Enticements, Frames, & Melancholy Danes

It’s my new game: telling friends about HamletSeattle Shakespeare Company‘s next play, and experimenting to see what brightens their eyes:

  • If you think you ever want to see Hamlet in your lifetime, catch this one.
  • Do you know about our $10 rush ticket club? Best deal in town.
  • It’s a great night out.  Dress up. Go for dessert. (This, courtesy of my co-worker Thea who includes cocktails, a favorite girl friend, and a study guide in the game-plan.)
  • Shakespeare is a cultural treasure. This company unlocks that treasure chest for everyone to enjoy.
  • It’s a great gift to give your kids.

Each of these pitches builds a different frame for viewing the company’s work: fun times,  astounding artistry,  effective  education,  cultural literacy, bargain hunting.

We each have our own preferred frames. I happen to love the company’s egalitarian service to all ages and income levels. Our artistic director makes your synapses zing as she demonstrates how Shakespeare plumbs the soul and provokes the mind. Yet one frame is rarely enough. If your listener doesn’t happen to share your frame, then they won’t catch your enthusiasm.

It’s a useful exercise to list all the arguments used to entice involvement in your project and then name the frames they represent. What’s missing? Are you addressing both sides of the brain? Which ones most easily pop out of your mouth? Great! Now which frames will be powerful allies to your favorite? Yes, it’s essential we convey the quality of our productions, but the fact we operate in the black can be critical for a foundation or a donor.

The concept of framing is not new, but it’s been elevated in the work of Matthew Nisbet, Associate Professor in the School of Communication at American University.  Nisbet studies the impacts of framing in popular responses to science. I’ve found a corollary in arts, education and social service: it’s easy to assume all listeners share our passion. Open another window. Find a new perspective. Add a frame to your collection.


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