It may seem curious to argue for authenticity in an aesthetic arena created on falsity, fantasy and the imperiled facade — but we all must strive for the authentic over the gimmick as we dare to present the world on stage.

Authenticity is not always factual. Authenticity is not always necessarily truthful. Authenticity goes to the core of a drama: Believability. Are we invested in the plot or not?

Have we successfully persuaded the audience to leave their treacly lives behind and join us in our ongoing definition of what is momentarily contemporary and intrinsically revelatory?

The most dangerous threat to authenticity is the gimmick, the scheme, and the intentional lie perceived to deceive instead of enlighten.

Gimmicks are crutches. Gimmicks are predictable. Gimmicks gin up the odds against your success and in favor of the destruction of your aesthetic in brittleness and betrayal.

Gimmicks have a tendency to appear more than once in a single production and a multiplicity of times over the arc of a career.

Gimmick Test: “Have I done this before? Am I being original? How would I feel if someone else did this in a production?”

If any of your answers in your Gimmick test are negative, take that testimony, reinvent the original intention, and construct something new. The investment of extra time and thought will pay off into a the honest transmogrification of authenticity.

We all have our bag of reliable, and proven, tricks to win over an audience
— but when we rely on slight-of-hand and misdirection instead of the brutal real and the raw authentic — we begin to become a mockery of who we are and what we were intended to be in the living of a live performance.


  1. David,
    I wonder what you consider to be a really gimmicky career arc? Or a really gimmicky production?
    I like the idea of investing time into creating something that is raw and authentic.

  2. It’s difficult to give an example in the theatre, because there are so few people who actually see the same performance.
    In the movies, one quick example is director Michael Bay’s exploding things. He doesn’t just explode one thing one time. He explodes one thing five or six times with inter-cuts and repeated angles on the same explosion making the one explosion falsely seem bigger, and more intensive than it really is or was.
    Some say those single-multi-explosions are a “Michael Bay Signature” or a “Michael Bay Trademark” — I call it what it is: Gimmickry.

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