The Ancient Secret to Success

Our society has been creating entertainment for millennia. From the Ancient Greeks who would enthrall audiences with their epic myths and dramatic plays to Shakespearean England where audiences flocked to see the latest literary creations performed live in front of them. From the churches of the Medieval times who would gather their flocks around novel scripture to the latest Star Wars spin off generating almost $300 million in opening weekend sales. Surely we have stumbled upon the key to creating popular entertainment by now. We have, and it is a doozy . . .


They are all the same story.

Surprisingly, the secret to entertainment is not rocket science. It is about retelling the same story to evolving audiences in an evolving way.

If you look closely at the stories the Ancient Greeks were telling, they have been rebranded to create the scriptures in the Bible. Shakespeare’s great plays tell the same story as the biggest hit movies hitting the screen this Summer.

Granted, it isn’t exactly the same story. The themes which they dealt with have remained, but the manner of telling the story has evolved with its audiences to convey the same message in a way which resonates with the people currently filling the seats. While those stories which fail to adapt generally fall out of circulation.

Look at Shakespeare for example. In Australia, we have a raft of incredible Shakespeare companies. But they aren’t staging Shakespeare in the same way Shakespeare envisioned several centuries ago – that form of performance has long fallen out of favour failing to draw audiences except for the odd historical novelty. Our Shakespeare companies have taken these historical texts and reshaped them into a message which our current audiences can relate to and contains the same resonance as the original audiences experienced.

While the latest Star Wars movie has brought $300 million worth of people to the cinema this last weekend around the world, it’s story isn’t actually new. It is telling the same epic story that many of these other texts have borrowed, but it is telling it in a way which resonates with modern audiences. Same with the Harry Potter series.

Neither of these landmark entertainment franchises will have the same impact in 100 years (although if they do J.K. Rowling’s descendants will be very happy). But their stories will. These stories will still be told and will still be as resonant as they are now – they will just be told in a completely different manner, in a way which resonates with their audiences much better than today’s existing monoliths.