You can’t come to my reading? I’ll bring my reading to you.

I got in a great convo with a theater lover/great business guy the other day about the pros and cons of taping theatrical performances.

We spent most of our time talking about delivering finished Broadway productions to cinemas around the country like The Met and The National Theatre’s programs.

But then we got into other applications.

One of the questions that I get the most from Producers/Writers/Actors is . . . how can I get a Producer to come to my reading?

Well, what if . . . what if . . . we streamed readings online?

One of the biggest reasons I don’t go to readings is that they take too much time out of the workday, especially when you factor in getting to/from.

But if the readings were streamed, I could get a taste of the material, without leaving my desk.

Usually I’m not an advocate of trying to use a 2D taped version of a show to sell a 3D live version of a show.  But, since the elements of a reading usually don’t sell a show well anyway (fluroescent lights, rehearsal rooms, music stands, etc.), we might not lose that much in the presentation.  And since we might get so many more “attendees”, we might end up with a net positive.  Lose a little, gain a lot.

A streamed reading could also be a great way to generate investor interest from around the country, rather than just relying on the investors who are within a 45 mile radius of Manhattan.

Those are the pluses . . .

The downside?  More Producers could stay home.  Watching a reading by yourself is not like being in an audience surrounded by other people laughing, applauding, etc.

Honestly, I’m not sure about this approach. And we’d have to get some union assistance in allowing it.

But you know me, I’m all about giving it a shot.

Because unless we continue to try new ways to market our material at all stages of its development, our market will will eventually shrivel up to nothing.

What do you think?  Would you like to see a reading online?

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Comments
  • Kevin says:

    Theatre rarely translates well onto video. The potential I think is greater to make event he best material look and sound flat and uninteresting. I think what you would gain in getting more people to “attend” you would lose in quality.

  • Kevin says:

    that should read “even the best…”

  • Catherine says:

    I vote yes! I mean, a lot of times isn’t it just a coincidence that a producer happened to go to your fantastic reading for your fantastic show? This would take the luck out of it, if your show is good-anyone could see it. Then after a producer saw it on the web and liked what he saw, maybe he would be more willing to travel to see another one live!

  • Kevin Clark says:

    I’m working with similar ideas and issues well below the level of unions and investors, and for me it’s simply a no-brainer. Workshopping a show from the ground up on a shoestring could be all about putting on a ton of readings, over and over (ver expensive), or it could be about a couple readings when the show really needs it, and in between having an active blog with video clips from the most recent reading, etc. etc. to keep everyone involved. Comparably, much less expensive, and a great way to keep getting audience feedback all the time. Good for marketing, good for writing.

  • Kevin Clark says:

    Yeah, great documentation of live theater on video is hard. You need good recording and you need good filmmaking and even then you’ll never quite get it. But if you make something that’s good on its own, then people will be more interested in seeing the full live thing, in having the experience.

  • Noah says:

    I think its a fantastic idea. Would love to see it developed further.

  • Michael says:

    I vote yes, but in my experience (just wanting to tape a reading) it was not the union, but the actors themselves who objected to the idea of a permanent record of an under-rehearsed performance being out there for everyone to see forever.

  • Judith says:

    I think it will work as long as you have a live audience at the reading while it is being streamed. Although those watching would be watching alone, there would be audience reactions that those watching alone would hear also. This idea could work! I vote yes.

  • Marshall says:

    We’ve taken this concept even further, Ken. Why not let investors check in on rehearsals once the show is financed? A simple video feed lets them follow the progress of the show.

  • Eric says:

    I love the idea! I could watch your readings from my home in LA!
    Perhaps you can offer some incentive to producers who show up in person?

  • janis says:

    I agree, theater never translates well on video, and readings don’t translate well either, but a good producer should be able to see around that to envision a realy great show.
    The real question is would producers watch? Would they give an unsophisticated reading a chance? Would you?

  • Kile Ozier says:

    I enthusiastically and enthusiastically embrace technology. That being said, if a producer thinks that watching a reading via streaming video is an effective way of assessing that performance, then that producer should be producing television rather than theatre. So much is lost, not the least of which is the pheromonal, visceral response of the audience to the energy emanating from the (minimally-) staged material. Sound quality is poor and echo-y, facial expressions lost, audience energy fully absent. (Of course, one could add a laugh-track…)
    A photograph of the Grand Canyon is impressive. Actually traveling to the Grand Canyon and standing on the precipice, fully appreciating the magnitude and grandeur of the realtime, live experience simply does not compare.
    Just sayin’…

  • Kile Ozier says:

    LOL…ooops. I mean heartily and enthusiastically…

  • Mary says:

    I think it’s a great developmental tool. The part I like is you can collaborate from anywhere. I think it’s just great that someone in say Dublin, Ireland could look at the show in NYC and have the opportunity to invest. One thing you see a lot is people become stars in other cultures, like musicians in Japan. How do you know your show is not something that really captures attention in Iceland. That culture would go crazy for it. Let’s get a more global business attitude in theater. Yes, Live performance is the real advantage but for the development part having a more global outreach video streaming would be a super advantage. You could interest people without geographic proximity limiting you.

  • jarlath J says:

    I love the idea. Better to see it on video then not at all. Easier to get people to click on a video then read a script.
    I sent out a Christmas video w/ one of my songs on mailchimp and 66% of the e-mail list subscribed to mailchimp to
    hear more about Salute A Tutti. I just used Christmas-y stock footage from Fotolia.com with a song called:
    If Everyone Believed in Miracles (that has a bridge w/ the word Christmas) It was a small budget thing but it works, I think.
    That said, in presenting work this way people need to get more sophisticated about the videos, the talent, the visuals, the type. Become a mini moviemaker.
    I go to youtube often when I’m casting for singers for readings, showcases. Even top Broadway stars show up in videos that look and
    sound shoddy. Even my Salute A Tutti video from a recent showcase is crappy looking and the sound sucks because I didn’t think of it as a “film”.
    I would/will do it so much better next time.
    Also- you listen to mp3’s all the time, right? Video is really one cut above. I think it’s an opportunity for producers/investors to look
    to scrutinize the real work – the writing. Depending on how well it is done.
    I agree that theater energy can’t be transferred via video, but from someone who used to do videos with access to top notch visuals for Conde Nast magazine,
    a picture still is worth a thousand words. So what i’m saying is, if you really want to get people to watch your stuff, don’t just show some rehearsal
    space w/ flurorescent lights, go a step farther and find footage plus singers to tell your story.
    I haven’t thought enough about it to know how to do it, but I know it’s do-able.
    Best,
    Jarlath

  • Jeremy says:

    I’ve been hired to videotape readings a few times in cases where they had permission to do so. Obviously, it’s not the same as being there, but it can be useful. It all depends on what the goal is, the budget, and the limitations of the venue in terms of sound quality and sight lines.

  • Hi Ken, I already streamed the first professional webcast of a staged reading this past winter at The Times Center in February. I have lot’s to offer you in the way of feedback on your question, having done it, if you’re interested in the outcome.

  • Laura Manske says:

    Hi Ken…
    In your previous “5 Takeaways from London” blog post, you said that…
    “Videos of readings, workshops, etc. are not a good way to get investors. They are a good way to lose investors.”
    Just want to clarify your message. Thought you meant that the investor being present in the theater is a must, as so much is lost via computer screen.
    So while uStreaming a show (what this blog post entertains) is of-the-moment live and a video is not, aren’t they the same thing, in essence, as far as the investor is concerned — being removed from being a real part of the theater audience? And the wonderful vibe, reactions, community inherent in the audience experience for the investor to feel?

  • Katherine says:

    My feeling? Only as a last resort.

  • We started streaming our Improv Shows live and get a dozen or so watching each time. Each show we get another 2-3 follow us via twitter etc. Most importantly our friends, family and fans from around the world get to keep in touch and stay in the conversation.

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Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

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