Without a doubt theatre has gone through a lot. For centuries it was the main form of entertainment. From ancient Greece to London England, theatre has inspired, terrified, educated and broadened the craft of acting and storytelling. Ultimately technology was developed, and the birth of motion picture came to be. Technology has drastically changed our way of life, culture, and how we consume entertainment. What does this mean for theatre? Well, it means that it is going to change whether we like it or not. Thinking back on shows I have seen throughout my time at university, and out of university, there have been implementations of new technologies. It is important to realize, that although the technical aspects are not the the main feature. It has slowly become more integrated component of a show. Theatre is adapting for the climate of entertainment presently. I think this means theatre will look different and maybe draw in a newer crowd/demographic. After all the artists of the future have already grown up with more technology than the artists that are currently active. Perhaps the integration of technology in theatre will lift it hit to new heights. However, it could also lead to theatre costing more to produce and perform. So far only major shows or things like Broadway have the funds to afford newer technology for their shows. Meanwhile small theatre companies produce amazing work, but not as many people will see it because it does not have the money to afford technology like a high grossing show does. Although, due to everyone being locked inside from COVID-19, it could very well be the opposite. Maybe people will get bored of shows with technological splendor or perhaps appreciate seeing a live show because we have been limited/deprived of physical entertainment like theatre and concerts for quite some time.
Seeing people fill up venues and seeing festivals looking for artists, brings a hopefulness that theatre will indeed come back and the demand to see a live show, will outweigh the expectation of a show being a full-blown spectacle like phantom of the opera. Some great things about technology in theatre is that it has brought sound, lighting, and projection. But how far should we go with this? Tech is great, but you don’t need much to make a meaningful or entertaining piece of theatre. In my experience there is something exciting about working or watching a play produced with a lower budget because it forces the production team to think outside of the box. Certain items, costumes, set pieces, and moments become highly theatrical and cleverly presented. It is the challenge of a low budget that has potential to elevates the piece itself. I think we, as society, have become accustomed to technological entertainment and therefore, we see it as a must for things like theatre. For example, technology allows instant access to anything you want. It gives gratification. A fix of media to stimulate ourselves. In 2019 Pornhub alone had an average of 39 billion searches and had 42 billion people accessed the site. As a form of entertainment…That is a hell of a lot of searches and time spent on one site in general. This beats the number of searches and views on YouTube immensely. So, what does this mean? I think this tells us that technology has changed our identities, but to what extent should we want it/ let it change us as an audience? Does it matter, does it not? With entertainment being so easily accessed via streaming services and YouTube, it makes sense on why theatre is not as popular as it once was.
When playwright Christopher Durang arrived in New York City in 1975, he paid $10 for a standing-room or obstructed-view tickets. A few years later, it cost only about $30 from 1981 to 1984. By 2008, the average ticket on Broadway was $86, and premium orchestra seats can now fetch $400 to $600. “These seats must be for people in the financial industry,” Durang marvels. “I don’t feel there is any play I personally want to pay $400 to see.” With live performance becoming more niche, while still trying to make a profit the prices for certain shows goes up. This in turn leads to people not wanting to go see theatre because of the pricing. If we add more technologies into a theatre show, naturally the price for the show itself would go up. So where does this leave theatre? In my opinion I think it will be fine. It may sound like I am admitting defeat when I say this, but I think theatre has already accepted it will never be at the forefront of entertainment as it once was. Theatre, for quite some time now has been struggling, but it is because of that struggle I think theatre has become stronger in terms of the community of artists and theater goers that inhabit it. It also has made theatre companies get more creative and involved with their communities. Many offer classes and summer programs or camps for children who are passionate about performative arts. The bottom line is there is an energy from going to a theatre show that can never be replaced. Even going to a movie theatre can greatly improve the viewing of a movie. Although the movie itself is recorded, the crowd witnessing the story unfold together helps create an almost mystical feeling.
If that is what it can feel like to attend a movie at the theatre, attending a play can feel if not as good, even better. As an artistic medium the driving force that keeps theatre going is the battle to tell stories in a personal manner. Theatre is a fleeting creature and once the show is done, you could go to the same show the following night, but the moments from the first night can never be replicated again. That is where theatre thrives, that is where magical moments come to life, that is where conversations start, and that is where memorable moments cling to our minds for years to come.