We’re more and more into communications and less and less into communication.
Since a young age I have been involved with theatre and have a passion for it. In the beginning I wanted to be an actress, however after working backstage on various school productions I grew to love that side of theatre. When I began to write this essay I decided I wanted to explore the movement of theatre and how technology has an influence on it.
The art of theatre has been around since sometime during the 6th century BC, beginning in Greece. Since then, different traditions of performance have moved across the world being influenced by other cultures. Theatre creates a world that people can escape to. They can forget about reality for the time being, filling themselves with the stories that they are telling or are being told. Technology hasn’t always played a role in the art of theatre, however lately that has been changing, with more and more incorporation of the internet and technology being present.
Speaking to my mum about the influence of technology on theatre, she mentioned that she can now go onto the MTC homepage or other theatre company websites and watch trailers for certain plays. The trailers might be exactly like a film trailer, or it might give the viewer some insight to how the production is created, or what is happening behind the scenes. Instead of only reading a short synopsis on the play or wait until you are seated, about to watch the performance, the viewers are able to have a clearer understanding on what show they want to see and the workings of it. This is an element that has only been introduced in the past ten years, but it continues to grow.
A current play by the Malthouse Theatre’s 2013 female director-in residence, Roslyn Oades called Hello, Goodbye & Happy Birthday continues to utilise her ‘Headphone Verbatim & Audio Scripting’ that she is well known for. This technique was first introduced by British director, Mark Wing-Davey. On her website, Roslyn Oades, it states that since 2001, Oades has created performances using “carefully constructed audio recordings”. Her process involves an “extensive collection phase, during which she draws material from a variety of audio sources including interview, media and found recordings.” Throughout the performance, her technique entails the actors to wear headphones, in which they are fed an audio-script. The actors recite the script as immediately as possible, like a musician following a music score. This includes every stutter, cough, pause and stumble. The end result that Oades wishes to have, is “a hyper-natural form of documentary theatre that evokes the essence of the audio source with fidelity”, regardless of the gender, age, or race of the original speaker.
This technique is a direct example to how technology is becoming involved in theatre. Without it, the ‘Headphone Verbatim & Audio Scripting’ would not be possible. I have never seen a play that incorporates this technique, however I believe that it would be an incredible interesting and rewarding performance to watch. In an article written by Caroline Wake, titled The Politics and Poetics of Listening: Attending Headphone Verbatim Theatre in Post-Cronulla Australia, it states that audience members have said that the effect is “somewhere between acting, ‘being’, and possession.” As we can assume, being in the audience would be a different experience to being in the audience of a regular theatre show. Instead of completely connecting with the performers, the audience has to somewhat ignore the headphones yet know that they are a crucial part of the play.
In an article I read on The Guardian, the author Chris Willkinson questions whether the internet is killing theatre. He states that Michiko Kakutani believes that the internet has “helped create a culture with attention-deficit disorder in which people will ‘tweet and text one another during plays and movies, forming judgements before seeing the arc of the entire work’”. This is a fascinating idea because the common thought on using phones during a show is that it is rude to the performers. However with Kakutani’s view in mind, perhaps this will force the actors to work harder, capturing and maintaining the audience’s attention, knowing that in two seconds their attitude towards the show could potentially be influenced by a text message.
Theatre is no longer a controlled space. It is not just defined to the stage. It can be outside the room, through headphone or on the internet. All theatre has two elements that are the same – there are actors and there is an audience. However now that the internet is becoming a regular part of the theatre world, the way that the audience interacts with the actors may change. For example, on Mashable.com Joann Pan writes about New Paradise Laboratories which is a company based in Philedelphia in the United States. The ‘about’ page on their website states that they “imagine theatre as a visionary experience”. The companies connectivity coordinator, Katy Otto, says that NPL had a major interest in making theatre that would appeal to people who weren’t participating in theatre but were “heavily influenced by the internet.” In their production and presentation stage, they incorporate social media sites, letting the stories evolve from there and “it can be hard to decipher what’s real and what’s fiction” says Pan.
In 2011, NPL created a play called Extremely Public Displays of Privacy, in which the three acts were available online. Additionally, they included geolocation technology where a character from the play guided the audience member through a park. There was a forty five minute sound file that gave you the guided tour, or alternatively online audience members could go onto YouTube and take a virtual walk online. By allowing the audience to interact through the internet, it achieves exactly what Katy Otto desired. People can follow the plays story whilst sitting at home, or they can get out into the real world and continue to follow the story through headphones, however the final act of the play is performed in ‘real-time’ at a theatre in Philadelphia which brings everyone together to witness the end.
But what does everyone think about the influence of technology on theatre? Do theatre critics believe it is a good movement? Is it an expensive feature that doesn’t necessarily need to be incorporated? I believe that technology in theatre is an important element. It opens many more doors and gives the cast and crew opportunities to work in different fields and give the audience a performance they will never forget. There will always be positives and negatives in these situations yet people will learn to accept different thoughts and learn to trust that as long as theatre still exists, it will only to continue to grow and change.
Roslyn Oades, Headphone Verbatim & Audio Scripting, viewed on the 20th of October 2014, http://www.roslynoades.com/Technique.html
Wikipedia, last modified on 22nd October 2014, History of Theatre, viewed on the 23rd October 2014, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_theatre
Chris Wilkinson, 1st April 2010, Noises Off: Is the internet killing the theatre show?, The Guardian, viewed on 18th of October 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2010/mar/31/internet-theatre-twitter-texting
Christophe Collard, 2014, Remediating New Media, Staging Hypertext, Hot Metal Bridge, published by Writing MFA Students at the University of Pittsburgh, viewed on the 20th of October 2014, http://hotmetalbridge.org/archivelinks/return-to-earth/remediating-new-media-staging-hypertext/
Joann Pan, 25th March 2012, Internet-Based Theater Company Lives Between Cyberspace and the Stage, Mashable, viewed on the 21st October 2014, http://mashable.com/2012/03/24/new-paradise-laboratories/
Wake C, 2014, The Politics and Poetics of Listening: Attending Headphone Verbatim Theatre in Post-Cronulla Australia, in Theatre Research International, Vol. 39, No. 2, p. 82-100
Wake C, 2014, Voices that Matter: Performance, Technology and Sociology in the work of Roslyn Oades, in Acts of Courage, by Roslyn Oades
IMAGES AND VIDEO
National Theatre Discover, 13th March 2014, A guide to creating verbtim theatre, YouTube, found on 23rd October 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-a0qNEhCly4
Jim Napier, 2012, Texting during a movie encouraged by Washington movie theater!, Geektyrant, found on 23rd October 2014, http://geektyrant.com/news/2011/12/6/texting-during-a-movie-encouraged-by-washington-movie-theate.html
MTC, screenshot on 23rd October 2014, http://www.mtc.com.au