Thursday, July 24, 2014

Theatre isn't just in the Theater

Contributed by Gyda Arber

Been really enjoying the posts this week! Thank you, Sean, for having me, and for James and Shaun for getting our discussion off to such a great start. To follow up on both points, a bit, I'd like to discuss video/technology in shows, and also, unfortunately, the Showcase implications as such. I totally appreciate Shaun's suggestions for improving the showcase code—I think both would really help. But the biggest stumbling block in my experience has been with video.

As anyone who's talked to me at length knows, I once assistant directed Michael Gardner's production of The Ninja Cherry Orchard. Amazing show, had about 2 dozen actors, anchored by brilliant performances from Aaron Baker and Kelly Rae O'Donnell and fight choreography by Qui Nguyen and Alexis Black. It was a lot of fun. So: Crazy! CBS Sunday Morning wanted to film an itty bitty bit of it for their show! Amazing, right? So we IMMEDIATELY called Equity. We were told oh, they'd leave a message for the Film/TV person. Okay, next day, no answer. CBS is getting super antsy. We call back, still nothing. Call back the NEXT day. We're told by CBS we only have hours to confirm or they're pulling the story. We've reached out to the cast, which is 100% in agreement that they want to be filmed. We finally get someone on the phone. "It's not in the contract" we're told. We explain that yes, we know, that's why we've been calling (and calling and calling) to see if we can work something out, the cast is for it, etc... "But it's not in the contract." This line got repeated and repeated to us. There was no budging.

I've been pretty fortunate with press. I've had shows filmed by NY1 and twice by the BBC. In all 3 cases, the TV coverage really helped ticket sales, and it's also completely awesome to be able to point someone interested in your work to one of those professionally produced videos (my technological mash-ups are particularly hard to explain, it's easier to just watch the video). But mostly I've been lucky that Equity actors weren't involved in those shows (not by choice, just coincidence). Sadly, it's made me more and more reluctant to cast Equity folks. What if the show DOES take off? What if we DO get asked to do additional performances at Lincoln Center (which happened with FutureMate)? The current showcase system, sadly, does not account for ANY kind of success. I thought the point was for the showcases to get picked up and produced with real budgets and then pay the actors some actual money and everybody wins? Without allowing for real press, that goal is even more difficult.

And don't get me started on grants. More and more they're requiring filmed segments—which means you either have to film in blatant disregard of the showcase code, or not have video, which makes your application MUCH less appealing to the committees, if you can even apply at all.

Social media is another factor. We filmed a short piece for Theater of the Arcade and it got picked up by Laughing Squid. Over 9000 views, which isn't a ton by internet standards, but for an indie theater production? We were pretty psyched!

James is right—theater IS changing. It'd be great if there was some way to get the showcase code on board with those changes, with the reality of social media and sharing videos and press and, y'know, just modern times. Here's hoping!

Gyda Arber is a writer/director best known for the transmedia theatrical experiences Suspicious Package (The Brick, 59E59, Edinburgh Fringe, Future Tenant Pittsburgh), Suspicious Package: Rx (published in Plays and Playwrights 2010), the award winning post-apocalyptic dating show FutureMate (Lincoln Center, The Brick) and the ARG-inspired Red Cloud Rising (called “brilliant” by the NY Times). Named “Person of the Year” by, Arber is the director/creator of the interactive play Q&A: The Perception of Dawn, the writer/director of the short film Watching (Bride of Sinister Six), and the director of The Brick's sold-out hit Theater of the Arcade: Five Classic Video Games Adapted for the Stage. Also an actress, Arber has appeared at Lincoln Center, The Public, 59E59, and most frequently at The Brick, where she also serves as the executive producer of the Game Play festival, a celebration of video game performance art. She is a 4th-generation San Franciscan, has a degree in musical theater from NYU and is a graduate of the Maggie Flanigan Studio.

Sean Williams is curating the blog this week in honor of Indie Theatre Week.

1 comment:

  1. Great piece, Gyda. And in addition to the AEA issues with filming a showcase there are SAG issues if you want to make a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo video. I called SAG-AFTRA regarding a fundraising video we wanted to make for APPEAL - and they basically told me that in their eyes I was making a commercial and any SAG-AFTRA members would have to be payed a day rate as such. If I had that kind of money I wouldn't be doing a fundraising video! (It also meant I had to stay out of my own video!)