Tell Me The Truth

I’ve been working more in promotions in the last year than ever before. It’s brought me up against the cold, hard fact that the truth isn’t all that important to the media.

We seem to accept this as ‘the way it is’ and I don’t know if this is because we don’t know how to tackle it or perhaps because we live our lives in a way that is only relatively truthful. But how can we accept or understand our world if those who deliver our news can’t be trusted?

I sat next to a knowledgeable person while they were being interviewed for an article and heard her related factual answers to the questions she was being asked. A week later I read the article and saw columns teeming with inaccuracies.

None were damaging, they just weren’t the truth. For instance, a grant the charity was awaiting was included in the figures that were already received, with credit being given to the council for awarding it. Weeks later we were, in truth, awarded one-third of the amount.

On a lesser scale, this practice was repeated with me for another local paper, which had clearly decided on the slant of the story they wanted to print no matter what information they were given. This time, a wonderful article was printed on the front page but the true people who had made the difference in the story hadn’t been given credit.

The production of Godspell brought about another challenge with the truth recently. Because of my respect for creative artists, there was never a doubt that we would pay for the rights for performing the ’70s rock musical.

Having established that a company in New York were managing the rights, I followed the correct steps to ensure that we were doing the right thing.

Mostly. I didn’t realise that downloading a free script in the meanwhile and editing it in the meanwhile wasn’t the right thing to do! So our wonderful cast, who I believe took longer to recruit than Jesus spent calling the 12 disciples (yes, we don’t have his charisma), worked with and learnt an accurate but shorter version of the script with some of the songs omitted.

Oh, and I changed the prologue completely. Three weeks before the opening performance we were informed by the rights company that they could not ‘grant permission for us to perform the play in its current format’.

I was panic-stricken, faced as I was with the decision to either stand before the cast and say the show was off or, to my dramatic mind, stand before a judge to fight the cause to pay the rights and only perform 80% of the play. Quitting was not an option.

I began to play with the truth. Did the words, ‘grant permission for us to perform the play’ perhaps mean that we could do it; they could just not grant us permission?

A legal expert I questioned cleared that one up for me. I would be in breach of copyright. Fortunately, we paid the rights and performed the play and it was a great success albeit raising a far lesser sum for our village hall redevelopment fund than if we had not paid. What made the whole experience more painful was not the rights controversy, but the principle.

I’ve no doubt that hundreds of thousands of people perform plays across the globe every year and don’t lose a wink of sleep over infringing copyrights. And don’t get caught. Telling the truth can be an expensive, time-consuming and tiring option.

I’ve been a voice and speech coach for about 16 years now in various formats. I’ve discovered that it’s vital to deal with the truth. I spend a lot of time telling my students and clients the truth about their performance, both vocal and physical so that they can be the best versions of themselves. But I also spend a lot of time clearing up untruths.

The way people present themselves or fail to do so, can be based on untruths they have to believe, or truths they have not known for years. Holding back the voice, or speaking in the throat can have its roots in feeling under-confident or being told to be quiet from early childhood.

A person will start believing that they have no right to speak out because of who they are, or have nothing worth hearing, and this becomes their truth. Lies become truth.

I thoroughly enjoy the rewarding, but the sometimes slow process of using the truth to restore a person to the vocal, articulate individual there are designed to be. It is particularly distressing that the majority of these people are female. An argument for another day.

So what does it cost, to tell the truth? Maybe an extra 10 words in a newspaper article. A few hundred pounds for copyrights or something as simple as declaring the true age of your child were it to cost you a bit extra. So what if it takes a little longer to tell the truth? Or costs more. The benefits, which may not be personal, have got to be worth it.

The cost of untruths can be subtle and long-term.

An artist far away who just can’t give her all to her passion for music or writing, a child who grows up ‘knowing’ that the truth doesn’t really matter because it’s cheaper or more convenient to lie.

In the words of Winston Churchill, “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”

Let’s bring it out and into the light where we can.

The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.

Winston Churchill

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