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Guest Blog: How streaming is changing theatre

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Sarah Platt is managing director of Kinura, Whatsonstage.com's official webcast partner. She has specialised in streaming projects for over ten years and produced hundreds of global live webcasts.

As more arts and creative organisations develop streaming capability, Sarah looks at the reasons we love being part of a live experience, and reflects on some great theatrical streaming projects of recent times.

Read Chris Mellor's blog 'Streaming for survival' here

Over the years all kinds of strange and wonderful streaming projects have been run past me. "We want to stream a man dressed in tin foil, locked in a room for 24 hours", "Can we stream live trout fishing?", "Is it possible to stream from a boat, but it's not on a river, it's on top of a building?" You get the picture. It keeps life interesting and makes a change from our day-to-day business of streaming conferences and presentations. And what really continues to amaze me is the appetite for 'doing it live'.

There's something about 'liveness' that resonates with the human psyche, plus now we have Twitter as a rumbling, squawking back-channel conversation. Most people are now familiar with 'webcasting' and 'streaming' terminology and there is clearly an appetite for it as evidenced by the huge interest in NT Live. But hard times are upon us. The thought of investing in live video tech for the first time or testing a new pay-to-view streaming model might be fairly daunting for theatres struggling to keep things afloat and get bums on real seats, never mind virtual ones.

But I sincerely believe that it's time to forget that 20th century argument about live streaming affecting real-life attendance. It's like trying to stop people stealing music or films. The world is changing, so I say get your digital strategy sorted before it's just too bloody late! As evidence for my belief, I've outlined a few of the pioneering projects of recent times below, and I hope that this will inspire you to watch more theatre online and go to the theatre more too. The two experiences don't have to be mutually exclusive.

  • Royal Opera Live - If you missed this where were you? Amazing high-definition live streaming behind the scenes of the Royal Opera House. In my view this is a great example of 'high art' being demystified and generating wider interest beyond merely providing access to live shows. Educational, intriguing, exploratory. #ROLive
  • The York Mystery Plays - Exploring the potential of audience control, Pilot Theatre and York Theatre Royal offered viewers the chance to pick their own live camera feed from six viewpoints, including a live camera roaming backstage. Experimental live streaming from an epic outdoor production. Read more about this project here on The Stage in an article by Marcus Romer.
  • The Broadway, Barking - A small venue that has boldly set up pay-to-view theatre. Read Chris Mellor's article for Whatsonstage.com to be enlightened and follow him for more thoughts on digital theatre opportunities.
  • Northern Stage St Stephens - Seven hours of live performance, talks, audience reactions and interviews, all beamed from an old church as part of the Edinburgh Fringe.
  • The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning, National Theatre Wales - a hyper connected production with live links and images posted alongside the stream throughout the performance.
  • Five Minute Theatre - National Theatre of Scotland give people the chance to send in their work and have it streamed back out to the world. Crowdsourced theatre tactics.
  • Just google 'live streaming theatre' for many more examples. The possibilities for the creative use of this technology are exploding, and companies are beginning to get their heads around the rights issues. You can sit in the dark at the back of a musty old Victorian theatre or you can get out your shiny new phone and watch some live theatre on the bus. As these worlds merge, the future seems pretty exciting.

    Kinura is the official webcast partner of the Whatsonstage.com Awards - click here for more info and to vote


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