Things Can Change A Lot in One Week

After last week's feedback, I was very aware that there were some significant areas of my project that needed to be re-assessed. I was on the right path, but veering in the wrong direction (which can lead to frustration, but also provided the impetus to throw myself into research and reach out to others for help). Below are the significant updates from this past week:

  • I have a new advisor! I would love to still work with Jacques, but he is understandably preoccupied with his own work. Chris Dawes is a professor in the Politics department at NYU. His area of expertise is political behavior with an emphasis on voter turnout. Considering the political aspect of this project is a glaring gap of knowledge on my end, I think Prof. Dawes' input will be instrumental in giving me the direction I was sorely missing for so long.
  • I also got in touch with a former director of mine, Scotty Watson, to initially discuss the best way to pitch myself as a collaborator with Electoral Dysfunction, a noted political comedy improv group. Watson, a longtime improvisor and sketch writer with significant insight into the craft as well as the industry, mentioned that it is far easier and simpler to ask someone to be on your show rather than the other way around, particularly when the group in question already has an established form and program. 
         That was the spark that gave me the idea for what I need to do with the show portion of my project:
         [Untitled Voting Show] is a live comedy variety show involving various New York City-based improv teams and stand ups performing with interactive technical elements that will be integrated into their performance.
         Instead of relying on an audience member to shout out a suggestion, an improv scene will be based on the results of a live poll of where the audience stands on a particular issue, conducted live and displayed. Perhaps a standup's set will be informed by how many audience members are registered vote. These are all rough, preliminary, off-the-top-of-my-head, spitball ideas. In general, the goal is to build a show around these types of interactions. The actual components themselves, I believe, will become more concrete after meeting with Prof. Dawes (on Thursday) and through discussing with the groups to be in involved.
         Furthermore, Watson is an advisor to the theatrical organization, Artistic New Directions. I met with one of the co-directors, Kristine Niven, last night who offered to provide fiscal sponsorship and resources (including introductions to notable improv groups). Niven has been heading the organization for over 30 years and was excited to work on a youth and tech oriented project; something she hadn't had the opportunity to do in the very traditional slate of work that she is so often involved in. As someone who has organized improv comedy performances around elections and voter registration efforts in the past, she also was happy to offer advice about audience engagement and show elements that effect action. 
         My producing work is certainly cut out for me.
  • The most important point, though...the website! Yes, I was hell bent on creating a website. After researching so much about the salience of online platforms for youth to take action on, I was focused on following that specific direction. After doing some further research and speaking informally to friends, I realize that a preliminary idea I had discarded earlier might be more worth looking into. 
         Instead of a website, I propose a text messaging service that will remind subscribers the day before each primary, debate, and the actual election day. It provides a connection to extend the show even after it is done. In order to create this, I need to learn Twilio - the platform I identified as the most suitable for this project. I already arranged a meeting with a friend who has used it for previous projects to walk me through the basics of it one on one. 

As for the "Unmistakeable Creative" podcast, here are my motley crew of questions.

     Why do young people vote in such low numbers?
     Why do highly educated people vote more than those without access to higher education?
     Why are so many people, young and old, quick to dismiss the importance of voting?
     Why don't comedians take more of an initiative to use comedy to explore significant issues?
     Why, in the comedy community, is there more of an emphasis on social commentary rather than tangible action?
     Why do young people get more excited about pop culture events than things that have a far greater direct impact on their lives, such as voting?
     Why don't young people understand the direct correlation between their votes and their daily lives?

     What if I could bring together my politically active and my comedy networks in one space? Where is the overlap?
     What if there was a way to infuse the live indie comedy genre with an interactive element that allows the audience to be more involved in a creative exploration of the issues?
     What if there was something that really drove home what would happen if someone DIDN'T vote? What would the country look like?
     What if there was a way to convey the results of acting, or not acting, on election day?

     How can I make traditional improv interactive through tech?
     How can I educate through a form comprised of performers and an audience?
     How can I integrate the audience into the show as much as possible?
     How can I best use technology for comedic and political effect? 
     How can I make sure that a few months and one year down the line, those in the audience will be lining up to vote?

Finally, the first draft of my outline can be found here.

In the next week, I'm hoping to tackle this main question:

"Why deters young people from going to the polls to vote?"
I believe meeting with Prof. Dawes will greatly help in pointing me to further sources for research. I am also sending out a survey to help in that end. 

I am also going to solidify plans for building the SMS service, and start looking into venues and dates to book for the show. 


Sriya Sarkar