What this blog is about

It's an art blog.
Mostly about theatre... but also a healthy dose of pop culture, politics and shameless self-promotion.

Monday, March 30, 2009

In the land of the blind...

...the one-eyed man is King

My wife said this to me a couple of weeks ago as we walked by a little food shop advertising the “Best Seafood Schwarma in Toronto.”


Good laugh, but it also got me thinking about my REALITY project, and my penchant for ‘innovation’ in theatre, in general.

In other words, I got a little scared.

My little bone-chilling thought went like this: what’s the point of experimenting with new technologies in theatre if nobody cares?

I’ve written in past blog posts about the dangers of marketing experimental theatre. And yet, I keep coming back to it. The basic experimental premise of REALITY is how to use multimedia to present the work in two spaces: a physical space and a virtual space. This essentially means that the production requires two designs, and the challenge is ensure that the designs compliment each other, rather than distract from one another.

However, a larger concern should be: “Is there even an audience for that kind of work?”

I’m convinced that digital technology and the web is going to become more and more integrated into theatrical work. Many of the theatre blogs that I follow focus on incorporating social media into marketing plans for productions. A smaller number of them focus on using digital technology to enhance design elements, like lights and sound.

I’ve read very little about integrating the web into actual production… but I think that’s going to change.

Consider the success the New York Metropolitan Opera has had in screening its productions in HD in movie theatres. Canada’s Stratford Festival has also tried doing this with last year’s Caesar and Cleopatra.

Stratford has actually jumped on the internet train by broadcasting web interviews with creators and stars of its productions. (I also heard a rumor that they’re planning to broadcast a couple of rehearsals too, but I can’t confirm if that’s true or not…) Both of these initiatives are remarkably brave considering how terribly theatre can translate onto video or film… (And, moving forward with my project, this is a challenge that is particularly daunting.)

You can call this marketing, or you can call it “alternative revenue streams,” but I’d like to think that it’s also a design trend.

The internet is changing how people work, relax and relate to one another. There’s a lot of fear out there that this is negatively affecting theatre: that the web encourages people to stay at home rather than assemble to witness a live event.

(Well… so does TV.)

The thing is, I don’t think that combining the two platforms is going to give me any kind of competitive edge. A theatre audience will come out to a show – if it’s exciting, fresh, marketed-well, and ultimately good – regardless.

If I’m going to have a second, digital-based platform to share my work, it should be designed specifically for the intended audience: web-heads.

It should be designed for an audience who may not be interested in going out to watch a show, but rather enjoys surfing, watching new You-Tube vids, Facebooking, blogging, downloading, connecting with friends on social media sites, etc.

I don’t necessarily want to broaden the appeal to an existing audience (although, that would be nice, if it happens). I want to expand my work so that it appeals to entirely different audiences.

Consider this: I currently live in Toronto. The bulk of my career was spent in Edmonton. I also lived in Germany for two years, and have friends and family there too. Not to mention, this blog has had comments from people who live all the way on the west coast.

If I get REALITY produced, I could conceivably share my work with all these people who would have no chance of getting to T.O. to check it out. They could share the live experience, and the communal experience, in a virtual way. Online. On a platform designed specifically for them.

That excites me. And so we move forward… shivering with fear, or not.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Update City

Or, “Where the hell have you been, Talbot?!?”

In a word, busy.

No, unfortunately, not in a good "creating/writing/birthing-process" kind of way, but rather in a "my joe-job is consuming my life" kind of way. I had to cover for a gaggle of different people who were either sick or on vacation during the past month, and I’ve been totally exhausted to do much creatively, nevermind blogging about it.

It’s funny how life works out. Like many artists, I’ve been subjected to the: "When are you going to get a real job?" stigma… I’ve been asked that directly and, of course, indirectly through our politicians and our media. Without disclosing my employer, do you want to know what my main responsibility for my "real" job is???

First, I print the emails off of the computer.

Then, I scan the emails back into the computer.

This is my "real" job. Society’s messed up, kids.

However, I will give my employer due credit: my job's allowing me to take two weeks off to work on my show (…unpaid, of course, but that’s where my grant comes in). I plan to split up my leave into two one-week segments in April and May. This will allow me to get some distance from the piece in between drafts.

As mindless as my job is, I’m very grateful to how supportive they are. And, I guess it beats waiting tables. Or working at Timmy’s. (I’ve done both.)

I haven’t just been sitting on my thumbs, however. While I haven’t been working on the script proper, I’ve been revising my approach to the work. Specifically, I’ve been revising my process as I had outlined in my OAC grant proposal, based partly on the amount of money I actually received.

Anyone who has received an artist’s grant before knows about the difference between the amount of money you’ve asked for versus the amount of money you actually receive. For project grants, having a shortfall in funding from one granting source may not be such a big deal, if you have multiple sources of revenue.

In the past, I've just generally made-do with the money I got. But I don't think I ever delivered value-for-money when I've done that. More importantly I don't think I got true value for my time invested... not that each experience wasn't valuable, but rather, I question whether I could have made each project pay dividends if I had taken the time to plan according to my budget realities. In other words, if I had looked for opportunities to enhance the project for the future, or for other parties to collaborate with, or for different venue options to present it... well, who knows what might be.

So that's what I'm doing with this one. I'm working with an eye to the future. I'm designing my process so that I'm not just looking at what this grant offers me and my collaborators right now, but a few months and a few years down the road...

Maybe everybody already does that. If so, I'm crashing the party!