We live in a age where technology is moving so rapidly it’s sometimes difficult for me to keep up. However I have always loved exploring new ideas and concepts, so when I first heard the ‘live to digital’ debate I pricked up my ears. ‘I want to try this’ I thought to myself. I wasn’t sure how it would be possible but I kept wondering and asking questions and searching.
The fact that streamed theatre is in its infancy makes it particularly exciting for me, I like to try things that are new.
Wizard Presents is a very small company, focusing on creating solo storytelling shows for families and larger scale musical productions. It is important to us to reach out to families who might not have the resources or interest to cross the threshold into a theatre, so as well as performing our solo shows in London’s West End, at Royal Festival Hall and in theatres across the country we also tour our shows into libraries, school halls and community centres.
I remember one particular performance of ‘I Believe in Unicorns’ by Michael Morpurgo in a village hall, with over 200 children from the local school. The moment came when I opened a book, within a book, within a book, (Russian doll style) and the children went wild, screaming, laughing, calling out every time another, smaller, book was revealed. I felt as if I was on stage at a rock concert, the whole place was electric! The teachers later told me that 80% of the children had never been to a live theatre event. It is such a memorable experiences for me… and the memory of it spurs me on to offer this theatre experience to children and families as widely as I possible can. But touring shows, day in day out, is tiring and time consuming so the question keeps turning in my head – how do we reach out to more people?
When we transferred ‘Unicorns’ to Orange Tree Theatre for a Christmas season, Paul Miller (Artistic Director) and I chatted about how wonderful it would be to live stream the show into libraries (the show is set in a library and is about stories and books) but this discussion took place as the show was coming to the end of it’s run. We agreed that ‘next time’ we would make it happen.
So, when we created Kika’s Birthday, a collaboration between Wizard Presents, Little Angel Theatre and Orange Tree Theatre I immediately applied to Arts Council for funding to create a live streaming event.
Luckily I heard about the lovely team at Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury who had recently purchased equipment to make live streaming possible. They put me in contact with Carl Walker at Streamer ((streamer-live.com) who they said would be able to support us in our first streamed experience. Carl has been professional and thorough, guiding me through the first stages of the process and our test streaming last week was thrilling. Carl has made it all seem easy, so what was daunting for me before I started is now beginning to make sense.
He has even suggested that we have a Q&A after the show so that people watching can type questions for me to answer. I love this idea and so we have put this in place too.
Little Angel Theatre team responded enthusiastically, ensuring that we can offer this experience and all three organisations; Little Angel, Orange Tree and us, have circulated information about the event widely through our networks. I have been delighted with the initial response from my contacts in schools, nurseries and libraries across the country.
I continue to worry about whether or not it’s possible to offer audiences an experience which is comparable with a live experience, ‘being in the room with the performer’. Does the cinema experience lack the type of involvement that can lead to spontaneous applause and the sense of a shared occasion with others? Does that matter? Is the ‘streamed experience’ diminished because it is a different experience from being in the performance space?
Obviously I don’t have the answers to these questions but it is only through experimenting openly and with an enquiring mind will I discover anything.
NESTA (https://www.nesta.org.uk) believes that performing arts organisations, like other creative businesses, face opportunities and challenges from digital technology and that there is an urgent need to invest in trials and conduct experiments. Their research shows that not only are digital technologies bringing new audiences to arts and cultural organisations, but they are also creating new sources of cultural and economic value, and in some cases taking the art form in new directions.
I am thrilled that we are taking baby steps and conducting our own experiment which can be added to this live to digital debate.
Watch this space!
ABOUT STREAMER (www.streamer-live.com)
The show will be broadcast live online using an innovative Live Stream system from Streamer, an Anglo-Danish company who developed the technology . Carl Walker, Managing Director of Streamer said ‘we are delighted that our system had been chosen to live stream this lovely family show, and we’ll be not only using multiple cameras but also the Streamer solution will enable viewers and children in classrooms to send questions to Danyah in a live Q&A session after the show. We’re seeing more and more theatre and arts venues choosing our Streamer technology as a way of reaching new audiences and engaging with the local and global community through professional quality but easy to use online broadcasting’.
Headquartered in the UK, and with Technical Development in Denmark, Streamer has created a complete Live Stream solution to enable professional quality yet easy-to-use online broadcasting of any event. The range of Streamer products supports any HD camera, and their Streamer Pro unit can take 4 x cameras and enables cameras to be switched for different angles. Remote viewers may also choose their own cameras as well. The system comes complete with a global network, enabling live events to be streamed to a global audience, across a range of devices including computers, tablets and smartphones. Streams can be hosted on standard web browsers, web sites and also social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube Live. Streams can be made highly secure, and the company also has a Pay Per View option, enabling venues etc to create a revenue stream for online viewing of content. For more information, contact Streamer at firstname.lastname@example.org