I’ve been asked several times about whether I see this project as a theater piece or not. I don’t really have an answer to that. I definitely want it to be and was trying all my best to make it one, then again, a live stream performance is still different from a live theater, like however good an NT Live performance is, I’d still want to see it in person if I could.
What makes live theater different from film and television is that you could never get two exact same performances. There’s no way to achieve that. The show belongs to the moment it’s on and then would be gone forever. Not even recordings could stop it from becoming a shared memory only among the participants. And that’s why I’m fascinated by it.
I think live stream performances kind of achieve that in a way that the knowledge of the show happens in real-time give the viewers a similar sense of excitement as a witness of the “real” events. Then again, the physical presence in the same space is still missing in this experience. Probably VR could fill this absence in the near future? I don’t know. Especially in this pandemic time, physical presence feels so precious and essential to me.
In an hour prior to the live stream of this Julius Caesar Adaptation, actors and I were talking about how much it felt like a preparation time before a theater performance. The stakes didn’t feel lower because we’re not physically present with the audience. As an operator, I still had to make sure all the cues were run on the right timing. The audience still had to wait for us to start the show and there could still be delays in opening for whatever we encountered “backstage.”
All these similarities don’t necessarily make this performance a theater event but surely gave us a certain level of comfort.
As much as I want to call myself a theater director, I want to recognize the unique quality live stream performances possess that is different from live theater performances that I understand. Then again- what consist of a theater event? What is the basic thing a theater performance should have? In this time when physical isolation is inevitable and necessary, how would the definition of theater change accordingly? Would it evolve/adapt to some form that we haven’t think of? Would someone propose a theory on what post-2020 theater look like?
I have no answer to any of them. Well, maybe I have? I’m not so sure about many things. I’m still figuring my way to understand them.
With all being said, I’m glad I did this performance. I couldn’t thank my colleagues more for being with me in this. There would not be a show if not for their talented mind and brilliant acting no matter how hard I tried to take care of the tech part. Just speaking of their brilliant acting reminds me of another part I miss rehearsing a live theater piece- we meet for a project several times a week, interact in the same space as we breathing in the same air while looking at each other by our naked eyes rather than through cameras, screens, and our anti-blue light glasses.
I will and am willing to explore more on how we make theater on the virtual platforms but I couldn’t wait for all the virus alerts to go away and we could finally work in person.
April 30th, 2020