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Getting the Word Out with Conflicting Messages

speakeasy:FindingJennsVoiceI’m in the middle of three projects at the moment. All of them are using social media to “get the word out.” The two foremost projects, “Speakeasy” and “Finding Jenn’s Voice,” don’t exactly have conflicting messages, but the approach to their social media campaigns couldn’t be more different.

Speakeasy is a play about Reading, PA during the Prohibition years. The Roaring 20s. We’re staging this production at the end of the month when an old ballroom will be transformed into a speakeasy. We’ll be serving beer and wine as well as some of Reading’s signature product: pretzels. Our opening song, in fact, is “Pretzels and Beer.” We’ve got Vaudevillian performers serving as a backdrop for the action on the floor where the Socialists, Temperance women, and gangsters congregate.

You’re getting the picture: it’s an evening of light entertainment. I’m pretty sure the show is going to be popular. We’ve already sold a bunch of tickets. That makes sense. People want to have fun. Social media for “Speakeasy” has been a snap.

“Finding Jenn’s Voice,” on the subject of intimate partner violence, is not as easy a sell. People find it hard to look in the face of evil. Instinct tells us to look the other way. We don’t really want to hear Jenn’s side of the story. We’d rather just listen to the news capsules with a few sensational sound bites before heading into the stock report.

The news media pretends it’s a big headline, a major event but worthy of only five minutes air time. It’s unique, but it’s over. It won’t happen again, so let’s move on.

But it does happen again. And again and again. It happens so frequently it’s not really newsworthy. What is newsworthy is the work that a number of people are doing to make sure it doesn’t happen frequently. It’s a cultural phenomenon, this spouse-killing, and it can be prevented. But you won’t hear that on CNN, let alone Fox.

The problem will be solved with education, but that education will never be part of the highschool or college curriculum. It will take the media, but a different avenue than the nightly news. This information can only come outside the Internet/TV realm.

The story requires a documentarian to research the story, document it, frame it, and distribute it in new places. That requires money, which requires fundraising, which requires social media.

Trying to raise awareness for “Finding Jenn’s Voice” requires a firm but gentle presence on Facebook and Twitter. Those two platforms have the power to change the world. We’ve seen it time and again. But unlike that for an evening of fun entertainment, this campaign requires a sober uncompromising face.

The sobriety required to inform the world about Finding Jenn’s Voice is in conflict with the Barnum & Bailey voice required to sell Speakeasy. Social media is a great tool, but it unmasks a person like me. Split between two projects, two loyalties, two voices, even I’m not sure how I feel about anything. Is there evil around every corner, so much that levity is in bad taste? Or is life but a joke, not to be taken seriously?

I feel strongly about both of these projects. I’m 100% committed to both. They’re both very important to me. I’m just having trouble reconciling the social media. Somehow I must convince the Facebook crowd to get on board with both. Is that possible?

Sue Lange

P.S. Please consider a $10 donation to Finding Jenn’s Voice (http://www.seedandspark.com/studio/finding-jenns-voice).

And if you’re in the Reading area Aug. 30, 31, Sept. 5, 6, or 7, consider coming to the show.

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