“Theater People: We need you!”
So said Virginia Heffernan, digital media critic of the New York Times when reviewing my live streamed online video series “35”. It was a rough night- we had sound problems, we had camera problems- in fact we shot all 10 episodes on a budget of less than $6000- and yet Virginia Heffernan responded to what I thought was the most important element of my production of “35”. The internet is screaming out for compelling, daring, artistic content. Content that is not simply underdone TV, but that is created by people who are passionate about story telling and communicating. People who have spent their lives in black boxes turning nothing – into magic.
And you know what? Theater people! We need digital and social media! Today’s digital centric audience wants to feel a sense of ownership with the art they consume, they want us to speak to them in their native language, they want to interact with us, and converse with us, and each other! They want their art to be personal. By inviting your audience into your work via social media tools, and in my case, live streaming, you are building an engaged community and feeding them with all the sense of proprietorship and interactivity and creativity they crave!
My medium of choice, informed by my 20 year background in the theater, is live streaming. Why live? Because it combines the excitement and immediacy of live theater with the community and the interactivity of the internet. And theater people, take note. Not only were live streaming video views up an astonishing 600% last year according to Comscore, but just this week YouTube finally debuted its live streaming platform. The audience loves live, and there is no better digital fit for people who have spent their careers performing in front of live audiences.
This is an unprecedented time to be a creative. For the first time ever we have the chance not only to invent entirely new theatrical paradigms born of today’s technology, but it is possible for our work to be seen not by hundreds, or even thousands, but by the hundreds of thousands of people, and for comparatively minimal financial investments.
I am rising to Virginia Heffernen’s call to arms and am currently producing, independently, the first live streamed video play, Better Left Unsaid, by Joey Brenneman. Better Left Unsaid will be staged in front of a live audience, shot with multiple cameras, mixed in real time and streamed live to the internet. And, we will be incorporating all sorts of social media platforms to more deeply engage and involve our audience in the creative process. I am asking the theater community to support me. It is because I am an entirely independent producer that I have the flexibility to take huge risks and attempt to create new digital directions of the theatrical form. But my independence also means that I don’t have the financial backing I need to pay my actors, crew and designers at my fingertips.
And I am calling on you to heed all the exciting new ways that technology allows us to enhance our definition of what theater can be. What technologies are lighting your artistic fire? What social media platforms are you most intrigued by? We are entering a brave new creative world and I can’t wait to see what new paths we tread!
crossposted at KathrynJones.tv