Live theatre has entertained the public for centuries. From the outdoor stages of Ancient Greece to the bright lights of Broadway, drama has endured. However, packing a small theater during a pandemic could prove fatal. COVID-19 forced theatre companies across the country to cancel their 2020 seasons. Broadway houses are shut down indefinitely. As an actor, I have to wonder: does live theatre have a place in a post-COVID society?
“Yes,” says Dane Eissler, a Philadelphia-based director and producer. “While live is too risky right now – even with all the restrictions scientists are giving performers – there are highly innovative ways to recreate the audience experience. I think that creativity will be vital in the coming months, and may even define a new era of theater experiences.”
One such innovative method is the staging of theatrical productions on Zoom, a popular video-conferencing app. Zoom Theatre is an entirely web-based theatre company. Their virtual live production of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth will run August 20 – 30. Audience members can register to receive a Zoom link that will go live at the time of the performance.
In addition to actors and directors, art educators are also facing new challenges. According to Sara Rabatin, a theatre educator and performer, “I’m teaching and creating virtually. While not ideal, it has helped me stay creative and stay excited about the art sector.”
She is not alone. All types of performing arts classes have gone virtual. Many dance companies now livestream their full class schedule at a reduced rate, such as the Koresh Dance Company in Philadelphia and the Broadway Dance Center in New York. These experiences are allowing theatre professionals to stay creative and connected.
Theatre is storytelling. As long as there are people, there will be stories, and as long as people have stories to tell, there will be theatre. Pandemic or not, creative individuals will seek to express themselves. Future theatre may look a little different, but it will still be theatre. After all, drama is nothing if not human.