Though we've had movie cameras for many years now, the theatrical world is a treat for the lucky few who happen to be in the right city at the right time. A handful of performances are staged, and then gone forever, save the hazy memories of theater-goers and a smattering of reviews. Sure, some find their way into a camera, like Kevin Kline's Hamlet or Helen Mirren in A Midsummer Night's Dream. But for every production that gets recorded, many do not. You can place Richard Burton's cinematic version of Equus onto your Netflix queue, but Daniel Radcliffe's stage stint remains an experience for lucky theatergoers in 2007 and 2008.
But that might be changing.
Over the weekend, productions staged at the Traverse theater -- as part of the Edinburgh Film Festival -- were beamed across the UK and Ireland. The Guardian points out that this practice is not exactly new, as the Met Opera in New York has gotten into satellite love (as has London's National Theater), and this year news hit that London's Donmar will simulcast King Lear. However, this trend certainly looks to be on the rise, and it's going beyond a simple, stagnant one-camera recordings.
Rehearsals are being recorded from every angle, in what "feels rather like the Big Brother house." Don Boyd, of recording company Hibrow, says that broadband is getting to the point where audiences can -- to put it simply -- choose their own theatrical adventure, picking camera angles, backstage goings-on, and more. In other words, not only can theater find life on the big screen for audiences worldwide, it can also attempt to recreate the theatrical experience at home -- where you decide where you want to focus your attention.
There are, certainly, problems with the idea. Money naturally tops the list, as this technology raises questions about compensation and advertising. Thinking about the writers' strike a few years ago as the fight raged over internet reimbursement, one can only imagine the potential headaches of trying to sort out not only theatrical pay, but broadcast pay. Moreover, theaters are already struggling to get bodies into seats, and most theater would probably fare better at home, where viewers can pick their angle and watch at their whim and leisure
That being said, imagine the possibilities. One would no longer have to be in the big cities to see leading actors and celebrities take the stage. Though satellite theater would remove the once-in-a-lifetime immediacy of the affair, it would also open up the art to a bigger and more widespread audience. It could also remove our rather ethnocentric views on acting success, as the masses could continue to follow the work of actors who leave film for the stage.
I see a lot less theater then I used to, but even from my own limited memories, I'm sure there are audiences across the country who would've been interested to see Marisa Tomei and Quentin Tarantino in Wait Until Dark, or Kathleen Turner, Jason Biggs, and Alicia Silverstone in The Graduate.
What do you think? Would you like to see theater become cinema's big-screen sibling? Would satellite broadcasts ruin the unique nature of the theater? Would you head to the theater to see, well, theater? Weigh in below.