In Shelagh Stephenson’s Olivier-award winning dark comedy, The Memory of Water, three sisters reunite to bid farewell to their recently departed mother. As adults, it is evident that their present lives have not lived up to expectations. That’s how life goes. But these girls can’t even agree on their shared past. And that’s how memory goes.
A common estimate used by psychologists suggests that a single ‘moment’ can last up to 3 seconds. So we experience about 20,000 separate moments each day, and about 500 million of them if we live to be age 70. Professor Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and psychologist suggests that the vast majority of these moments simply vanish: poof – gone. And the memories we are left with can be very different from our experiences!
He distinguishes between what he calls the Experiencing Self and the Remembering Self. One of his favourite illustrations of this dichotomy is a story about a music lover, listening to a rare vinyl recording of a symphony. For 20 minutes, he got to experience some of the most sublime music of his life. Then, right near the end, there was a scratch on the record, a loud squeak, and he angrily declared: “It spoilt the whole thing!” But did it? He had enjoyed 20 minutes of lovely music, many moments. But that single negative moment coloured his memory of the entire thing. That’s what he committed to memory. What a shame.
What we now know is that, of the very many moments we experience in life, we are selective about which ones we commit to memory. And, for significant moments, we never simply record the facts. There’s always an emotional component – a feeling – that gets attached to the memory of that moment, and the two parts are not easily separated.
We all know people who lean towards a ‘glass is half empty’ philosophy of life. So is this merely a phenomenon that affects the pessimists among us? Probably not. Scientists believe that we are hard-wired to actively seek out, and remember, the negative. It is thought to be an evolutionary adaptation that enhances our ability to survive. Which I imagine was very useful in the jungle (“Yikes! A tiger, big teeth, scary, avoid in future!”) but occasionally frustrating for us in the modern world. For how does a ‘ruined’ memory of music impact the survival of the species? It doesn’t. But our hard-wired cognitive processes can’t automatically distinguish between the two.
Naturally, we also store and recall good memories. Things that nurture us, or feel pleasurable, are worth repeating if we get the chance, for they can also help our survival. For example, last week I was offered a piece of soda bread in a restaurant. It looked and tasted exactly like my granny’s bread, and I vividly remembered a warm kitchen and the smell of her apron as she hugged me close, more than 40 years ago.
That the girls in our play recall their shared experiences quite differently should come as no surprise. The emotional component of those moments was quite different for each of them, as our audience discovers along the way. One of the key reasons that the practice of mindfulness is so popular today, is the discovery that we can ‘hack’ our minds. By consciously marrying a neutral, or less negative, emotion to an immediate unpleasant experience we can influence our future mental states. Literally, we can write happier endings. It’s fascinating stuff.
In the 1960s Ellie Greenwich was a prolific songwriter, responsible for dozens of classic hits from The Girl Group era. Vi, the girls’ mother in our play, would certainly have sung along to these tunes as she got ‘dolled up’ to go out to the dance hall. One of Ellie’s lesser-known songs laments the heartache of having loved, and lost. The aching end lyric goes like this: “I wish I never saw the sun shine. I wish I’d never saw the sun shine. Cos if I never saw sunshine baby then…maybe… I wouldn’t mind the rain.”
As theatre makers it’s our job to know the breadth of human possibilities, and the depths of our individual character’s possibilities. We work with what the author gives us, and we can’t rewrite the ending. But by holding up a mirror to life, we believe that great theatre can help an audience to rewrite their own script, and maybe learn to love a little rain.
Written by Sean Worrall, an Ensemble Member of Wag the Dog Theatre.
The Memory of Water will play at Drama Centre Black Box, 100 Victoria Street, Singapore from 30 June to 9 July. Tickets are $35, available at SISTIC.
“If you are not a brand, you are a commodity.” — Philip Kotler
Pulling a Miley is officially a thing. For those strangely not in the know, the term, coined after Cyrus’ shocking performance at this year’s VMAs refers to a rebranding attempt that has derailed. In light of all the coffee shop talk surrounding this recent publicity stunt, we want to share our two cents on the reality of successful rebranding.
Firstly, Cyrus should not be mistaken as one that doesn’t know the business. The former Disney star was previously a fresh-faced family-friendly role model to global consumers. She made millions off their loyal commercial following for years.
From a PR stance, it is hard to deny the gravity of coverage her performance has brought. It is clear that she intended to stir controversial and crazed reactions. The question here is whether the fruits of that coverage have been a boon or bane to her direction as an artiste.
At one point, her performance sparked a massive 306,100 tweets a minute. The Super Bowl blackout, another Twitter frenzy, had 231,000 tweets per minute at its peak. The US 2012 elections peaked at 327,452 tweets per minute. Google traffic spiked as well as it registered over 10 million searches for Cyrus that night. The Syrian crisis, on the other hand, registered only 100,000 searches in comparison. This was even in light of an announcement of likely military intervention. The scale of the social media eruption she caused here is clear.
So, how does this translate to you and your business? Can you revitalise, renew, and refresh your business exactly the way you want?
As your personal brand or business grows and develops, it is only natural that it may need certain minor or major facelifts. This is important so that it continues to parallel the direction you are going in. A rebrand is possible without having to alienate, confuse, and stun all your current and potential consumers.
State a plan
Before anything can be done, you need to have a strong, specific, and detailed plan. This may seem self-explanatory, but is often very much undermined. Whether out of recognition of your company’s needs or by sheer epiphany, there is often a tendency to just throw something together and act on impulse. Cyrus desperately wanted to shake off her goody Disney princess shoes. We’ve seen it with others like Lindsay Lohan and Vanessa Hudgens. While that is an understandable right, you need to take a thorough look at your business. Really consider how you want to be perceived not just by potential consumers but also by industry players. Then, predetermine and quantify the elements you are going to change. Some questions to consider for both businesses and individuals alike include:
Where do you want to be two years from now?
What is your USP (unique selling proposition)?
Start with slow and subtle changes and see if your existing consumers react favourably. This could include introducing new topics on the company blog and tweaking the tone and language a little in company platforms. Then, be very aware of what they respond to and what they don’t. Also, be receptive and responsive to input and feedback that come in. This will be key in consumer retention and engagement.
Decide how badly you want it, and persevere. Most don’t make it past the first year. It takes a lot of work, and maybe even more time. Also, remember that it is impossible to please everyone. There are always going to be people who do not approve or understand, and that is okay. Beware of trying to be all things to all people, that is a recipe for disaster! Partner with others who are passionate about what they do.
By doing your homework and thinking logically and logistically, you’ll soon be able to rebrand with smooth sailing even in rough waters without having to pull a Miley.
Posted by Yiwen Ng, Public Relations Executive, Corporate Media