These days, I’m sure you’re much like me, searching for anything positive or signs that our life as we used to know it is on the horizon, especially theatre. Theatre isn’t just for the entertainment of the masses – it’s a source of ideas and knowledge, a place to make connections with others, a safe space to be seen as exactly as you are. While there are dark stages across the world, this is the opportunity for live entertainment to do what it does best: be creative. But what does that mean for the future of theatre when we are forced to pause and reset?
An exciting development is creation of new works and theatrical expression through digital forms. We’re asking questions like, “how can we convey emotion in a digital setting?”, or “what kind of stories do remote audiences want to experience?”. Live streams, filmed archival productions, productions presented on our favorite social media platforms: All are paving the way for new forms of storytelling and new ways to reach audiences. Playwrights, musicians, designers, performers who may not have ever been afforded the opportunity now have a platform to share their new and unique point of view. This will be a renaissance for diverse, authentic, accessible and unique theatrical experiences that can be easily produced and distributed to audiences around the world.
Next, I’d like to acknowledge the workforce that makes up our theatrical industry. A group of highly skilled, talented, hardworking professionals who found themselves suddenly without work for over a year. Many made the decision to leave New York and relocate somewhere new, and while this is a hard reality for most, they could really make an impact in their newly found communities outside of the theatre district. In small towns across the country, there are theatres who for years have provided the community with the best possible productions they could, given limited access to funding and talent. Now, the best of the best may be right around the corner and looking to get back on (or behind) the stage. This could be an opportunity for us to build up those small local businesses, get our industry back to work, and give both the recognition they deserve.
Theaters across the world are taking a look at the space and resources at their disposal to figure out a way to safely mount productions and invite audiences back. An excellent example is Asolo Rep’s production of Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer. Asolo Rep has launched a 2021 outdoor season and has completely revamped their production process to create a safe environment onstage. A highlight of this particular production is the projection design created by Broadway Designer Aaron Rhyne (Anastasia, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder) who utilized the outside of the theatre itself as a canvas for his design. Creativity like this will help revitalize our theatres which have had to close their doors for almost a year.
There is no other option but to remain hopeful and optimistic about the return of theatre. We have been given the unique opportunity to completely rethink what theatre is at its core, how it is produced, and why it must continue to be a part of our communities.