Live Video Theatre

A Response to Covid-19

Early 2020, the pandemic shut down theatre venues across the world. In an artform that has prioritize physical in-person gathering and contact, how does this industry survive? For me, theatre has been, and always will be, about creating community. How do artists and audiences come together to share an experience that are unique live moments in time? Whether it is gathering in a physical theater, gathering in a living room, gathering in the streets, or gathering digitally. If majority of content at the gathering is presented and consumed live as well as continuously, and there is a clear but fluid distinction between artists and audience, then it is theatre.

Live Video Theatre is unique, as I think other forms of digital presented performances exists, film, audio plays, broadcast television, etc. Some of these elements have the audience live, but not the performers; the audience and performer live, but it being performed in segments to be edited together; or it is being performed and consumed live but there is no video component.

Background

Oddly, I've unknowingly prepared myself for this kind of work for years. Back in 2009, I worked for a LORT theatre as the Communications Associate, running their social media campaigns. I grew their audiences on Facebook and Twitter from hundreds to thousands when the business platforms were relatively new. I was asked to teach social media techniques at several educational institutions.

YouTube Sketch Comedy: KeepOrJot
I personally started my own YouTube channel, and over three years built a network of creators, and a community of audience with more than 5k subscribers. I learned to build intimacy through a screen with these methods, making friends internationally through group conference calls. We "hung out" on a regular basis through the internet, and some of my closest friends are people who I know more intimately and have spent more time with through the internet than in-person.

I've utilize online video platforms such as blogTV, YouTube Live, Instagram Live, VYou, Dailybooth, Vine, Snapchats, Chatroulette, Tinychat, Skype, TikTok, and Google Hangout, etc. Some of these platforms have come and gone, some remain.

When I was working on my MFA in Directing at The New School; I took two courses in "Performance and Technology" partnering with Parson's Design and Tech school, creating multi-media theatre pieces.

Frankly, Live Video Theatre isn't entirely a new thing. Generations of untrained raw talent was developed online by younger generations. The theatre community has an opportunity to take the training and skills we have in live in-person theatre, and translate them to these platforms to create incredibly powerful experiences.

Directing

Evangeline Edwards, Cassandra Hunter, James Mercer, and HernĂ¡n Angulo
In Love and Warcraft by Madhuri Shekar
American Conservatory Theater - MFA Program
Since Covid-19, I've now had the honor of directing In Love and Warcraft by Madhuri Shekar. This fully produced production was at A.C.T.'s MFA program, with a full academic rehearsal process and production support. With the playwrights permission, I adapted the script for Live Video Theatre. The audience was limited to A.C.T.'s community, and the artists friends and family. The first private performance was on Wednesday, May 6, and had approximately 170 attendees. After the successful performance, the playwright and myself promoted the production heavily and grew the audience on Friday, May 7, to 270. The entire production was presented live by the actors and viewed live by the audience. One scene where the character enter the Warcraft Universe, recording video footage was played, but the actors did live voice over work.

Additionally, I directed a staged reading of Abominable by Katie May. With the playwright, we adapted elements of the script for Live Video Theatre. This reading was produced as part of Playground's 25th Anniversary Online Season. The actors performed script in hand and utilize virtual backgrounds. The performance was free for audiences.

Aldo Billingslea, Julia Brothers, Lyndsy Kail, and Lisa Morse in
Abominable by Katie May
Playground

Consulting/Classes

Currently, I am scheduled to teach "Live Video Theatre Techniques" to Perseverance Theatre, and Theatre Rhinoceros, with individual consulting sessions. Additionally, I will be teaching this course for A.C.T.'s MFA program.

Here is a sample of the curriculum: 

Day 1: Method Development
     Delineating the Artforms; Theatre, Film/Television/Live Video Theatre
     Live Video Theatre in Action
     Expanding Audience and Accessibility


Day 2: Foundational Techniques

      Actor Blocking, Camera Blocking, Zoom Blocking and Screen Blocking
      Creating Shared Space
      Building Depth

Day 3: Tips and Tricks in Production/Shared work
     Virtual Backgrounds
     Lighting Tips
     Work Presentation/Feedback

Please contact me directly for rates and schedule. peter.j.kuo(at)gmail(dot)com

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