My first experience with “site-specific” theatre was in 1995 with a little musical called J.P. Morgan Saves The Nation, written by a then-unknown composer/lyricist named Jonathan Larson (the NY Times called his score “peppy”). It took place on the steps of Federal Hall downtown.
But this blog isn’t about site-specific theatre.
While I do think we’re on the verge of seeing plays and musicals pop up in office buildings, bars, shopping malls, and everyplace else in the next few years (thanks to the high cost of actual theaters, not to mention the lack of availability), site-specific theatre is so 1995.
In the past week, a few blips have appeared on my trend-spotting sonar that make me think we’re on the verge of another kind of revolution. And this one, surprise surprise, has all to do with technology.
First, I can’t help but notice that Netflix has taken a more aggressive approach to capturing theatrical content as of late and not just the big branded Springsteen-like shows. They shot a movie version of American Son. They announced a movie version of that Cinderella story of a musical, The Prom. And now, the Off-Broadway one-woman show, Douglas, will be the latest addition to their growing theatrical portfolio.
Second, (spoiler alert!) but I spend a lot of time on my upcoming podcast with Tony Nominated art-trepreneur Paul Gordon (airs this coming Monday) talking about his StreamingMusicals platform, which is off to a strong start (and got him a licensing deal for a new musical that has never played NYC). I expect the next generation of theatre-makers is going to see this approach as a way to get their shows into the world at a fraction of the cost that typically comes with putting up an actual production. (And speaking of streaming, we just got a report on my own production of Daddy Long Legs from my friends at BroadwayHD, and it’s exceeding expectations in the number of views. Check it out here.)
Third, I caught a glimpse of an ad on a subway platform the other day for a new digital platform called STAGE, which states, “From classic performances to edgy icons and undiscovered gems, musical theatre and performance is the cornerstone of STAGE.” What’s interesting about this isn’t the network itself, but the ad . . . which ain’t cheap. That says to me that STAGE ain’t effin’ around. They see a big future in the platform and are betting on it.
And fourth (because you know, everything comes in threes, so when there are four things, you definitely have a fourk-ing trend), and perhaps most interesting of all . . . a new podcast musical was released this week, called Next Thing You Know by Joshua Salzman and Ryan Cunningham, starring Patti Murin, Colin Hanlon, Jay Armstrong Johnson and Lauren Blackman. This on the heels of the high profile John Cameron Mitchell podcast musical “Anthem: Homunculus,” starring Patti Lupone to name a few (because she counts as a few). Instead of readings and workshops, these creators have turned to tech to get attention for their new works. (I wonder if critics will start reviewing them?)
All of this makes me think . . . are streaming and podcast recordings the new “concept recording,” made famous by Andrew Lloyd Webber with Jesus Christ Superstar? We all know how that worked out. Answer? Yes, yes they are.
And all of this points to one thing: an uprising is underfoot.
The modern-day creators, who are part of the DIY generation, who grew up able to create and distribute their films and music without gatekeepers, are now finding ways to distribute theatre in the same way.
And we’re just at the beginning of it.
If you’re a theatre-maker, you should start to imagine other ways to get your shows the attention they deserve.
Because over the next ten years, the traditional walls of Broadway and Off-Broadway are going to come crumbling down as the next generation of creators continue to think outside of the . . .
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Do check out Daddy Long Legs on BroadwayHD, and then guess how much it cost me to shoot something that high of a quality. And then imagine how you can do it for your show . . .