Jane-Eve Straughton, 9 August 2012

Participants: Jane-Eve, Leo, Patric, Josh, Mark and Tricia

We talked about mixing genres (eg film-making / music / drama) in the performing arts, integrating new technologies in our work (eg social-media participation) and distributing live theatre via other media (broadband streaming and cinema relays etc). We discussed how far these developments represent threats or possibilities for theatre.

For all those participating in the discussion, the live experience shared by performers and an audience who build and share a relationship in the same space is key to the work we do. At its best this can be likened to something spiritual.

We agreed that live theatre will probably survive the onset of new technologies and developments in performance practice - and that the element of spirituality we all value might still be attained. But the experience itself and how it is shared and mediated may be different. In our work we need to be clear about why we're using new technologies and techniques - and they should be integral to the work concerned, not an “add-on”.

We agreed that streaming / broadcasting and social media activity generated around live performance can be a useful complement to the live performance experience and

needn't necessarily threaten it. We discussed how this can open up the work we do to new audiences.

Live-streaming performances (eg from the NT - to take one of the companies currently live-streaming as an example) can be a valuable way of disseminating important live performances and introducing them to audiences who wouldn't otherwise reach them across the country. However, we acknowledge the “partial”, necessarily “edited” nature of the stage-view they show. We discussed the possibility of streaming performances from regional theatres in London to reflect the diversity of the theatre produced around the country.

For some theatres, the cost of technological infrastructure and rights payments entailed with live-streaming is prohibitive.

Where social media is concerned, we talked about the fact that “everyone's a critic” - audiences review quickly and immediately via twitter etc. They have also become part of the show in participatory projects - and audience members are being encouraged to observe each other. We touched on the question of the blurred line between audience development and participation. We also brought up the subject of our multi-tasking society and how our attention is constantly divided and distracted; in the attempt to capture and hold audience's concentration, are we stimulating their engagement, or are we being led by social media trends?

We discussed the advent of earlier technological innovations that have revolutionised theatre - such as TV and film, which can be said to have stimulated a different aesthetic in theatre - arguably more “studio-like”.

We agreed that technology should only be regarded as a tool; there is always a human agent behind it.

We talked about artistic specialisms and how today's theatre practitioners often work in a variety of fields - as film-makers, actors, directors, writers, and visual artists - rather than choosing one single means of expression. For those in the group in this position, this “butterfly” approach means that they cultivate a wealth of skills and have a range of media open to them for their artistic expression - calling on other collaborators to nourish their work - rather than dedicating themselves to one genre or discipline. The communication they aim for with their audience is always at the core of their activity.


digital, Digital, social media, theatre practice, cross genre, new technology, live-streaming