The reading took place Sunday evening, February 17 when the temperature in Boston was 17 degrees F and the wind was blowing 40 mph (these are important pieces of information from which I'm sure you can already infer some insight), and it was webcast over Howlround's #newplaytv through Livestream.com. You can see an archive of it here.
The venue didn't have an Ethernet cable so Interim Writers had to stream it over the WiFi, which meant they had to broadcast it at low res, so the quality isn't the best. I know Max really had to scramble for a couple of weeks before the reading, figuring out the technology, finding the cameras and laptops he needed. We were definitely laying track before the oncoming locomotive.
Besides the weather, there's one other little bit of information that I think is important: The script had had three previous readings--I knew it wasn't this big train wreck where I didn't even know if the scenes were in the right order. I mention this because i had two very fine actors who had to step out of the project because they belonged to Equity, and of course couldn't particpate in a reading that was being broadcast and archived. If the script itself wasn't at the point it was, I think I would have had to think hard about choosing between agreeing to the webcast and losing the actors who I felt would have given me a lot of insight into their roles.
So, theater is meant to be seen live, no doubt, no argument here. But here's what I got out of the webcast:
- People who said they could or wanted to come, still were able to see it. The weather was brutal; this must be what it's like to do theater in Alaska. Or Minnesota. I don't blame them for not wanting to go out. But one person had slipped and fallen on ice the day before, and she was still able to see the reading and give me feedback.
- Those people who stayed at home still were able to give me their response to the reading, and some of these opinions were very important to me because they weren't "theater people." No concern over dramatic structure or rising action got in the way of them responding viscerally to the story and giving me some very interesting comments.
- People who wouldn't have been able to make it anyway because they were in different parts of the country were able to see it and tell me their reactions.
- It's archived so I can go back and watch it over and over, getting more out of the reading.
- Did I say it's archived? I can point theaters, literary managers, actors, random people I sit next to on the bus to the site so they can hear (and see) the reading.
- It was on Howlround. At this stage of my career, I'll take any bit of promo I can get, even if it's my name on a calendar of events.
My learned opinion on this whole webcast in the theater subject? My opinion based on working more than twenty-five years in the computer industry? Seeing the birth of the personal computer and watching it become a staple of our society? I was the first jgf at compuserve in 1988? Not jgf1, but the very first. People asked me what I was going to do with an email account, and frankly the first couple of months I emailed things to myself from work. At the same place of employment I started a network with another guy with about 15 users and a Mac with about a MB of RAM, and there were people who didn't understand why we needed to share files. Can't we just print them out and give them to each other?
Here's what I'm saying. There are some people who get technology, and there are those who don't. There are industries that don't get it. The music industry--record labels, they never saw it coming. The newspaper industry saw it coming but still doesn't know what to do about it. Theater shouldn't be an industry, a business that doesn't get it. (Note: Get used to wrapping your head around the fact that your art is a business and an industry. It is.)
Webcasting is here to stay, folks. The technology is only going to get better. It isn't going to be all low-res for Interim Writers. It is the one thing that could "save" theater--grow it--by bringing it places where it couldn't otherwise be. Yeah, I know that's called TV, but I'm talking theater. Theater people could conceivably land theater on the moon. If you can't see it live, this is the next best thing.