Dallas Elvery considers theatre in the age of COVID.
Live theatre performances usually involve a significant time commitment and moving out of the domestic space. Scrabbling through the wardrobe to find a some halfway decent clothes. Then there is the bus, an approximately forty-minute trip to the city. Since a considerable time away from the house is involved, we probably catch a meal near the theatre. Then there is the waiting in the theatre foyer for a while, then filing into the theatre and waiting to everyone to be seated.
Theatre performances feature light effects and enveloping music to enhance the dramatic experience. The performance may use elaborate sets and have actors wearing different clothing in different scenes to heighten the overall performance.
The evening may then drift on to after-performance drinks and talk, sometimes with friends we have attended with.
Contrast this with a play reading delivered by Zoom webinar.
Preparation for the event involves moving to the appropriate room in the house, seating oneself comfortably in front of the computer, then finding the magic link buried in the emails, and clicking on it. Dress code dictates cosy pyjamas and dressing gown, slippers optional.
Invariably, each of the performers will be in their own loungeroom or office, each with different sound levels and sound quality. The experience is sparse, pared down to a few essentials, consisting of the script, the raw energy of the creative work, and the emotions that each actor employs as they bring their character to life.
The audience is compelled to engage through their own imagination, without props, or set, or music or lights. These things can serve to enhance, but also may distract or manipulate responses.
The American architect, Frank Lloyd-Wright, once wrote that his architectural creative work is underpinned by an important maxim: “Simplicity is not the side of a barn, simplicity is the absence of all that is unnecessary”.
In an online drama performance, the absence of all that is unnecessary is an invitation to richly engage the imagination. The result is an intimate collaboration with the dramatic core of the dramatic work.
Disclaimer: views represented in SOFiA blog posts are entirely the view of the respective authors and in no way represent an official SOFiA position.
Theatre photo by Gwen O on Unsplash
Laptop/room photo by Aleks Marinkovic on Unsplash