...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.