Technology transforming stagecraft: digital theatre here to stay

Producer & director Jo Emery reflects on continuing to make digital theatre with new production “Boiling Frog“.

During 2020/2021, our theatrical lives were turned upside down by the harsh impositions of Covid 19 lockdowns, spurring a rapid and desperate transition to digital theatre in an attempt to grasp at any outlet possible to express our creativity.

The stratospheric forward thrust which put online activity front and centre has continued unabated, even as live theatre has now (almost) fully returned to pre pandemic times. The use of technology has transformed stagecraft and revealed new audiences and business opportunities. Most say a screen cannot replace a live performance, but many also predict digital theatre has gained it’s own steady foothold, and a generation that
has grown up with computers and smartphones might even prefer it.

Many esteemed theatre companies are now routinely combining digital skills with traditional art. The pandemic cracked open the future of theatre, one in which we all thought – why haven’t we been doing this at scale before now?

When faced with the continuing uncertainty of mid 2021 as to whether we had really finally seen the back of Covid and it’s stranglehold on live performance, I decided to create a digital production of a play that I’d written during lockdown, “Boiling Frog”. There were many reasons for this. I didn’t feel completely sure that we were fully out of the Covid woods, and was fearful that with winter 2021 coming, there was a strong possibility of cancellations, refunds, disappointed customers.

So going digital was the only option for me at that point. I cast the play using a well know casting platform, and rehearsed on zoom calls, editing the script in tandem, and asked the actors to film their speeches on their mobile phones then send me the footage. Once I had all the data I asked my film maker colleague Ian Hylands to edit the clips into a film to
create a film/ play hybrid.

I’m honoured to be able to share “Boiling Frog” with audiences on the Scenesaver platform, to a global audience. Audiences are still willing to pay for digital content and prepared to watch online even though theatres are now reopened. Although there is still a place and a need for in-person theatre, which digital theatre won’t replace, it will continue to evolve alongside it. It’s a clear sign that digital culture has proudly taken it’s rightful place alongside live theatre and is here to stay.

Boiling Frog

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