Twespians – A Revolution?

February 3, 2010

Take one part theatre, and one part twitter. What is the outcome? Twespians.

Last night I was lucky enough to be part of a mini revolution in the way that I communicate with people in theatre, by taking part in a TweetUp. The idea of a tweetup is essentially a group of Twitter users meet at a set location and time to mingle, talk and have a good few drinks. Twespians is the theatre version.

I’ll be open and admit that the effect that Twitter has had upon my life is quite strong. It’s allowed me to express a huge passion I have with other equally passionate people. It has scored me tickets for shows, and equally kept me up to date with the latest theatre news and gossip. Andrew Llyod Webber has cancer? Through Twitter. Peter Brook as part of the new Bite Festival. Twitter. Too Close To The Sun, the biggest flop to hit west end … Twitter. What about the Donmar’s bad attempt at recycling old brochures? Reported through TwitPic, and Twitter.

Twitter has allowed me to connect with people from all over the world, who share the same drive and passion that I have. It’s a slow process, that develops over the course of many months. Conversation is brief but to the point, with only 140 characters there is no waffling allowed. Strictly a ‘to the point’ matter.

Whilst all of this is great for communicating over the internet, what happens when you bring these people together in the real world? Twespians answered this questionl last night, by organising a TweetUp as part of Social Media Week.

Upon arrival you are given a name badge to which you fill in your username and favourite show. You get yourself a drink at the bar, and then you begin to talk to people. The course of the night is extremely varied, depending on who you talk with. There are several people who I’ve met off Twitter to see various shows with before, yet equally there are those who I’ve solely spoken to through 140 characters at a time.

The night was absurd, surreal and brilliant all at once.

To have in one room, such a mix of people from all forms of theatre interests and jobs – talking together is remarkable. From journalists, bloggers, actors, directors, students, social media artists, administrators, marketers and facilitators. You almost have to take a moment to take in what is actually happening around you.

If Twitter is to be integrated more into the theatre industry then it is through an event such as Twespians TweetUp that we can begin to break down these boundaries of theatre roles, and begin to work towards something greater. What that is I don’t know. Networkings, Jobs, Drinking Buddies… well… the possibilities are too vast to list.

One thing that did strike me though is the possibilities of such an event. A group of students from Queen Mary’s University studying Drama and Physical Theatre joined the event. Hearing their passion for an industry they are desperate to be in is inspiring, yet equally their craving for information and advice from people already working or performing showed how useful such an event can be to people.

People can laugh at the way in which people engage with the internet and social media, but there is no denying the power and potential it has. If you can write an opera through twitter and produce full length twitter plays – what can you do with it?

Interested in Twespians? Check out of the website and twitter account for more information. The next Twespians TweetUp will be announced shortly, so stayed tuned.

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Technology – A Theatre Revolution

August 6, 2009

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?