Should theatres show their work on the internet?
Theatres take advantage of selling tickets online but do not show their shows online. Are they missing a big opportunity? To put a video on the internet has such small costs it would seem to be a perfect way for theatres to muscle in on a market that at the moment the big media companies have all to themselves, high quality drama.
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Theatres putting their shows on the internet for all to see means that theatre could develop from a form of high art to popular art. With it becoming more accessible it means that theatre and plays can become more popular and the audience would expand.
As an art form the theatre has been in place for many many years and has been a part of popular culture. Medieval theatre consisted of pageants which meant that theatre was accessible for all, this continued into the renaissance as we are aware Shakespeare's plays were a part of popular culture with the pit being accessible.
If theatre companies used the internet to stream their plays it would lead to a possible inclusion within the area of pop culture and build its status with audiences.
Using the internet as a form of showing theatre would be good advertising for theatres themselves. If a play is enjoyed on the internet, and possibly gains a good reputation, then people are more likely to go and watch a play in a theatre. Just as with live music, if someone enjoys what they hear on the radio or as, it is now, on the internet then the higher the chance is of buying the album and going to see a band live.
The internet is one of the best places to advertise and it is used worldwide. This means that the audience cannot only be widened in terms of socio economic group but also in the fact that it can be internationally accessible. Allowing people to see videos of plays whether on the theatre website or on sites such as YouTube is a good form of advertising and the plays can gain recognition this way.
Having plays on the internet means that there is no price restriction, and therefore no barrier stopping people from seeing theatre.
Price is a factor that affects peoples ideas of the theatre. It is seen as an art form that can only be enjoyed by higher socio economic groups, this is particularly due to price. Although the theatre can be as little as the cinema it is the reputation that has been built of theatre which means that it is seen as a pompous and often class divided form of art. This should not be the case, and showing theatre on the internet means that the price restriction doesn't have to be a factor.
Showing theatre on the internet means that there can be a growth in accessibility.
If the play is recorded and put onto the internet then it can be seen at anytime from anywhere. This means that theatre does not have to be restricted to a particular theatre, at a particular time , for a limited time. The production can be seen afterwards and during the showing.
Accessibility is a big advantage of the internet. With it being available on portable devices as well as pcs and macs in the home plays would be available anywhere literally. It also means that the play can be watched in full or in parts - this allows people to work around the watching of the play. Like a book it can be picked up and put down to fit around personal lifestyles.
This would be a big development for theatre productions and would be very different from live theatre but the experience of the theatre and the art of live performances would be present making it a good idea to put theatre performances on the internet.
Art would be beneficial and more rewarding within Society.
Many urban 'Artists' now are producing work within the environment. For example the urban culture rely heavily on producing work within community centres and after school clubs. People within the community help to produce pieces of art for younger audiences. Museums / Art within the community is one of the reasons why we have new artists within schools and colleges.
Another point to why I feel art shouldn't just be restricted to the Internet is the lack of resources a minority might be suffering from such as the price of the internet funds available to them within their social surroundings. I believe that the internet restricts some minorities in this case,and therefore the availability of art and influence.
Theatre is already firmly established within pop culture
There has been a vast increase in interactive and interprative productions over the years, from the likes of theatre companies such as The Factory and Punchdrunk, that it would be wrong to relegate theatre to the realms of stuffy high art which is deemed unattractive to the masses, let alone young people in our society. It is true that there seem to be endless stagings of Shakespeare and Chekov, both are artists who we tend to identify with school exams or the formal performances of Olivier, Gielguld or Richardson, yet even these writers are being staged in a challenging and vibrant manner that has put them at the forefront of popular culture. The Propeller theatre company, with their all male cast, and the use of talented 'celebrities' such as David Tennant and Kevin Spacey have opened theatre up to a much wider and younger audience and gone some way to removing the stigma of theatre being something that separate from our existing society and its interests.
Subject matters are current, confrontational, experimental and captivating. In the last few years in the West End The Young Vic alone has staged a play in a freight container (in order to convey the plight of illegal immigrants), flooded its stage and put on a piece about prostitution using real life audio recordings. In the Royal Court there has been a plethora of experimental new writing and its studio space has been transformed and retransformed to house intimate and compelling pieces, and the theatre itself was home to a rel life caravan, performing to an audience of 8 telling the story of the British floods in 2007.
Theatre is contemporary and truly established within popular culture. It is true that there are pieces that seem outdated but it is not true of all theatre.
This places the idea of theatre in pop culture in London alone. The idea of celebrities within theatre takes the art form away from theatre and puts theatre on the back of the popularity of film and television. This is not the way in which theatre works and it is not a way to define theatre as a form of pop culture. By using celebrities within their plays theatres are attracting different audiences, but with the use of theatre and often reviving less contemporary plays the theatres are alienating their audiences and luring them into a false sense of security. The theatre is still a form of high culture and although it may seem 'stuffy' it is not always seen that way.
High culture appeals to the higher socio-economic groups, which is exactly what theatre does. There is a decrease in theatre attendances in the past year, and the proportion of those who do attend the theatre on a more regular basis are of the higher socio-econmic groups. [[http://www.johngood.com/foradvertisers_data.asp]] [[www.artscouncil.org.uk/media/uploads/TGI-release-Aug09.doc]] Just because something is contemporary or a form of modern art it does not mean that it is a form of popular culture and these statistics show this. Modern and contemporary art often alienates audiences and this can be seen as a way of theatre being classed as part of high culture.
Prices are not always restrictive
It is true that theatre can be prohibitively expensive; a seat in the stalls in the West End can cost over 50 pounds. However, some theatres have fantastic offers that eliminate this problem for many. The National Theatre offers 10 pound tickets for a large proportion of their shows, the Old Vic sells 12 pound tickets for under 25 year olds, and reduced prices for the elderly and those who live in Southwark and The Royal Court has certain nights where all tickets are sold for 10 pounds. These are only a few of the theatres that offer special ticket prices, often it just takes a little bit of research to find out if that is the case. Moreover, there is a website that allows you to book a free tickets for a certain number of West End and Fringe theatres in England.
When a theatre is offering prices comparable to what you are charged online (just over 8 pounds) then the advantages for watching a prerecorded version of what should be an interactive, live experience are reduced.
Theatre requires different talent and provides a different experience
When something is filmed another person's perspective of what is important in the production is forced upon you. Close ups are made, much of the surrounding action is out of focus, and you are not allowed the freedom to choose for yourself what you concentrate on. The great thing about theatre, and what sets it apart from film, is that it is immediate, interactive and up to an individual to choose what interests them, whether that be the set, the main character, or the extra standing in the corner. Moreover, in the theatre there is no one angle or perspective; each person within the auditorium sees something different from the next. This in turn means that the actors on the stage need to use different skills that are not required on film, they must be constantly aware of what is happening on stage and within the audience and reacting to all of those things. Their projection and the range of expressions (not just restricted to the face but moving through their entire body) is different from what is used by television and film actors. So when filming these things will be tempered and reduced to fit a different medium and audience, thus ensuring that what you see online is not comparable to what is within the auditorium.
A camera lense would have difficulty in capturing the overwhelming claustrophobia conveyed in 'The Container' or the smells that were so much a part of The Royal Court's 'Jerusalem' and it is possible that the stark isolation of 'The Year of Magical Thinking' (Vanessa Redgrave's one woman show) would be lost.
It may be an excellent means of entertainment for those unable to attend the live production, for monetary, health or time reasons. However, we must remember that by putting it on film and then releasing it to an unrestricted audience we are forcing it into an entirely different medium, it is no longer theatre. Moreover, it may be symptomatic of a greedy society that can not accept the transient nature of certain things and that we cannot see everything.
The Social Aspect
This point applies to cinemas and concerts and other forms of art. While there may well be a part for the internet to play, we should not underestimate the total aspect beyond just a performance. If you go to a theatre with a group of friends then you will discuss the show afterwards. The entire night will have got you out from your home and into the world to see something, to communicate and chat and to relax. The internet can substitute many things and indeed internet forums have become very fun, effective and useful. But at the end of the day they are unsatisfactory in terms of their ability to show true human social interaction. Human beings are social creatures and should not ever alienate themselves too far. Showing theatre performances on the internet may be sensible in a few highly publiscised cases but as a general trend would start a slippery slope away from one of arts most powerful functions.
What do you think?