Erynn Brook and Kyle McDonald: [Full interview transcript]

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Erynn Brook and Kyle McDonald are actors and the team behind LiveStage, a web company that aids storytellers in streaming their work live across the web. Read Erynn and Kyle’s full bio here…

Click here to watch Erynn and Kyle’s interview, “All the World’s a (Virtual) Stage.”

Kyle: The idea behind “Hamlet: Live,” as we called it, was one, rescuing the theatre community from oblivion, from low viewership and high ticket prices, which is always a problem. And secondly, to basically merge old and new. So we take something classic like Shakespeare and we put it in the context of the future, like a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and then do something high-tech like stream it online. So that way, we like to combine tradition with innovation.

Erynn: We’re both actors, and we were lamenting the fact we hadn’t done Shakespeare in awhile, and in bouncing back and forth different ideas, Hamlet came up. And then we just decided, “Okay, let’s just do Hamlet.” But of course we were faced with the fact that you’re limited by the number of seats you have in the house and the amount that you charge per seat. But everyone’s on the Internet. Everyone’s on Facebook, everyone’s on Twitter, everyone’s on YouTube. So the market, all the viewers are online. So how do we bring it to them, instead of getting them to come to us.

Kyle: The Internet is basically a sea of niche markets, and if you market properly you can find a niche and sort of exploit that, and bring content to people who are looking for it. This seems to be the inevitable future of live performance in any guise, be it opera or ballet or music or even installations.

Erynn: People who come to see theatre in person are people who come see theatre in person. People who watch it online are a totally different set of people. They get the chat rooms and the Twitter feed, and they get to talk to each other during the show and get that interactive experience, whereas the people in the theatre get the live performance and the immediacy with the actors.

Something gained, something lost?

Erynn: I think they are still two very different art forms, just because you’re communicating that art form in a different manner to a different audience, doesn’t mean the original audience is going to leave. I mean, concerts still sell out, people still go see them, and artists still tour and people still go to the movie theatre even though you can download stuff on the Internet. Everyone else has accommodated the fact that the world is going digital, and the theatre community is going to have to as well.

Kyle: In order to compete for those eyeballs, I suppose the assumption is that you have to make it brighter, faster, shinier, louder. And that does appear to be true in some respects, especially in terms of overnight Internet successes. However, quality, I believe will generally rise, but then you do have the fact that half of television is reality TV, and while those producers make a lot of money and do tell stories, per se, they’re not really long-form, they’re not really profound, they’re basically noisemakers, whizbangers, as grandparents used to say once upon a time. However, I think that will change. Because like any other artistic movement, people will become tired of that, will want something new.

Updating theatre in the age of social media?

Erynn: You can’t just put something out there and just the the audience enjoy it; you have to listen to their feedback. You have to take their comments, their questions, their concerns, and you have to develop a relationship with them. The same as almost any other business, the arts has to do that as well.

Summary

  • Erynn and Kyle created “Hamlet: Live” which combines technology and tradition to stream the classic Shakespeare play online 
  • View the Internet as a “sea of niche markets” where the theatre goes to the audience instead of the other way around
  • It’s a two-way medium and putting the theatre online is another way of evolving in response to the demands of an audience

Follow Erynn on Twitter @ErynnBrook and follow Kyle @mrkmcdonald.

 

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