By Jerome A. Parker, member of the 2011 Emerging Writers Group
This past fall, I approached one of the directors of a theater company who was giving my play a developmental reading about the possibility of webcasting and I was confronted with a dead stare. “Do you mean filming?” “Yes, filming is part of it – but…” He interrupted: “We have a very strong relationship with Equity (the Stage Actors’ union), and we’re not allowed to film.” I had heard this response before, so I was ready with my retort. “I’m aware of Equity’s rules – but this isn’t exactly filming – not as you may think of it. We’re not going to film for archival purposes. In fact – we will erase any video after the event. We’ll just be using the camera to project a live feed to the internet – so that audience members who aren’t able to attend – because they are out of state, in another borough, etc… - can watch the play. We would, in no way, jeopardize your relationship – or the actors’ relationship for that matter - with Equity by creating content that can be distributed.” Still the dead stare. “Why would anyone want to watch a play on the web?” I knew where this was headed – but until I got a definitive “NO” I kept trying.
See, I went to graduate school on the west coast at UCLA, where New Media was part of the storytelling curriculum. Californians seem to be way ahead of the curve with anything internet related, though in the theater section of my school I was also met with apprehension from professors and classmates alike.
So when I arrived back in NYC and found LONYLA.COM, an international hub for theater storytellers on the web, I was more than ecstatic. My skype conversation with founder J. Dakota Powell was an even more joyous occasion for me, as I felt I finally found a band of partners in crime. We both were enthusiastic, to say the least, about the opportunities to be found on the web for theater writers and theater companies in particular.
I, for one, believe that small theater companies can increase their audience members and revenue via the web. Large companies like the Metropolitan Opera House and producers of mega hits like WICKED use the web to keep their brands relevant and to reach new fans. You must imagine my excitement, then, that La Mama, a historical downtown landmark of a theater, is leading the digital theater movement for small non-profits. At least once a day my Facebook page lights up from one of their status updates. Sometimes this includes live presentations. I’d be very interested to see what impact their web presence is having at their institution.
My last foray in webcasting was for an EWG night of shorts this past winter, produced and led by EWG member Pia Wilson. She, Akin Salawu (EWG ’08), and I met at the Kraine Theater and tested all of our equipment, after spending hours setting up a Facebook page which could be shared times over with just a click of a button. By using just a laptop with a webcam and an internet connection, we were live in moments and broadcasting our rehearsal process.
However, once again, the progress was met with hesitation by other playwrights and artists involved in the festival. So, the “live” broadcast was cancelled. And even though it didn’t work out as an endeavor then, I was especially surprised about how easy the process was and how easy it was to share and put in place.
So, suffice to say, I’m looking forward to the future and to further adventures in telling stories theatrically on the internet.
Stay tuned :)
Jerome A. Parker is a playwright and lyricist from NYC. His play, SUITES FOR SAD MEN, will have a staged reading this April with Mixed Phoenix Theater Company. This fall he is one of the featured US artists in the TIME WAVE FESTIVAL produced by LoNyLa.com
This post is part of a weekly series from the Emerging Writers Group community of playwrights. The EWG is two-year playwriting fellowship at The Public Theater seeking to target playwrights at the earliest stages of their careers. In so doing, The Public hopes to create an artistic home for a diverse and exceptionally talented group of up-and-coming playwrights.