Start your engines! Broadway tickets went on sale May 6th, and all of us at Seenyer are over the moon! Reports say that 30 shows will be back before the end of 2021, with fifteen up and running in September. We can’t wait to see those lit-up marquees and will probably be on our feet, weeping with joy, when the curtain rises.
Thank goodness for the “the shows goes on….” attitude of Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional theater folks who got on board with digital platforms, shakily at first, and filled our living rooms with song and dance. It took some time, but everyone became an expert at camera angles, Zoom lights, sound levels and multiple images. Established theaters, from Lincoln Center to City Center in New York, dipped into their archives and we happily tripped down memory lane and paid for it to keep the industry going. The Court Theatre in Chicago pulled off the US premiere of Tom Stoppard’s new play, Leopoldstadt (which won the Obie in London for best new play in spring, 2020) online with a cast of 40 and it was brilliant. The National Theater in London brought memorable live performances into our homes, along with sharing their roster of thrilling past performances.
The pandemic has taken an art form (thank you, ancient Greeks, for comedy, tragedy and satire!) that was wedded to a shared space with fellow audience members that creates an unique human connection, into a new era of re-imagined productions. We cheered when Hamilton, American Utopia and What the Constitution Means to Me were streamed on 3 different mega-platforms.
Streaming services need programming and theatre producers need audiences – it’s a win-win for everyone. As Variety announced in a headline, “All Arts Organizations Are Media Companies Now.”
The future will find it a totally natural creative extension for theaters to have a digital platform offered along with in-person performances. The new viewing options will continue, because they are successful on many levels, even as we return to our theatre seats.
According to Arjun Mehta, CEO and co-founder of the music concert service, Moment House, “The way we look at it is that the pandemic is not the enabler, it’s absolutely an accelerant.” Staying home created the need for new ways to reach audiences, and it helped make for beautifully presented viewing experiences as digital media has met Broadway.
On-demand and streaming options are especially exciting for the ability of theaters and concert venues to allow for greater audience accessibility. Pricing can be lower digitally, global remote audiences can tune in, plus, those who physically can’t attend live theatre can be accommodated.
As reported by JCA Arts Marketing, 42% of the digital audiences in a survey had never attended an in-person performance at the company they watched online. This should translate into more theatre aficionados, plus a better bottom line for an industry that can use it! As reported by The Broadway League, NYC productions are made up of approximately 35% locals theater-goers, so there’s a huge audience out there that wants to enjoy a show.
Shata Thake, the Associate Artistic Director at the Public, told Variety, “When we come back, how will we not forget this digital community that has become so important to us?”
Theaters have also jumped on the audio platform as it is a powerful medium that Americans adore. According to recent statistics, 144 million of us have listen to podcasts. Playwrights Horizons podcast series, Soundstage, is a wonderful new offering that provides an anthology of short plays and musicals by theater writers. Podcasts bring us plays, but also the many voices behind theater, including playwrights, directors, and performers.
We celebrate the return of Broadway, and also cheer on the new digital platforms that will enrich both us and the industry.