No, Sir Alan Ayckbourn, Live-streaming is theatre

Live streaming “just isn’t theatre”.

"You watch a streamed play and you might as well be watching television"

Sir Alan Ayckbourn, the prolific British playwright behind Absurd Person Singular, The Norman Conquests, Bedroom Farce and A Chorus of Disapproval (to name a few of his greatest successes in a storied career) spoke with Rebecca Jones, the arts correspondent for BBC News in an article that claimed that what is special about our treasured form of storytelling is lost. You can read it here.

We’ve long-admired Sir Alan. For many of us, his work as playwright and director has been the foundation of our love for theatre. He’s a master – but masters, too, get it wrong.

But let’s start with how he’s right. Theatre is special. Working in theatre is – as many can attest – a heartbreaking, challenging, frustrating, yet deeply rewarding and nourishing career. Many artists toil at the writing desk, behind a piano, or in the audition room and fight for success every day in spite of the disappointment that they will inevitably experience. But, they keep going because of their love for the form. It’s this ancient art of communication – storytelling – that is the bedrock of humanity. We do not progress alone. We progress through the telling of shared and singular experiences and ideas. That’s why we toil.

For many of us, we have had the privilege of uninterrupted access to theatre for most of our lives – a form that, for all its good, still imposes a barrier to entry for many. Now, those among us who are privileged to access theatre are experiencing that same barrier. Now, those doors are closed for us, too.

But here’s where he’s wrong. We still need these stories, and this all-or-nothing approach to theatre is not theatre. It’s privilege. In that same vein, the good fortune of those who partake in theatre has enabled us to innovate our industry to keep it going during this unprecedented catastrophe – we recognize that same privilege. But there’s good, here.

Streaming, live or on-demand, has opened doors to accessibility like it has never before– it’s a gigantic leap forward for an industry locked away behind theatre doors. It democratizes the art form, it opens it up to everybody. That is something to truly be celebrated: the barrier to entry has been significantly lowered.

That’s why we developed ShowStream and partnered with Music Theatre International and ShowTix4U. We’re not making a Netflix of recorded, heavily-edited presentations (film and television). We’re helping live storytelling reach as many people as possible.

The evolution of theatre to leverage everyday technology to reach scores of new people is theatre. It’s still storytelling, it’s still recorded and streamed from performers acting live (warts and all) and, with a little help from our new technology, it can be a curated, intimate, immediate experience – that “special” something television doesn’t have.

Streaming a live performance is still theatre.

We can’t wait to meet new audiences and see the amazing ways theatremakers will utilize this technology for the good of the art form. How lucky we are to be able to bring this to life and bring theatre to everyone.

To learn more about ShowStream,click here.