More Theatre on the Internet
It's a funny thing to look for because I am not entirely sure how to define online theatre. I know - it's that epic conversation about "what is theatre" and we'll never come to a consensus on it. HOWEVER, I do think it's appropriate to differentiate between film streamed online, television online, webseries or webisodes, video blogs and theatre on the Internet.
One of the things I found that I felt I could comfortably place in this small and specific category was the livestream from Joe's Pub at the Public. Sure, they have music too, but they also have performances like The Civilians: Let me Ascertain You that are pretty easily defined at theatrical events.
I guess the difference for me is that there is a live event happening at an actual venue, where I could choose to go, pay for a ticket and participate as an audience member rather than it being something that is exclusive to the Internet.
I feel two things about it:
1. Hey, awesome! I don't have the (insert appropriate excuse here) to go to Joe's Pub right now, but I can still see what's up! And it's pretty cool!
2. Aw, shit. One more reason to sit in front of my computer instead of actually getting up and doing something.
Whenever I am talking about theatre (or even performance) online, there is a fear in me that says "someday people won't have any reason to go to the theatre at all." This begs the question, "If I can watch Joe's Pub performances stream live online, does that make me more or less likely to go to the actual venue?"
When I think about it honestly, the answer is actually that I will be MORE likely to go to the venue.
Seeing clips of performances online allows me to sample what is going on there without any investment - that is, I don't have anything to lose by going online and seeing if I think "x" comedian shares my sense of humor, if "y" improv group really has it going on, or if "z" musician is something I would like to hear. Once I have done some research, I can make a more informed decision about the shows I want to go to. I will be eager to spend that $15, 40 minutes on the subway, etc. Essentially, the livestream gives me access to a certain fandom that might otherwise go undeveloped.
This goes back to an idea in an essay that director May Adrales wrote on the Artist's responsibility to the audience. More transparency and greater accessibility in the theatre is a good thing. The theatre cannot be a secretive dinosaur. With people spending more and more time on their computers, the theatre needs to be there too. We have to occupy that space, if you will.
As an actor, I don't worry so much about film and television. They both mesh so easily with the Internet, and I am excited about all the possibilities that go with that relationship. It means that über indie films like Percival's Big Night and Like The Water have a greater chance for recognition, and can more easily find their niche.
Sometimes I worry.
That worry is one of the reasons I am so excited about developing a transmedia piece. Let's let Theatre, Film and the Internet all be friends. It's a wonderful alliance. And I believe there is great power in it.