Sunday, November 28, 2010

Live Theatre...In Your Living Room!

If they won't come to the theatre, bring the theatre to them!

I've always thought that finding creative ways of merging live theatre and video can be a cool way to raise awareness of plays and musicals. Check out one of my previous posts Why Video Should Be Center Stage in Theatre Marketing. Obviously there are a lot of people smarter than me who think so, otherwise we would never have seen motion picture versions of musicals. And speaking of movie musicals, isn't it ironic that some people will pay good money to go to a movie theatre to see a film version of a play or musical while seats remain empty at local productions often producing the same works? But I digress...

In the never-ending quest for theatres to maintain and build audiences, I've been experimenting with the concept of streaming video of live performances over the internet. I was really excited recently when I was successfully able to test out an internet broadcast using UStream, a free online service . The show was the Baldwin-Wallace College Music Theatre's senior class production of "Edges", a contemporary song cycle.

It was fairly easy to set up a show page for "STAGES", the video series I produce for the BW Music Theatre Program and I figured out how to add cool on-screen graphic elements like logos and links throughout the program. So with a single video camera,my computer and an audio mixer, we were on the air! We had a few glitches...the internet signal wasn't great in the theatre and the program crashed once....but after restarting some things, everything worked pretty weel for the rest of the show. UStream even lets you record your program as you broadcast so you can replay it later or embed the video in other sites:

Obviously the biggest challenge with broadcasting theatre are the licensing issues that prohibit the videotaping or broadcasting of most theatre works. "Edges" was the perfect project for this experiment because it wasn't a scripted piece, but a very interactive, in-concert presentation of songs by composers known to the Director. Audience members were encouraged to text and tweet the cast during the show to tell the cast what they would like them to do. I even texted one cast member to come up and say hello to the camera at some point during the show and sure enough, he did!

But the point is, we're on to something...this particular night was about erasing traditional boundaries of producing theater.....the house lights remained up so the cast could see the audience who were communicating with them in real time. We were texting, tweeting, broadcasting live on the internet and - oh, yeah - singing the living shit out of some wonderful new music!

But for me the coolest part of the experiment was hearing from relatives of the students on stage from all around the country who now had the chance to share in the experience and were communicating with the cast in real time right on stage. Really an incredible experience. Especially the cast member's brother in the military, stationed out of town who got to see his brother on stage.

That's what it's all about.

No comments: