May 25 2020

Theatre rebirth post Covid-19


Introduction

 

The Cultural Entertainment sector is currently confronted with unprecedented challenges as a direct result of the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak. Sector leaders are considering innovative new ideas due to the pandemic. Planning, production & distribution schedules for the upcoming theatre season are being adapted.

Specific actions are needed to retain & increase audiences in this climate. It is the ideal time to try out new ways by which to extend theatre audiences. We need to provide employment for talent & enable innovation to continue despite these challenges. From major theatre directors to technical companies like Applaudi, the whole sector is under pressure to act.

Governmental COVID-19 hygiene policies will dictate how we proceed. New procedures from public administration are welcome and so too are the tools to monitor their effective implementation. The executives need to be reassured that the theatre remains a safe environment.

The following proposals can be assessed & if accepted, implemented on a case by case basis. It is vital to assess & validate all future development effectively to keep investment to a minimum. In order to deal with the new market conditions, we will have to rely on on the support of external parties, those with an affinity for innovation, & capable of delivering compelling projects. Technical consultants & professionals from digital marketing will assist cultural theatre executives in the change to come.


It will be crucial to initiate a gradual transformation process where the quality of digital content is the theatre’s focus.


Understanding the audience

 

In some ways understanding the needs of our audience is easier in a world where the pandemic looms large. Currently, the international public is uniform in its perceptions. Whether a neighbourhood or an online community, each share similarities. They struggle with the same issues, such the economic recession, the world’s growing political conflicts & the endangered environment. Also, fear, suffering, frustration, loneliness, gratitude, admiration, care, & love, these are all common factors.

Fortunately, we can adapt to changing conditions. Missing the loved ones we browse the Internet for answers. Much more than a trend, this reality is possibly the beginning of a new era.

 

A vacuum to be filled

 

At a conceptual level, the theatre can provide commentary & innovation to stimulate interest in online culture. The great majority of online content is lacking in depth or consistency but theatre can fill this vacuum. Social media platforms can be used to measure the level of interest of people in planned theatre productions. This is not new to the world of theatre but in tune with the common practice of distributing shows before production commences. The idea is to build up a public expectation for plays, months before they open. The simplest Social Media posts can be used to announce upcoming events. The aim is to reduce risks of a failed show by involving the general public in the creative process.

 

Every spectator counts

 

Soon, physically going to the theatre may be seen as a luxury, so it is important to offer an alternative for viewers who cannot attend a show in person by offering paid streaming access. It is important to invest in this type of technology to retain as part of the audience for individuals wanting to see a show but who cannot attend in person. Digital data can target shows to audiences according to their taste. The goal here is to expand the geographical reach of the theatre audience by moving outside of the local community.

In terms of streaming the quality of the live recording is fundamental. Numerous cameras located in front of the stage together with decent Internet bandwidth can guarantee a memorable experience. Videos can have subtitles added & be uploaded onto a digital platform building up a unique portfolio.

A street theatre troupe posing on a cobbled street. 6 actores are seated, they are dressed in 1940’s blue, white and grey 1920’s costumes, with faces painted white. Colourful crowd in the background.

Venues using only a third of the capacity could offer additional performances. Additionally, street theatre should be promoted. Soon, the permission for live outdoor events with the capacity for up to 400 will be granted (phase 2 of the de-escalation process in Spain). Taking theatre onto the streets by staging short plays can maintain contact with the local public. As an alternative, LED screens in the city centres, normally used for advertising can broadcast shows performed live.

 

Binaural Sound in Theatre

 

Technology for reproducing recorded sound, known as 3D audio, has so far, been given little attention in the context of the theatre. This is also known as “binaural” sound & can be enjoyed through headphones. It is perceived as the sound coming from numerous directions.


The illusion of distance is made so palpable that the listener imagines that he or she is attending a live event.

 

The dialogue recorded in 3D is truly impressive. Also noted by the National Theatre, an intimate atmosphere created by 3D is capable of turning the listener into the protagonist of the story.

Notably, 3D is accessible to the blind & may soon become an alternative to the conventional performance equipped with audio description. 3D audio is also used together with augmented reality glasses. In terms of theatre, it could be applied in musicals, attracting millions of online viewers, which is the genre raison d’être.

 

Funding


Projects which captivate the general public will attract paid sponsorship.

Online followers help attract the attention of brands. Public bodies should be encouraged to observe the same standards when calculating the funding for theatres.

Rather than expecting many online followers per se, measuring concrete indicators of online traffic should be a part of the funding eligibility scheme.

Implementation of digital solutions will not prevent the theatre from fulfilling an artistic mission. Throughout centuries, the art on stage has faithfully reflected the real world and we are currently called to fulfil this duty.

The challenges are substantial, but there are existing solutions, provided that one accepts that both the online & offline experience complement each other. This is the safest & most convenient manner for the public to enjoy the theatre. Without the public, there is no art on stage, let’s keep this in mind.

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