Live Streaming Theater: a Contradiction?

The most recent Cottmail I received included several articles about theater companies providing live broadcasts of shows- some in cinemas and some online.  My immediate reaction is skeptical… Isn’t part of the definition of theater that it is live?  That there is no removal of a screen?  What about the communal experience? The human experience of theater? Why not just make a movie?

One point producers made that I could understand was that these broadcasts would increase revenue and expand audiences.  As Michael Maso says, a theater with money can focus on theatre. A theater without money can only focus on money.  I understand the practical need for money.  But I cringe at the idea that we need to put theater on a screen to make people see it.  Indeed, the review of the production Hamet Live was not positive- the reviewer much preferred the in-person version.  I’d agree that filmed theater is just not the same.  Plays are not meant to be filmed. They are not written like film scripts, and for a good reason.  One does not receive a play the same way one receives a movie… they are two different beasts.

Now here comes a harder question for me to answer… if a potential audience member had the choice to either purchase a reduced-priced cinema “theater” ticket or not see a play at all… would I object to them seeing the filmed version?  I honestly don’t know.  And I’m sure I’d even appreciate the chance to see some shows that I’d never see otherwise because of cost or location… but what scares me is that people would see the filmed version instead of the live version.  If you don’t even have to leave the house to online stream a show… wouldn’t it seem that an “average american” might prefer his or her own couch?


sbmeyers posted on February 16, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I think that recorded footage of theatre will never replace the power of live theatre, and I would just hope people know that like I do. I really like the idea of digital theatre because I can see the things that I have no way of accessing otherwise, and anyway, theatre is about sharing our art, right?

rro posted on February 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm

I feel like most of the people who will go see filmed shows in movie theatres are people who would see the show in person if they had the chance. I know I’m really excited about the National Theatre Live program that broadcasts shows from The National right to Coolidge Corner. If I was in London, I would probably be going to as many of these shows as I could. Since I can’t, I would rather see them in a movie theatre than not experience them at all. Certainly it won’t have the same impact, since yes, live theatre is so based on interaction with the audience, but I think it’s better to have some access then none at all.

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