts a calendar, back when a desk calendar might actually have been useful.  Small token, indeed!

It amazes me that people still produce ugly little desk calendars and that others take the time to build marketing campaigns around them.  These are not exactly salad days for the insurance industry.  They can't afford to waste a single mass mailing. 

Face it, the days of the desk calendar have long since disappeared.  Deal with it and move on.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

A Death in the Family

Scowling at the now empty stage, the man sat two thirds of the way back, as the audience, laughing and chatting, left for the lobby.  It was the end of Act I of the preview of the comedy "Jitters" at the SouPepper Theatre in Toronto.  I watched the man, concentrating on the stage as though the actors were still there.  In his mind they were.  This was the man who had woven together his own experience as actor and playwright and  had run this play through his mind a thousand times as he revised and revised, boiling it down to its essence.  This was David French.

I walked over to the row he was seated in and sat down a respectful distance away, not wanting to disturb his train of thought.  I had met David through an introduction to dramatic writing course given by his partner, Glenda MacFarlane and I had emailed them a couple of times.  After a while he acknowledged my presence.  "There's a lot of work to do yet," was all he said.  This despite all of the laughter that had just come from the full house.

David was like that:  intense, passionate, uncompromising, as much a rock as the place where he had been born.  When he visited our class, we all talked about our current projects.  When I described mine, he said, "A novel maybe, not a play."  He was right.  That comment made me start over from scratch, because after listening to him, all I wanted to do was write a play.  David's approach was classical theatre:  a single protagonist with an all-consuming desire, facing overwhelming conflict and equipped with only their intelligence and feelings.  "Salt-water Moon" ( features two actors on one set in one evening.  "The challenge," he explained, "was that this story took place before my previous play, so the audience already knew the ending."  Yet, even knowing not just the ending, but also the whole play, I was still riveted to my seat.  I took my family to see it at SoulPepper.  With two teenagers, it can be difficult to find something that engages all of us.  This play was an exception.  The conversation all the way home centered around the play and the two characters.

You can picture yourself in a French play.  Whether you see yourself as the parent or the child, the young lover or the frustrated patriarch, he spoke to all of us.  Each character is presented with understanding and compassion, true to all of the frailties and strengths of the human condition.  You can't leave one of David's plays untouched by the experience.

We will miss him.