Report: Beyond the Curtain – How Digital Media is Reshaping Theatre

Beyond the Curtain

Beyond The Curtain – How Digital Media is Reshaping Theatre [PDF] is a report that came out at the beginning of 2012, although I’ve only just come across it. It was released by Ballinran Enter­tain­ment, with Dig­i­tal Wiz­ards, the Cana­dian Actors Equity Asso­ci­a­tion and Strat­ford Shakespeare Fes­ti­val involved as partners, and it:

outlines a vision for Canada’s performing arts community to embrace digital media and technology both on-stage and beyond the stage

Reading through, it feels like it’s been written from the point of view of a sector that’s aware of the opportunities, struggling to take advantage of them and concerned that it’s being left behind. This from the report’s introduction:

We may not have a choice. Beyond canada’s borders theatre companies are taking advantage of opportunities provided by the digital age. Canadians can now watch the National Theatre Live, Live from the Met and Live from Lincoln Centre at their local cinema, but apart from occasional exceptions, cannot enjoy the best of what canadian performing arts has to offer.

For all that, the report’s not unnecessarily starry-eyed and there’s no shirking the extent of the challenge. Maybe the input from such a wide range of people – directors, playwrights, designers, unions, academics and others – helped with that.

These were the recommendations that were made:

  1. theatre producers and unions should accelerate the pace of discussions and negotiations to ensure that barriers to rapid adoption of content re-purposing and digital media applications are removed.
  2. the theatre industry requires a forum for the exchange of ideas, skills and resources in the area of digital media technology.
  3. tax credits and production funding should be made available to content creators who repurpose theatrical content for the big and small screen even if a broadcaster is not involved.
  4. unions, associations, guilds and theatre groups should jointly develop integrated and collaborative workshops and master classes in the area of digital media technology.
  5. innovation funding should be made available to theatre companies who wish to explore and experiment with digital media and technology as it relates directly to theatre.
  6. a collaborative pilot project should be undertaken for the capture and distribution of live performance for domestic, educational and international distribution.
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2 comments

  1. Ted   •  

    Hey Chris, thanks for your feedback on this project. As lead researcher & contributing writer/ editor I appreciate any efforts to create discussion on this issue.
    Ted Boniface

  2. Chris Unitt   •     Author

    Hi Ted. It’s a pleasure. It was good to read through the report and contrast the Canadian and UK perspectives. The fact that the recommendations highlighted the need for discussion with unions was interesting too – often, when people are talking about the boundless opportunity of digital media there’s little thought given the awkward practicalities of dealing with rights holders. However, I know it’s an issue that’s tripped up or held back a number of digital projects.

    Recommendations 2 & 4 are interesting too – Arts Council England (along with the BBC) have made some efforts to do this through their Building Digital Capacity project but, from what I can tell, the outcomes have been pretty weak. It would be good to see some alternative approaches to this.

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