AND. The promise of Live Streaming Theater

This post was originally published on the 2AMt blog. It summarizes the history, the reasons behind,  metrics, the technical and aesthetic requirements of and the successes of our production of Better Left Unsaid TV, the first of it’s kind interactive live streamed play. To skip to the section that most interests you click the appropriate word in the previous sentence.

Miguel Govea and Jessica Arinella in Better Left Unsaid by Joey Brenneman

On January 21st of this year, my producing partners and I began previews of the first of its kind, interactive live streamed play. This was a full length production of Joey Brenneman’s Better Left Unsaid, cast with professional New York actors, staged in a small off-off broadway house in front of a live audience for a three week run. AND…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. The bonus for online viewers was that they could interact with the live streamed theater experience via Facebook, Twitter and chat rooms.

Producing a play is complicated. Producing a live streamed play incorporates everything it takes to produce a play and adds to that everything you need to do to produce a live television shown- with the always wavering unknowns of live streaming technology thrown in to the mix. We climbed a lot of hurdles to reach opening night, almost as many to arrive at our final performance and ended our nine month journey on the highest of notes. We had over 50,000 unique viewers join us for the final three performances of Better Left Unsaid. We received virtual standing ovations from people all over the world. We proved that people will in fact pay for online video, at least if it is positioned as theater. Finally, we had the great honor, joy and sometimes nervous breakdown of launching a brand new theatrical paradigm, born of today’s technology.

Why live stream a play? Honestly there are a million reasons- the most obvious are…

- Live streaming gives theater artists the opportunity to present our work to an unlimited global audience. Today, as off-broadway and regional theaters are struggling to stay alive, the opportunity to expand our audiences beyond our local communities and across the globe could be invaluable and indispensable

-Live streaming is inherently community building. When you live stream a play you combine the excitement of live theater with the community of live streamed video events, nurturing the strong community that is the cornerstone of building a long term audience.

- Live streaming more deeply engages a wired audience in theater, without alienating theater goers who prefer the more traditional play going experience.

- Conversation goes hand in hand with online communities. People come to live streamed events to both participate in the event and to see their friends in the chat rooms, and often come back more than once. These conversations are simultaneously broadcast to Twitter and Facebook, increasing word of mouth and interest in your work.

- Live streaming platforms have a dirth of compelling quality content. Live streaming theater is a natural to fill that vacuum.

Dathan B. Williams and Jennifer Dorr White in Better Left Unsaid by Joey Brenneman

For an inaugural live streamed play, Better Left Unsaid was a perfect fit… (short, two person scenes, complex but linear storytelling which would limit the technical challenges of an already very difficult project, the play’s exploration of how our lives are all connected – the perfect internet metaphor). How the project evolved from two women in a coffee shop to opening night nine months later is a story unto itself which involves a video, a Kickstarter campaign, a theater eviction, hundreds of hours or preparation, incredibly supportive families  and a cast and crew of more than 25 people. I am so incredibly grateful to each and every one of them.

More pertinent perhaps to anyone who may be thinking of live streaming their own production are some of the technical challenges we faced, the stylistic choices we made and how we measured our success.

Technically, live streaming is hard. There are hundreds of individual elements that can go wrong on any given night, from mics, to cameras, to cables, to projectors to audio cues to bit rates to streaming platforms to ticketing to servers . Even when all those elements are in place and with a perfect connection sometimes the stream is jumpy, or even fails altogether. Our first weekend of previews was tricky. Slowly but surely though our stream became smoother, our sound became almost flawless, and, as our run continued, we were able to layer in additional interactive elements to our stream.

Kathryn Velvel Jones in Better Left Unsaid by Joey Brenneman

An equally challenging technical issue was how to bring our various theater, film and TV personnel together and get us all to speak the same language. An identical job title or technical term often means entirely different things in different mediums and it would sometimes take us days to realize that we were having two completely different conversations.

Shooting style is also incredibly important when translating theater to video. I have worked in online video for years and have very strong opinions as to what creates a compelling experience to an online audience. Shooting for online video is very different than shooting a film, and very different from shooting a play- which most people will agree is almost always unwatchable. We were determined that the online experience of watching Better Left Unsaid would always feel theatrical but be shot in a way that felt intimate and powerful on a small screen.

We also felt that it was integral to the audience experience that both the live theater audience and the online audience be aware of one another and of the global event that they were each a part of.  So, we had a Director of Digital whose sole purpose was to facilitate communication both online and in the theater, we began every show with a shot of our live audience, streamed live interviews with our theater audience during intermission, and projected comments from our online audience into the theater during scene changes and intermissions. It was thrilling to hear our theater audience exclaim about a comment from a viewer in Barcelona or Australia, and equally thrilling when someone online twittered that they had just seen a friend or family member on their computer screen.

A few weeks ago Josh Cohen in an interview for Tubefilter asked me how I would evaluate whether we were successful. There are so many ways in which I can say unequivocally yes!

-We succeeded in engaging viewers from all over the world in New York theater.

- 50,000 is a pretty exciting number and paves the way for a viable business model.

- Our chat rooms were booming and many viewers came back to see the show and participate in the chat room for a second, even a third time

- Online viewers repeatedly remarked on how riveted they were and how surprised they were by how well we had translated theater to video

- We proved that 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- but we paid them! 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.

Craig Waletzko and Marcus Ho in Better Left Unsaid by Joey Brenneman

Most importantly, we created a whole new idea of what theater can be, and it is just the start. The possibilities of live theater and streaming are endless, from allowing your audience to dictate plot turns, to shooting different scenes in different locations, to expanding the theatrical experience across multiple interactive platforms, the list is endless (Leigh Hile started her own fantastic list in her post  Connectivity and Possibilities)

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. Perhaps one day live streaming theater will even have a name all of it’s own, but no matter what we one day call it, it’s roots are unequivocally deeply embedded in the soil of live theater.

The final saturday night performance of Better Left Unsaid is currently available at at BetterLeftUnsaid.tv for a micropayment of $2.99.
Kathryn and her partners are currently developing their next live streamed project.

This entry was posted in actor, internet tv, live streaming, new media, online video, social media, technology, video and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to AND. The promise of Live Streaming Theater

  1. Candice says:

    Hi Kathryn,

    Wow, was fascinated to read about this project. I am currently working on audience development and marketing for Q Theatre (based in Auckland, New Zealand) and we have started talking about the benefits that live streaming within our venue could potentially bring for incoming producing companies…would love to hear more about the process if you’re open to me getting in touch directly?

    Cheers,
    Candice.

  2. kathryn says:

    I would be so happy to talk! emailing you now!

  3. Aaron says:

    I am currently doing exactly that here on the west coast and have been preaching it for awhile. I would like to discuss with you…think we can both benefit from. Talk to you soon!

    Aaron

    http://www.fb.com/aaronmsanchez

  4. Pingback: Facebook Live- Live-streamed Marketing Bootcamp Fail

  5. Where by can i signup on your web page to have messages through electronic mail or do you have a credit card applicatoin pertaining to my android os cellular to obtain notifications.

  6. I have learn some excellent stuff here. Certainly value bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how a lot effort you set to make this kind of fantastic informative website.

  7. Undeniably believe that which you stated. Your favorite justification seemed to be on the net the easiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get irked while people think about worries that they plainly do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well as defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks
    cheap oakley m frame replacement lenses http://www.shortysbar.com/coupons/images/cheap-oakley-m-frame-replacement-lenses-19384082.html

  8. Very efficiently written story. It will be beneficial to anyone who employess it, including yours truly :). Keep up the good work – for sure i will check out more posts.
    Cheap real Cheap Louis Vuitton bags http://www.bestformulations.com/Library/louis-vuitton.asp

  9. Hello to every one, as I am really keen of reading this weblog’s post to be updated on a regular basis. It carries nice data.
    cheap oakley juliet sunglasses http://www.litex.com/highslide/graphics/cheap-oakley-juliet-sunglasses-4593128.html

  10. Wonderful, what a web site it is! This webpage presents helpful information to us, keep it up.
    cheap oakley flak jackets http://www.clarkstonumc.org/phone/css/cheap-oakley-flak-jackets-18505786.html

  11. excellent publish, very informative. I’m wondering why the opposite specialists of this sector don’t notice this. You should continue your writing. I’m confident, you’ve a great readers’ base already!
    cheap snapback hats http://www.mini-systemsinc.com/y_to_k.asp

  12. I am always looking online for tips that can help me. Thx!
    cheap oakley twitter http://www.paladineholdings.com/images/cheap-oakley-twitter-8412403.html

  13. I think other site proprietors should take this site as an model, very clean and great user genial style and design, as well as the content. You’re an expert in this topic!
    cheap oakley jupiters http://www.malagaconecta.com/Correos/cheap-oakley-jupiters-13769458.html

  14. I am truly delighted to read this webpage posts which carries lots of useful information, thanks for providing these statistics.
    Cheap oakley sunglasses womens http://www.finnishcenter.org/Rotary/oakley.php

  15. I wish to express appreciation to you for rescuing me from this crisis. Because of scouting through the search engines and finding advice which were not helpful, I assumed my entire life was done. Living devoid of the solutions to the issues you’ve sorted out as a result of the guideline is a crucial case, as well as ones that would have negatively damaged my career if I hadn’t discovered your web site. The competence and kindness in handling all the pieces was tremendous. I’m not sure what I would have done if I hadn’t discovered such a step like this. It’s possible to at this time relish my future. Thanks a lot very much for this skilled and sensible guide. I won’t hesitate to recommend the sites to any person who needs guide about this area.
    cheap pit boss oakley http://www.schoolforthemindandbody.com/Intranet/Archive/cheap-pit-boss-oakley-1468128.html

  16. I like what you guys are up also. Such clever work and reporting! Keep up the superb works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my web site :)
    cheap oakley transport http://www.violins.co.za/Images/HomepageJPGs/cheap-oakley-transport-1482166.html

  17. There is perceptibly a lot to identify about this. I assume you made various good points in features also.
    cheap oakley deringer http://www.campisa.it/Temi/Home/cheap-oakley-deringer-12430652.html

  18. Good web site! I really love how it is easy on my eyes and the data are well written. I’m wondering how I could be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your feed which must do the trick! Have a great day!
    cheap tyler oakley wiki http://www.dreesens.com/photos/photos2/cheap-tyler-oakley-wiki-16584094.html

  19. Good web site! I really love how it is simple on my eyes and the data are well written. I am wondering how I might be notified when a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your RSS which must do the trick! Have a nice day!
    Louis Vuitton bags http://www.jcobfreight.com/service.asp

  20. Hi there, after reading this amazing paragraph i am also glad to share my experience here with mates.
    cheap oakley sunglasses gascan http://www.sinisviaggi.it/Temi/Hotel/cheap-oakley-sunglasses-gascan-5556873.html

  21. Hello.This post was extremely fascinating, particularly since I was browsing for thoughts on this matter last week.
    cheap oakley bottlecap http://www.igdsolutions.com/travel/intranet/cheap-oakley-bottlecap-3506703.html

  22. Hi, I read your blogs like every week. Your writing style is awesome, keep doing what you’re doing!
    cheap military oakleys http://www.superabrasives.com/RadControls/Editor/cheap-military-oakleys-12377857.html

  23. Wow! Thank you! I continuously wanted to write on my site something like that. Can I take a portion of your post to my blog?
    Discount Oakley Sunglasses http://www.michelleskitchen.com/fox5.html

  24. Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely well written article. I’ll make sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post. I will certainly comeback.
    cheap oakley hard knuckle gloves http://www.windowcleaning-supplies.com/modules/ladderxmas/cheap-oakley-hard-knuckle-gloves-9814380.html

  25. Wonderful paintings! That is the type of information that are meant to be shared around the net. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher! Come on over and discuss with my website . Thanks =)
    cheap oakley police discount http://www.samcassarco.com/apartments/images/cheap-oakley-police-discount-11919788.html

  26. What’s up, after reading this remarkable article i am also delighted to share my experience here with colleagues.
    cheap oakley foothill ranch https://www.center4thehealingarts.com/services/corporateservices/cheap-oakley-foothill-ranch-10338978.html

  27. I constantly emailed this blog post page to all my contacts, as if like to read it afterward my contacts will too.
    cheap oakley sunglass http://www.nationalcommunicationsgroup.com/Photos/cheap-oakley-sunglass-2554249.html

  28. A person essentially assist to make seriously articles I would state. This is the very first time I frequented your website page and so far? I surprised with the analysis you made to make this actual publish amazing. Magnificent job!
    cheap oakley golf shirts http://www.formstructures.ca/images/goose/cheap-oakley-golf-shirts-5878529.html

  29. Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your website and in accession capital to assert that I get actually enjoyed account your blog posts. Anyway I’ll be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you access consistently rapidly.
    cheap oakley kids sunglasses http://www.asenjoenergy.com/gallery/cheap-oakley-kids-sunglasses-19688648.html

  30. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and extremely broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!
    cheap oakley raiders http://www.globotex.it/old/img/cheap-oakley-raiders-10903248.html

  31. What i don’t understood is actually how you are now not really a lot more smartly-preferred than you might be now. You’re very intelligent. You know thus considerably in terms of this subject, produced me for my part consider it from a lot of various angles. Its like women and men don’t seem to be interested until it¡¦s one thing to do with Girl gaga! Your own stuffs excellent. At all times take care of it up!
    cheap snapbacks sale http://www.gsfi.net/AboutUs.htm

  32. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but instead of that, this is fantastic blog. A fantastic read. I will definitely be back.
    Oakley oil rig Sale http://www.alteollc.com/development.html

  33. certainly like your web-site but you need to check the spelling on several of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling problems and I to find it very bothersome to tell the reality however I will surely come back again.
    cheap oakley phone number http://www.jjrefrigeration.com/products/cheap-oakley-phone-number-7322620.html

  34. Research your choices before you purchase your initial deck.
    The credit score card with chocolate sample seems to be the most delicious
    one. It replaced the conventional styles with
    the portrayals of symbolic scenes.

    my blog post … nyc psychic readings

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>