Downloadable plays…is this really what’s next?

Whilst recently browsing The Facebook, I happened upon a link The Rep posted about a UK article on Digital Theatre. That’s right. Digital Theatre; where plays come alive via the internet in a downloadable fashion.

I believe my initial reaction went a little something like this: furrowed brow, amused smirk, questioning head tilt to the left. I know…I’m sure you’ll have the same reaction. Right away the theater-goer in me thought, “Oh, fun! I can see things I normally wouldn’t see now!” Shortly thereafter however, the External Relator – for lack of a better word –  in me immediately thought, “Oh, that’ll wreak havoc on ticket sales.”

Or would it? According to the UK Times article plays would not be available to download until after they’ve closed. Would that make a difference? Instead of paying £45 or more to actually see a play live during its run, one could easily wait until it closes and then download it for £8.99. And unfortunately, that’s what I predict might happen. At least for patrons who have decent access to these plays they might be more inclined to put off seeing something in an effort to save money.  But isn’t that one of the great many things about theater, seeing it LIVE? Why reduce a live performance to moving images on a screen? We already have plenty of that.

On the flip side of the discussion, the concept of Digital Theatre is great for those who do not live in an area where particular plays, types of theater, etc. are accessible. For example, I could simply download a production from the Royal Court in London instead of spending thousands of dollars to actually go there. Granted, a trip to London would be fab, jolly good and the like, BUT seeing as I lack the financial resources to physically go to London, downloading a play I’d have seen if I were there might be fun (in addition to being financially feasible).

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the UK and if Digital Theatre will ever make its way to the US. Plenty of theaters in the states are heavily utilizing social media these days so I wouldn’t be surprised if they attempt Digital Theatre eventually, but I bet it’ll be a while before that happens. I can see how it could be both good and bad for business, but it also could potentially create a new audience. Despite the removal of a physical audience…

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