Woke up thinking about #scratchr and this question:
How can theater-makers create work for 2 audiences: in-house and online?
I was reminded of Pixar’s “Toy Story”.
WAIT, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU ON ABOUT?
[Side note: go to the BAC and get involved. It’s amazeballs. Seriously, go now. Go. GO I SAY!]
[Did you go? What’s wrong with you? Maybe you should consider taking part in their immersive theatrical event “The Good Neighbor” (deadline this Monday.) You will? Good.]
Much to my surprise, the night was perfect for me (a solo performer) and my companion (a digital director for non-profits.)
Richard and his producing team were unveiling scratchr.net, the online version of BAC’s famous Scratch events, where artists share works-in-development with audiences for feedback. The site is early beta (it’s the scratch version of scratchr.net!) and needs your input. Go sign in and poke around.
After watching the site presentation, we broke into three group discussions. I chose the conversation led by the lovely Katherine Jewkes on digital theater. A lot of interesting questions were raised and ideas batted about.
BUT HERE’S WHAT I’M STILL THINKING ABOUT
The next day, the question that sticks with me is this: How can theater-makers develop work for the audience that comes to the performance space and the one that attends via their web browser?
How can we create performance that isn’t simply broadcast via the internet, but has two unique iterations? That is at home on-stage and online, playing to the strengths and possibilities of both contexts?
WHAT THIS HAS TO DO WITH “TOY STORY”
I’m reminded of Pixar, and why they make such appealing movies. Pixar’s movie-making mantra is “story, story, story” and every scene they write must play to two audiences: 5-year-olds and 35-years. Because 35-year olds take their kids to the cinema. So Pixar thought, “Why not make a movie that the parents will enjoy, too?”
For example, when Mr Potato Head’s face is knocked off and then reassembled in the wrong order, the kids laugh because his face is funny. The parents laugh when he says, “Look, I’m Picasso!” The scene speaks to both groups.
Analogously, in order to make successful digital theater, performance practitioners should think about their two audiences — the groundlings and the gamers — from the beginning. How can each moment play to both? How can we engage the person looking back at us from the front row and the one watching online, and create a unique, theatrical experience for both?
Pixar shows us that your work can take multiple, very different audiences into consideration, and make work that engages them simultaneously. The line between a movie for kids or adults is false. How can we learn from this example and make theater that work onstage and online?