This article was first published in the April Issue of Scene4 Magazine
The American theatrical blogosphere has been awash these past few months with responses to Rocco Landesman’s recent speech in which he asserted that the supply of arts in America has outpaced demand. If, as Mr. Landesman believes, attendance at American theater is decreasing while simultaneously the number of theaters is increasing, than clearly we have created an unsustainable business model. There has been both outrage at Mr. Landesman’s comments, and some agreement. Are there too many theaters? Are there too few theatergoers? Is this the wrong time to start a theater company? Whose work is worthy of support in such a competitive atmosphere? Has the American theater community nurtured a business model that is destined to fail?
But perhaps the heart of the issue isn’t that American theater audiences are declining, but rather that American theater isn’t finding its audience. Perhaps the most important question is where are today’s audiences – and how do we reach them?
In a recent article for American Theater Magazine, Susan Miller wrote of the joy she has found as a theater artist discovering that she can write, produce, distribute and have full creative ownership of her projects when she works in online video. Susan writes that working online harnesses all the energy of our younger years when “Lets put on a show!” was a thrilling call to action, be it in a high school auditorium, an out of the way black box, or even a barn – Mickey Rooney style. The key difference? This show has the capacity to be seen by thousands and thousands of people and continues to be seen long past the final curtain.
I love Susan’s notion that online video is the next great frontier for theater artists. And I think there is a specific facet of web video that holds the most promise to those of us who have spent our careers on stage. The natural pairing of theater and online video …live-streaming.
As theater artists who thrive on the spontaneity, danger and electricity of live performance [click to continue…]