Digitized Theatre

This piece was originally written as an essay for university, this is a greatly shorted version covering the same topic.

 

 

The phrase  ‘Digitalization of performances’ refers to any theatrical performance, with a live and present audience, that is recorded to be shared later or broadcast live.  This is a growing trend in theatre with more and more theatre companies getting involved.

Many theatres, such as the Metropolitan Opera from New York are now broadcasting their work live into cinemas to expand audience and profit despite the fact that the theatre itself is at capacity.  The Metropolitan Opera began this trend in 2006 and since then it has grown, with places like the National Theatre following  in 2009.  This was branded National Theatre Live (NT Live).  Other theatres have done similar things, broadcasting their work live and on subsequent dates online and on TV.  Numerous sites allow access, for a registration fee, to a catalogue of works like this, such as ‘digitaltheatreplus.com’.  This is a website aimed at people who already have an interest in theatre, however other sites can be found which are free but not as specialized on which to view theatrical pieces.

With more and more theatres broadcasting internationally there is the growing ability to sample theatre from other cultures.  This can expand cultural awareness as well as political awareness, and potentially help international understanding of different cultures.  It is obviously not possible to please all cultures at once with a very stylized piece, so should this continue there is potential for an international genre to be developed, mixing all styles together.  An example of this is the UK’s tendency towards political pieces which would not work in China, thus meaning for it to flourish internationally big changes would need to be made.  As suggested by the writer for the Guardian, Laura Barnett, in theatre there are not just different styles on stage, but differences in how it is reviewed and discussed it as well.  She wrote “opinion seemed to bear the influence of their nationality”, meaning the viewer’s expectations of performances were affected partially by their culture.  This could be brilliant, or the first step in losing cultural identities in theatre production styles.  It could be argued that it will drastically change theatre as we know it, completely transforming the live experience into something else.  While this new style may have some positive features, the variety and cultural flavours of theatre will be gone, changing the live experience forever.

One common issue people are concerned about is whether people who rarely go to the theatre or who have limited budgets for attending theatre, will turn to options such as NT Live and watch broadcasts and similar instead of productions by smaller, regional theatres.  In turn this will have the impact of reducing the income of regional theatres and stopping them producing individual works.  Independent groups like ‘Nesta’ (a research charity) have researched into this and found when looking at local theatre, attendances of places near a cinema that shows NT Live performances “saw a 5% increase” in sales compared to those outside the given radius which they used as a control group .   However as Nesta themselves point out this is not as clear cut as it seems as it is impossible to identify digital theatre as the linchpin in this as there are too many variables that could be impacting on the result. The data does not show if a new audience is being brought in by the broadcasts, or if current audiences are attending and being inspired to watch more theatre because of it.  More research is needed to collect enough data to show clear trends.  If a new audience is attending the theatre then this is an obvious gateway for people into theatre, and thus is allowing new audiences to develop an interest in theatre.  This is great news for the industry; on the other hand if it is simply the same audience going more, this is also good for the industry, however it does not do as much to ensure a future audience.

In conclusion my research suggests that while digital theatre has a place in the theatrical industry, at the moment it poses no threat to live and in-person viewing of performances.  However its use and potential in theatre are still developing as it is currently less than a decade old, which compared to how long theatre has been around is a mere moment.  Digital theatre still needs to find where it belongs though we are seeing its effects clearly in a boost in attendance at shows, in people experiencing shows they might not otherwise, and in overcoming international borders.  From this research I conclude digitalized theatre is currently positive for the industry but needs further research as it may have different long term effects.

 

Lost X

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Once again this is just a thought piece and there is much more to the topic than I have covered here but please comment below with any thoughts as I am as keen as ever to learn more from others.

 

Some of my research places (in reference format I’m afraid, but maybe you prefer that?) :

Internet:

BARNETT, L. (2013) National theatre: do audience responses play out along country lines? (Online). Accessed: 28/04/15

BOSANQUET, T. (2014) Research finds that NT Live has ‘no negative impact’ on regional theatre going (Online). Accessed: 28/04/15

BUIAN, P. (2009) 5 Questions On Theatres Role In Democracy (Online). Accessed: 28/04/15

DIGITAL THEATRE (2015) Digital Theatre (Online) Accessed: 03/05/15

NESTA. (2014) What impact does live broadcasting have on theatre attendance? (Online) Accessed: 28/04/15

 

Case Studies:

NESTA (N/A) Digital Broadcast of theatre: Learning from the pilot season NT Live (Online) Accessed: 03/05/15

To Understand, Or Not To Understand

The bonds between performers and backstage workers are many and varied. Some close and inspiring friendships, others are simply terse angry comments to each other and bitching. The sad thing about this; it can effect the whole cast and crew, not just those involved. By trying to understand each other, this can all be avoided.

I can only speak from my experience, which is limited to only a few years, and only ever really on the side of a technician. While I’m friends with, and have even dated a few performers, I’ve never really been one, so obviously my views are a little one sided. My friendships with performers however have opened my eyes a lot to the importance of a good cast/crew relationship. This was never made as clear to me as it was just this past year at university.

As part of the technical theatre course I ended up having to give a talk, in lighting of my own design. Now I’d designed it, organized all the cues in my head, then a classmate had programmed it into the desk and was operating it. About two thirds of the way through, instead of more lights coming on, a total blackout happened. So there I was, partway through my talk and just darkness. It threw me off completely. I was stood there in front of everyone feeling like an idiot. The lighting operator was confused and prodding various parts of the desk, slowly trying to puzzle through what had happened. Now the error was clearly a lighting error, as I stood on stage couldn’t have done it or fixed it. But still everyone stared at me, and soon I realized, lights or no lights, what happened next depended on me, the performer.

That’s the thing a lot of ‘techies’ don’t always get. A performer goes on stage and they make themselves vulnerable in their acting and to their own mistakes, but they are also vulnerable to other’s mistakes. Your mistakes. If an actor knocks on a door and yet the speakers play seagull calls, it’s the actor that has to stand there and make it work. Sure everyone knows it was clearly the sound engineers bad, but when you have people sat starring at you and that happens, the pressure is on you. That can be so easy to forget sat in your black clothing hidden away behind a desk.

However this lack of understanding can work both ways. Nothing frustrates a lighting designer more then when a spotlight is set to an exact spot, the same time, some size same everything… and the performer never stands in it. It can be marked on the floor, you can chat to them about it, the director can talk to them about it aaaaaaand… nothing. They never stand there. Or when actors loose or break props, or just forget that the techies have been there hours before they we’re called, and will still be there at least an hour later working away. That can have a really negative effect on the relationship between cast and crew.

Overall, this lack of mutual understanding can really be grit in the gears of a show. Communication can suffer, the working mood can be affected, and the general flow of work backstage by all.Without this awareness from both sides a good cast and crew relationship can’t be achieved.

I’ll leave writing more about what a good cast and crew relationship looks like for a later date, but I do feel without this basic understanding of each others role in a production, a show will always suffer in some way.

Lost X

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Going It Alone- Attending The Theatre By Yourself

Many people are put off visiting the theatre, and equally the cinema, by having to attend alone. But why do people care about seeing a theatrical piece alone? Presumably they don’t refuse to watch television alone, so what makes theatre so special?

Visiting the theatre was in many ways social practice historically. The point was to see who else was there, but more importantly; be seen to be there. This dates back to before the 19th century, however this trend reached new levels with the development of ‘boxes’. These had awful views but were an excellent way to be seen at the theatre. Even now though, these boxes remain, more expensive and secluded, often sold as part of a special, or ‘VIP’ package.

Nowadays this way of socialising is outdated. People are judged more on other qualities than their theatre attendance. The days of only being able to speak to people when you see each other, and needing public venues like theatres to socialize have diminished due to telephones and social media. So why does this stigma stop people from going to the theatre alone?

I personally think part of it is the feeling of being surrounded by people. Feeling that everyone knows you are there alone. That is what makes it different from watching television alone, other people know it. It comes from the very human way of wanting to conform, if you’re surrounded by people, you want to feel part of that group. By being alone and not talking to people in a sea of people talking, you see yourself as sticking out.

These pressures though, the fear of being seen being alone and recognised as being alone and not conforming are ridiculous. It implies that your enjoyment must be defined by other people. That you’re wish to go to a show and to enjoy that moment are outweighed by you fear that you may feel awkward being alone. People should be free to go out and enjoy themselves alone, without fears of people thinking you were stood up, had no option but to go alone, or of being made to feel self-conscious.

For many people discussing the show afterwards is a large part of the theatre experience, but with the rise of online discussion groups and forums this can be worked around. Many Facebook pages and chat rooms online are all about discussing theatre and welcome new members and discussions all the time.

Going to the theatre alone is neither the right way, nor the wrong way to enjoy it. One of the many things that make theatre different is the atmosphere. A trip to the theatre focuses more on experience and absorbing the atmosphere. That can be done alone, with a friend or a partner. So long as you make the most of that experience, you have done what the show is there for.

So next time you want to see a show, and either no one else you know wants to see it, or is available. Go see it. Make the most of the opportunity, as for all you know that might be the night your potential next close friend is attending, or that show, might just be the best show you’d ever see, and you don’t want to miss it for fear of attending alone.

 

Lost X

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Obviously this is just a small thought piece and is not a fully researched conclusion. Feel free to disagree and make comments as I’m keen to hear other views.

 

Anyway, here’s some of the websites I used to develop my ideas and researched many of the topics I covered.

 

http://www.theatrestrust.org.uk/resources/exploring-theatres/history-of-theatres/nineteenth-century-theatre

https://crewelyceum.co.uk/Online/VIP_box_packages

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2011/jan/25/show-theatre-solo-alone

https://www.facebook.com/groups/211157042351355/

http://www.broadwayworld.com/westend/board/

http://www.simplypsychology.org/conformity.html

Welcome!

So here it is. My first post.

In many ways it’s an overture to my page. In here is a little bit of all that is to come, however I like to think that unlike an overture my writing style, skills and general posts will change as I continue. Rather than just exploring musical piece to piece, I hope, that with any luck one day I shall look back at this and be embarrassed, yet proud.

I think that’s common for people’s first works though that aren’t necessarily what they are used to. You’re first works will always feature a inexperience that you should be proud of, you knew that little, but still tried. They also should embarrass you, you will have hopefully pushed you’re self into doing something new, and therefore you’re going to make mistakes. Mistakes that will one day make you cringe and wonder how you were ever that bad.

The thing to remember is, you’ll never be as good as you are now, if you weren’t worse before.

Anyway, I currently have a lot of ideas for this page. There’s articles I want to write, some sourced with research and evidence, other’s just thought pieces and my own ramblings. I hope one day someone will read and enjoy this page, but if not that’s OK too. Because just like theatre, creating it is half the fun.

Lost X

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