Flea TV



Madeleine Bundy in Kim Davies’ Smoke, at The Flea Theater in Tribeca, webcast Jan. 19 by VisualArtsTV.

This is a really heartwarming theater story about how an enterprising New York City video production crew, VisualArtsTV, had an already comprised and cut-rate commercial shoot abruptly cancelled. They went looking for something new to shoot since they’d arranged for a  crew and equipment. VisualArtsTV ended up doing a live stream of a performance of Kim Davies’ play Smoke, performed by the house company The Bats at the Flea Theater on 41 White St. in Tribeca.

The Jan. 19 stream could not become a permanent link because of obvious contractual issues in presenting stage work on other media, but there are photos from the broadcast online, and the play itself has been extended through Feb. 1.

This kind of thing doesn’t happen nearly often enough. Every freakin’ scene from every high school production of Bye Bye Birdie seems to find its way online, but genuine collaborations between videographers and the creators of new theatrical works are few, far between, or flukes like this one. Major opportunities to disseminate original writing is being missed. You know that if the theater collectives of 80 or 90 years ago—The Dadists, or the Berliner Ensemble, or the Algonkuin Round Table—had access to the technology we have today, they’d be using it constantly. Instead we’re still just making commercials and mini-docs and other enticements to buy tickets to the live event.

Twenty years I did a cover story for the New Haven Advocate (where I had a weekly theater column) on how theater was dealing with the internet. This was in the days before bandwidths were wide enough to accommodate smooth live streams of anything. There was no Netflix or YouTube. But I met a lot of artists who were doing groundbreaking work with web-based performance art and limited theater performances, under severe technological limitations. Those folks were more ingenious and driven than many of the camera-carriers I encounter these days. Where’s the innovation? The cross-media collaboration?

This was a bold move by VisualArtsTV and by The Flea Theater. Get inspired by it already.


  1. Christopher!

    Thank you so much for your fantastic article. We couldn’t agree more! And why, because we aren’t a video production crew so much as the first company ever dedicated to live-streaming the performing arts. My personal background is grounded entirely in theater (BS in Theater from Northwestern, apprentice at Actor’s Theater of Louisville, years working as a NY/regional theater actor). It’s a long story as to how we ended up in media, but the crux of it is that we fervently believe that live-streaming, when tailored to a small screen and the expectations of an interactive audience, holds incredible promise for the future of theater, dance and music. We have been live-streaming theater 2007 – and articles like yours make it all worth it!!!

    Thanks so much for your writing, your excitement and your care. You have inspired us!!!


    Kathryn Jones
    CEO, VirtualArtsTV

  2. Craig Haffner

    VisualArtsTV is demonstrating true leadership. Change is in the wind. The day is coming when LIVE on stage will also mean there is a stream of material available, for an “admission” fee for many productions. Perhaps the first big wave will be “bonus material” … How about a live feed from backstage at (insert theatre).
    Tomorrow is here. Thank you VisualArtsTV ! Thank you The Fleas Theater.

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