The promise of online, interactive arts...


Commentary: A wonderful "AND"

Kathryn Jones, 2AM Theatre blog, 2/23/11

On January 21st, my producing partners and I began previews of the first-of-its-kind, interactive live streamed play.  Joey Brenneman's Better Left Unsaid, cast with professional New York actors, [was] staged in an off-off-Broadway house in front of a live audience for a three week run. Simultaneously Better Left Unsaid was shot with four cameras, mixed in real time and streamed live to the internet so that anyone, anywhere in the world could  see the show. Online viewers could interact with the live streamed theater experience via Facebook, Twitter and chat rooms.  We had over 50,000 unique viewers... [paving]  the way for a viable business model.  People will pay for online video if it is positioned as theater, and will pay higher ticket prices than we had expected.  We were able to produce Better Left Unsaid on half the budget of a New York Showcase, and paid our actors -- a small amount.  In addition, our actors and crew each own a piece of the show, indie film style, so if we make additional money, so do they. I know we are on to something here and I can't wait to see where it leads. Is live streaming a replacement for live theater? Absolutely not. But it is a wonderful AND. The opportunities for small theaters to expand their audiences and generate new revenue is almost boundless. The chance to create more work and more money for actors is equally thrilling -- and we get to invent a whole new art form along the way.  


Commentary: Connectivity and possibilities

Leigh Hile, Scenes in the City blog, 2/11/11

I saw Better Left Unsaid this past weekend, right from the comfort of my own couch, and it got me thinking.  Watching the production ignited some flames of ideas that had been kindling since taking part in the #newplay discussions: one of the things that excited me most about the discussions about collaboration and connectivity that came out of the convening was the possibility of using new connective technology to collaborate across geographical boundaries. I touched on this briefly in another post, but Better Left Unsaid has got me considering the actual, specific ways to use this technology to our advantage as artists.  Because as exciting as internet connectivity is to me, it leaves me with a sort of conundrum. What I love about theater, what sets it apart from every other art form, is the liveness of it. There is nothing quite like actually being in a room with the art as it's being created. There's an immediacy to it, and a sense of community that is inherently lost when you put someone miles away and behind a computer screen. It's definitely an amazing thing to join in a nationwide, or even worldwide conversation about art. But what about actual making and experiencing of the art? The question of how to reconcile the possibility of connective technology with theater's need for immediacy intrigues me, so I started jotting down some ideas.


Commentary: Truly involving theatre

Jo Caird, What's On Stage blog, 3/8/11

In the past couple of years on Twitter, I've been aware of theatre events such as the RSC's Such Tweet Sorrow [based on Romeo and Juliet, improvised over 5 weeks], and Jeremy Gable's The 15th Line.  This Sunday though, was the first time I've physically taken part in such an event. You Wouldn't Know Him, He Lives in Texas / You Wouldn't Know Her, She Lives in London [was] performed simultaneously at theatres in [London and Austin] via Skype. The premise is transatlantic couple Liz and Ryan brought their friends and family together so everyone can get to know each other and make the pair feel less like their relationship exists only in virtual reality. The audience in attendance and anyone following on Twitter and Facebook are encouraged to take part by asking questions and posting comments during the show.  It's a brave and original idea [and] has the potential to create an entirely new type of theatre experience, one that is almost limitless in scale. [It], however, is not without its challenges. It's at the meeting of boundaries that problems arise: the interactive and the scripted, the live and the virtual each more or less succeed on their own terms in this show - it's when the drama forces them together that things get tricky.  At the play's dramatic apex it suddenly felt like questions or comments would have been unwelcome, an interruption. No longer involved in the action, we felt like mere onlookers, a standard audience at a conventional play, but with an awkward sense of what had been lost.  [Nonetheless, both theaters] should be applauded for their attempt to explore this new territory and create an entertaining (albeit occasionally uncomfortable) evening along the way. I very much look forward to further experiments. Theatre has only to gain from this type of innovation.


Review: It brings something new to theater

Avimaan Syam, Austin Chronicle, 3/11/11

You Wouldn't Know Her/Him is charming, sweet, and unique. It exists as both an observable production and an interactive experience from across the globe. Being able to use a smartphone to contribute a witty comment that the audience and the actors react to is a powerful, liberating feeling. When a production ends, usually it only exists in the audience's minds. Perhaps some photos are online to rekindle the memories. With You Wouldn't Know Her/Him, it's possible afterward to sift through the simulcast of tweets to see the immediate reactions, jokes, interactions, and narratives online. That residue of the play and the production still exists beyond one person and what they remember, and it can be called upon.  The best aspects of social media aren't in the ability to instantly read the rants of Charlie Sheen but rather in the chance to share, react, and create together. The play exists not only between Ryan and Elizabeth but between both audiences and continents, shaped by the questions and comments in person and online. You Wouldn't Know Her/Him brings something totally different to the theatrical experience yet focuses on what's simple, sweet, and inherent in all of us.


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The Virtual Orchestra Project

IT for Arts Managers blog, 3/7/11

I believe that one of the greatest fears of social technology is its ability to potentially alienate people from an authentic artistic experience. However, the Virtual Orchestra Project shows that technology has an ability to connect musicians across nations, ethnicities and musical disciplines. With lots of planning Emmy nominated composer Glenn Rhodes was able to make the Virtual Orchestra Project a virtual success. Read more:

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