In a second attempt this week to isolate ourselves from our readers by writing about subjects that they care little or nothing about, this post revolves around interpreting Star Wars. I’ve got to get something off my chest from the start of this post: Star Wars is the premier sci-fi movie series and it cannot be compared to cheap imitations such as Star Trek. Okay, I feel better now that you know where I’m coming from—and as with most post topics on this blog, after you read our opinion we know that you will immediately agree. I really feel better now that you feel the same way.
I call the above connecting with the reader (singular for more than one reason). It helps when the writer and reader are on the same page, but when you write 52 blog posts a year, you find yourself keeping a mental list of topics that the majority of readers may find relevant. Some posts fall short. This mental list has officially taken the place in my mind where I used to keep important things that my wife has told me to take care of, which brings me back to today’s post on Star Wars and falling short.
Star Wars and I are at the same places in our lives. We are approximately the same age; I won’t say who is actually older. If you were to ask, I will promptly respond by saying, “e chu ta,” and you can respond with your best C-3P0 voice, “How rude!” After you reach age 30, it really doesn’t even matter that much. We’ve both been around for a while now and we aren’t as young, hip, or current as we used to be. We work hard to maintain physiques that were never that great to begin with and have become worried about blood pressure, Death Star-shaped moles, and cholesterol counts (okay, that was mostly about me).
High definition has not been that great for us. It just displays the fact that we are more wrinkled, have less hair, and look more like Jabba the Hutt—all in 1080p. We both are working hard to re-invent ourselves in an attempt to stay young and relevant.
The creative geniuses that manage the Star Wars universe continue to impress me in how many times they can come up with something that I willing to drop some “Benjamins” on (see, staying hip—okay, like 1994 hip). The movies haven’t changed (despite those unfortunate special edition debacles of 1997; I still attest that Han shot first) but they have managed to maintain a huge fan base, please the uber fans, and continue to grow a new audience while pretty much offering the same products. Interpretive sites can learn from this approach.
Last week I went to one of those new approaches, Star Wars in Concert (a live symphony orchestra presentation of the music from Star Wars, highlighted with scenes from all six films). I had certain expectations about what the event was going to be like, knowing that the concert was created to please a general audience or even attract the armchair Star Wars fans. I was aware that a large portion of the concert experience revolved around interpreting elements of the Star Wars universe in an exhibit featuring characters, props, technology, and roving costumed interpreters (okay, maybe that’s a reach). Star Wars and interpretation together, much like the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance, my worlds were colliding.
Needless to say I was excited to see how many times the typeface Star Vader could be appropriately used in exhibitry and to have my picture taken with those costumed interpreters. I had seen a few images of the exhibits via photo text message from an unnamed interpreter who resides in Missouri and who attended the event several months prior to me and who was attempting to make me jealous at the time. Because of his requests to stay anonymous in order to maintain the appearance of not being connected to such an event and this blog in general, I will withhold any further information. His attempts were futile and only encouraged my excitement.
Upon entering the venue for the event, the costumed interpreters and the exhibits set the stage for the experience. This is something at all interpretive media should strive to do—enhance the experience but not be the experience. Despite my love for Star Vader, I was pleased to see the exhibit type set in something easier to read, even if it was in all caps. As you would expect from Star Wars, cutting-edge technology was a large part of the exhibits (even though the movies took place a long time ago in a galaxy far away). The technology was not interactive technology, but the use of large monitors (in high definition with flat screens), video, text, and images presented on “beautiful stylistic pedestals” (I was chastised by a reader after making such a statement in a previous post on interpreting NASCAR) were used to disseminate the information.
The presentation was nice, but there seemed to be a lack of theme overall. Unless the theme was “Star Wars is awesome,” which may very well be the case. Each display was effective at constantly changing. While one screen offered text about the concept the other provided supporting videos and images. As with most exhibits more information was provided than the average fan would want but were there any average fans there? Not that I saw.
Authenticity in the items on display added value and interest. There is something special about seeing the thing itself. One item on display was the original score sheets where John Williams’ hand wrote the notes that became a large part of the movie. It’s the geek equivalent of seeing the Declaration of Independence. Oh yeah, it was also a reminder that the music was the reason for the event. This was one of the last exhibits before entering the concert hall.
Several displays required no interpretation. I love this approach with authentic items. Leave the interpretation to the visitor, and allow them draw their own conclusions, provoke thought, and appreciate the item in their own way. When I first saw Yoda, I might as well have been frozen in carbonite myself.
Another simple approach for visitors to invent their own interpretation was applied though large scene backdrops that allowed visitors to make memories and create their own interpretation of the films that can be then shared on Facebook, with friends, or print in a very large format for hanging in the dining room. After George Lucas sees this picture I emailed him, I have no doubt I’ll be cast in Episode VII.
When all else fails, make it larger than life. I alluded earlier to the scenes from the movie to support the symphony orchestra. What I didn’t say is that those scenes were presented in HD on a 60-foot-tall LED screen. It was awesome in and of itself, though for the most part interpretive centers don’t have the budget for such a television. I have been told by my wife that we don’t have the budget either, despite my best efforts to persuade her on how good Oprah would look in that format.
The presentation went beyond the format and was one of the most important elements of the concert because in small snippets the program designers took key story elements and quotes, especially those prized by the inner circle of fans, to meet the expectations of youngest fans, uber fans, and normal people with significant others and jobs that don’t involve blogs or video games.
This may be best use of Star Vader ever. Oh yeah, by the way the music was great.