ARCHIVE - EMBRACING THE BEAST (2-5-14)

Inside Out 2

We stand at the precipice of a new era. Ahead of us, a massive, mechanical beast. It seems unavoidable. We must meet it head on. We must be prepared to…converge. Most of us are already there, actively participating in this idea of technological convergence culture, “where old and new media collide” *(see Jenkins, Convergence Culture for more insight). Many of us use social media to connect with our audiences; Facebook, Twitter, and E-blasts are standards in our marketing plans. We blog about rehearsals and events in an effort to bring a global audience into our theatres, and in doing so, we move our theatres out of the brick and mortar of their everyday existence and into the hearts and minds of people around the world. Today, we have the possibility of knowing not only what’s going on in our microcosm of the theatre world, we can compare and contrast, be inspired and inspire, grow and change with theatres across the nation and across the world. Theatre is about connection. It’s about bringing people together. And while most of us find the peak connection in bringing together community members to see a show, create a performance, or learn in a camp, it is important to consider how the landscape of space is changing. The physical space has always been, and will always be, an important component to the theatre arts, yet the virtual landscape has so much to offer.

The new layout of Incite-Insight is a great example. It was difficult to see this magazine vanish for the past year or so, but it has re-emerged with such vengeance and forward-thinking, it’s easy to imagine that this hibernation has transformed it into a butterfly, ready to soar. We can interact in a scholarly way using multimodal content to engage a new virtual audience: audio, video, pictures, text. The possibilities are endless and exciting, and it reflects the changes we are seeing in our theatres, our classrooms, and our world.

So as we move forth, in this new age of convergence, I challenge each of you to try something new. Experiment with technology. Bring it into your classrooms and theatres to discover the intersections of performance and technology for yourself. Don’t be afraid of the beast. It’s time to create new conversations, find new ways to tell stories, and ask new questions. Where does technology help a story, and where does technology become spectacle? How can you tell one story across different platforms? How can this story be performative? And, just what does it mean to be performative in an age of technology?

Inside Out 1Theatre has been at the forefront of technological advancement for centuries; it is a growing and ever-changing art form that always has new doors to open. Yet, so many  of us are afraid to bring technology into the picture, afraid it will overshadow the work  we do, and those fears are not unjust. As we move further and further into a technologically-driven society, it is easy to see how quickly technology can become a dominant factor in our lives. Technology seems cold and impersonal, a necessary evil. It doesn’t seem to share the vivacity of the theatre. But we are artists! We create, and we  can create a warm, personal space for technology to exist in our theatre world that can help us achieve our goals and tell our stories, while at the same time create boundaries for that technology to live in. We can purposefully integrate. Because our world has shifted into a technological convergence culture, even a lack of technology in a theatre or performance makes a statement. So don’t be afraid to experiment at the intersection of theatre and convergence culture. Make a digital story. Connect with new people over social media. Start new discussions with people who are virtually close but physically far.

Make a “choose your own adventure” performance. Experiment with ways to involve your audience in your productions by using technology. Give your physical and virtual audience the agency and authority to affect your theatre. Consolidate the power of human action, connection, and emotion both in your physical theatre space and in your virtual space. It’s time to set aside our fear, and learn to tame the beast. It’s time to stop condemning, and start converging.

 

*Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press, 2006. Print.

**A note about the images: Images were taken by students in Orlando as they explored new ways to think about self using digital storytelling.

 


Amanda

Amanda Hill stands on the border between theatre and technology. She holds a BA and MFA in Theatre and is a Ph.D. student at the University of Central Florida. She has a chapter in the forthcoming book Technology in the Literature Class: Assignments and Materials. Upcoming conferences include Florida Theatre Conference, SWPACA, and NEMLA.

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