Technology – A Theatre Revolution

How technology is changing theatre

Theatre and Technology - Pilot Theatre

Theatre is a constantly changing organism that grows, develops and spurts off new ideas and techniques which get employed into theatre and performance. It’s something which constantly happens, time and time again. Most of the time we are quite unaware of the change as we, as theatre goers or as a wider society integrate our own life with the the changing developments.

At times these developments are subtle ones, they are techniques which we as audience members would never realise even happened. From all new acting techniques where the performer is developing their acting style in a new method, to a subtle change in the way the lights are focused in a show. Some things just go unnoticed but they are small revolutions within their own right within the theatre.

Yet technology seems to be something that at times we struggle to not ignore for it’s actually causing multiple eruptions of creativity and revolutions that are exceeding the subtlities of performance and instead are being the cause of theatre.

I recently came across this moment where I couldn’t ignore the use of technology in performance when I was pointed towards Fatebook, a fascinating project by New Paradise Laboratories. The concept behind this project is a collaboration through technology to blur the boundaries between realities. The characters of this piece are being developed online, in a virtual reality, all simultaneously. As an online viewer or ‘audience’ member you can witness the characters through a series of beautifully captured videos on selected themes [I recommend their ‘transit‘ theme]. You create snapshots of these characters, unsure as of yet where the links between them are. The project will climax when the virtual reality of the characters are brought into one space, in the ‘real world’ through a performance in a theatre space.

The use of the internet is being pushed into blurring the distinction between when a performance goes from a virtual reality into a theatrical reality. Of course the internet has always been an explosion of creativity for the arts, yet theatre has always been a challenging medium to explore virtually. Theatre’s themselves are quick to build their websites and engage with their audiences through social media techniques, but there has been little in pushing the use of performance into the internet and out the other side.

Take Shift Happens for example, a conference dedicated at exactly the use of technology, the internet and social networks and how theatre can adapt to this revolution. It is becoming more apparent that it is impossible for us as theatre makers, dwellers, audiences to ignore the on going revolutions which are blurring the boundaries between technology and theatre.

Whilst Katie Mitchell celebrated a triumphant talk of the town last year with her work exploring the relationship between media and theatre, notable in her production of Waves [2006/7] and …Some Traces Of Her [2008] at the National Theatre, there are many more revolutions of this sort happening in smaller places, by less well known companies. Yet the point is clear: If Mitchell can bring a revolution of technology into the National Theatre, then it is time for us to think more seriously about the way in which future productions are intergrating the use of technology.

We have already seen, and something which I myself partake in, is the use of Twitter to connect and engage with theatre enthusiasts. Yet theatre is also being created through Twitter. Take The New York Neo-Futurists who have developed the idea of creating plays through Twitter, sparking the Twitter Plays, each 140 characters long and on specific themes. They make an interesting read and can be found here. Technology is being directly used to actively create theatre, if a little absurd…

The outcome: As technologies are constantly being developed, and as theatre likewise advances in it’s development, so comes revolutions where creativity is merged with computers, and the internet. It’s about time we start taking more notice of these new approaches and begin to integrate them more into mainstream theatre themselves… or maybe we still have years to come before this happens?

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4 Responses to Technology – A Theatre Revolution

  1. Tom Davies says:

    A really interesting post that touches on a number of things that have been swimming around my brain recently.

    I look after an online theatre community that serves an offline one (theatrebristol.net). It feels to me as if there is something of an increasing divide opening up between the “antis” who reject, often very strongly, the intrusion of digital communications/media on the sacrament of the live theatre experience and those who believe (as I do) that new tools can extend and evolve theatre into something new.

    For me, one of the most potentially powerful avenues for the use of technology in theatre is in using media such as blogs/twitter etc to open up the creative process that leads to a performance – to make audiences’ involvement in theatre less “we (practitioners) go off and make something and then you (audiences) come and see it” – as it seems so much theatre is to me – and more something that grows between creators and audience – a relationship that still has the live performance at it’s heart (as for me that’s what makes theatre special) but one which doesn’t begin and end there.

    Some braver souls are making a pretty good stab at this kind of thing but it tends as you say to be the smaller, experimental companies. Whenever a larger institution has a bash it’s apt to fall into the marketing department’s lap rather than resting with the people doing the making, and that tends not to end well.

    Would have loved to have gone to Shift Happens but heard about ti too late and couldn’t make it… did you go?

    Anyway keep up the good work and sorry for the brain-dump nature of my comment!

  2. […] finally, Jake at A Younger Theatre looks at technologyand how it’s affecting theatre, not just directly on the stage but in the promotion and in some cases creation of […]

  3. I found your blog via Sans Taste – admittedly that might not sound very positive at first glance, but I assure it is! I was drawn to the bold title of your blog post and I enjoyed reading your thoughts on theatre and new media.

    You might also want to consider the influence of theatre (‘performativity’) on emerging Web technologies. The relationship between theatre and technology is far from a one-sided affair.

    I’ve added your blog to my feed reader and I look forward to reading more in the near future.

    Best,

    Andrew.

  4. Jose R. Valdes R. says:

    Sorry to catch up on this one so late. I have a company called Inside of The Box and we research and develop tools to do Theatre Production. I just posted in my blog: http://boxpearapple.net an article about Google Wave and how I think we should embrace this new tech into our production process, not to mention the creative side. As a student in National Theatre School of Canada I develop online Production Calendars and stuff but starting from the staff I had to really push to even try something like that. There is an inevitable resistance from older generations. Some of them won’t even do e-mail or just look at a PDF.
    Us, the younger generations need to push to improve the way we communicate and do theatre.
    Thanks for sharing!

    Pepe
    Tweet @PpValdes
    http://boxpearapple.net

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