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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Embracing new media ... but how?

I've read lately that as television, film, radio and magazines are wrestling with and taking advantage of new technology and new media, theater should endeavor to do the same. I guess the idea is...there are iPads. There are tablets. There are iPhones and Androids and Netflix streaming to your home television and 3D interactive Blu-Ray discs. We're in the future. Everyone is James Bond now. How can theater catch up? It's clearly not with more wires and more elaborate masks.

Theater is decidedly analog in a digital age. Even film and television don't highlight that fact so much as personal computers with HD screens and Apple TV. (I mean, heck, it's now so common practice for plays to integrate film and video on-stage as to become a non-issue. Remember when that seemed counter-intuitive?) But theater is live and you can't deliver it wirelessly. You can show a picture, even a video, but that transforms the experience into something else, of course. So what to do? Fancy ticketing services? Live blogging plays? Yelp! for performance art?

I've seen a few attempts to utilize new media, but usually it's in the form of an additional prop or a stand in for what was once just not digital ("Read from your iPad" instead of "Read off this piece of paper.")

So... I'm curious what you feel theaters should be doing that they are to embrace new technology, or if there are things going on that you feel are happening that others should be aware of, or if you feel that it's simply a fool's errand to chase new tech. Perhaps the further theater goes from trying to be modern, the more punk rock and counter-cultural it appears...?

I submit, as well, certain attempts to capture what's going on on-line, such as On The Boards. The BBC produces, also, a terrific Play of the Week podcast. But is that, you know, working for you? Or do we need iPad apps that show you subtitles for Endgame performed in French?


Gyda said...

GamePlay is a month-long festival currently at The Brick embracing just this: www.bricktheater.com/gameplay

RLewis said...

'gave it a shot a while back, but i think it's getting more and more possibler...



ukejackson said...

I wrote a blog about this a few months ago. Basically, we need a "digital pit" -- a section where those who want to text, or record cell phone vids and photos, can sit. Ringers would be off, of course. But otherwise, let those who use their handheld communication devices as a form of participation do just that. The stumbling block, of course, are the unions and the theater admins. Texting, 4square, etc etc -- it's all the new word of mouth. Post it to YouTube. Post it to FaceBook -- it's all free publicity. Denying this and banning personal communication devices is only going to hurt the theater. There's no shortage of other forms of entertainment which include the use of these devices. That's my 2 cents anyway.