Education and Entertainment: They’re not that different!

There are two diametrically opposed perceptions of live performance. Is it meant to entertain? Or is it meant to educate? These two streams of thought have led to markedly different outputs over the years and often cause a rift for audiences in the performance industry who view offers as too commercial or too artistic. But can you satisfy both groups?

Wicked

We are all entertained by education. We all have that thirst for knowledge in an area we are passionate about. Where learning a new piece of information blows our minds and inspires us to explore further. But this often only applies to subjects that we find interesting whether they be theatre, sports, celebrities or the mating behaviour of the Patagonian toothfish. Most of the learning we do, outside these passionate interests, occurs in the revers. We are educated through entertainment.

How did you learn proper social conventions? It was probably from a television show. How did you learn about feelings? It was probably through songs. And if you ever find yourself in a zombie apocalypse you will most likely return to your knowledge from countless television shows, movies and video games where you encountered the same problems.

But this isn’t confined to big picture concepts. I came across an article today that suggested Microsoft has been training our computer behaviour through entertainment for many years. And it all started with that devastatingly-addictive computer solitaire!

Solitaire taught us how to drag and drop cards on the screen, a skill which we use daily on computers moving and interacting with files. Minesweeper introduced the idea of left and right clicking before we were drawing on these skills to modify file names, edit pictures or copy and paste. And did anybody actually understand the game of Hearts? I think I spent the whole time randomly clicking different options until I eventually won a game, but it began to introduce the idea of interacting with other players on a local network. An idea which has permeated throughout gaming software and messenger software well into today’s technological advancements.

But they haven’t stopped there. Windows has slowly pulled these games from our systems, instead moving them into the Windows Store where they can be downloaded onto your computer. (Could this be another entertainment offer training us to become comfortable with the new Windows Store?).

It is easy to approach entertainment and education separately, but in reality these concepts are interlinked. Something which is pure education is often incredibly boring. And an offer which is pure entertainment often lacks substance to make any lasting impact. The best education comes with a bit of entertainment and the best entertainment comes with a bit of education.

Have a think about it. It’s already happening. Phantom of the Opera and Wicked teaches audiences not to judge a book by its cover (although the Phantom did kill someone!). Billy Elliot and Kinky Boots encourage people to embrace their differences. And The Sound of Music leaves audiences with the learning, that if the Nazi’s attack, you need to return to your religious roots and hide in a church – and maybe something about the importance of family.

An educative offer doesn’t need to be dry and boring. In fact, it is more resonant if it isn’t. Look at what will entertain your audience and see how you can turn that into a lasting impact.

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