Is the way forward for the theater digital?
New technologies are increasingly used to improve live performances – but can they ever replicate reality? Dramatist Lolita Chakrabarti, Young Vic's artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah, and actor Adrian Lester discuss the role of the digital in a post-Covid world
While some areas of the creative industry were already familiar with the introduction and adaptation of new technologies before the corona virus, much of the theater world relies on the same revenue model that they have used in the past 500 years: bum on seats. In 2018 alone, 34 million people watched theater performances in the UK – roughly as many as those who attended Premier League and English Football League matches over the same period. Not surprisingly, the UK government's decision to introduce a nationwide ban has an unprecedented impact on the performing arts.
There has been a lot of discussion in recent months about the role of government subsidies, private philanthropy, and sponsorship fees to keep the theater alive. At the same time, people's appetite for live performances in the middle of the pandemic has not diminished anywhere. Tens of millions of people around the world listen to theater productions during the ban.
From a performance by Draw Me Close. Picture @ Ellie Kurttz
Could the pandemic also be an opportunity to invest in innovative new ideas and technologies that will revitalize the performing arts? This was the subject of a discussion at a panel discussion at the CogX 2020 tech festival, which brought together dramatist and actress Lolita Chakrabarti, Young Vic's artistic director, Kwame Kwei-Armah, and actor and director Adrian Lester OBE to discuss to discuss the digital future of theater.