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.