Readings, Streaming, Theater business, Theater Vs. Virus, virtual

Theater vs. COVID – 19 #8

My Theatrical Predictions

This week during my JET Live! broadcasts I kept mentioning that I would write my predictions for what theater will look like as we continue our lives throughout COVID – 19 and post COVID -19. 

Well here it goes. As I had mentioned in one of my first Theater vs. COVID – 19 posts I joined the Theatermakers Studio and this week we did a virtual zoom meeting (which was unprecedented). The discussions centered on the challenges of theater now and the future of theater as we know it. It was very fascinating and I hope my thoughts here will reflect what I learned and what was discussed. I have done two Zoom readings and am looking forward to being involved in a third one this coming week. And of course I launched JET Live! inspired by Ken Davenport’s The Producer’s Perspective Live! And SGN by John Krasinski.

What does the Future hold?

So what do I think will happen in the future for theater in Jerusalem and the world? What will we be able to do? Well, in a nutshell I think theater will be able to grow and adapt and be even better than it has been. But let me list some ideas while I get to that.

First of all, community theater, original work, and regional theater will flourish while big commercial theater will learn from us. This is the time to create new stories and showcase them or do a reading of something that resonates with you and create discussion while the bigger theatrical spaces will need to wait it out . Ken Davenport says it here that Broadway will have an advantage but I would argue that the advantage is for all those regional and community theaters. Our community can create and build and bring original work to the table and Broadway will learn from us. Most of the time we pull our shows from Broadway but this creates an opportunity for it to be the other way around.  

My Specific Points:

Lower capacity in theaters: We will see theaters opening up but they will never be full. Either it will be an official percentage of capacity or audiences will decide on their own to keep the social distancing. This creates opportunity for different ticket pricing as well as open space theater. Theater in the Rough is a perfect example of open space theater.

Investors will want more insurance: Theatergoing will be riskier and therefore investors will want to have more assurance of quality and the safety of the theatrical experience.

Actors fear: Actors will be afraid of coming together onstage or being surrounded by audiences.

Economic repercussions: The understanding of how to monetize the shows, through ticket sales, donations, or such will need to change. How much a ticket can be and how people obtain them will change. 

Rebudgeting:  Budgeting will have to be reconfigured in order to still be able to bring quality performances without a big spectacle.

Space will be reconsidered and more nuanced: We will be using all kinds of spaces for theater. Zoom; an empty warehouse, a stage, a bedroom, etc.

Readings of new and old material can flourish via livestream: We can share more this way and reach a larger audience while tweaking our work.

Musicals vs. Plays: The demand for musicals will still remain higher than plays for entertainment value but re budgeting will be an issue and therefore there may be more plays on the horizon but the most important thing will be quality.

Talk-backs will replace bows for now: Discussions after the shows will help engage audiences and online we don’t bow. So it’s possible that instead of bowing actors will take their seats and conversation will ensue. Check out what Theater and Theology has done in the past, what CBDB Productions did on Yom Hashoa with Ira Fuchs’ “Vilna”, JET Community did with Yasmine Beverly Rana’s “Paradise”, and Theater in The Rough did with William Shakespeare’s “King Lear” have done, and Thursday night I stayed up and saw The Oedipus Project with Bryan Doerries with fascinating discussion which this forum of theater really speaks to’(and it will happen again). But don’t worry, bows will return in with the live show but talk-backs should come with it much more than before.

What was Sophocles’s Message?

One of the questions Bryan Doerries asked during The Oedipus Project Thursday was what was Sophocles’s message, why did he write it and why was it performed during a plague in Athens?

Well my answer is that theater lives on and is an important tool for discussion and connection during hard times. And it will live on today. There are so many creators out there doing what Sophocles had done and who are creating and bringing works of theater to enhance our human connection and discussion. And that was Sophocles’s message. We will only be blind if we choose to be of the present, future, and around us. But we can see the truth and we can be empowered by it. People will be back in the theater and we will see many new powerful productions and shows informed by this time. And theater as we know it will adapt and we will be all the better for it.

I think all of these things will bring out an adaptation of theater even while some places will go back to the normal theatrical experience. We will be seeing more theater have a livestream or be directly virtual. New scripts are being written specifically for this kind of technology with Zoom. But what I envision is a Hybrid theater where there will be live performances along with a live stream of the event. There are ways for people who want to see it live to pay a fee or to donate, and people who watch it via livestream can also pay a smaller fee or donate. What some companies are doing is having a limited stream for a specific time.

What about rights and investors?

Will rights holders allow this? I think so. We all want our work to be seen. If we monetize correctly then why not? 

Will investors trust this? If done right and pitched correctly it can work and will work. First of all this can create more jobs as you will need dedicated livestream workers. It will also create more opportunities to be seen and more opportunity to share worldwide.

New Works, new tools, and a bright new light when the stages open.

I believe we will see a lot of new original works for this kind of theater. Shorter shows and more engagement as we allow for comments throughout the performances. And a younger audience participation especially via the livestream. The quality of theater will be different but I think it will be better with this collective awareness worldwide.

We can only be stronger from this and we are learning so many new ways to share our love of storytelling and sharing our art.

Just a few of the tools to stream your readings and shows are Zoom, Streamyard, Youtube and I am sure there are more ways being discovered and put together. 

We are all in this together. And theater will live on in a new light which will burn brighter.

What do you think? Please share in comments or write to jerusalemenglishtheater@gmail.com

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