What a difference a year makes. In a matter of months, the theatre industry went from a sudden shutdown of all live events to an almost immediate pivot to digital theatre for those companies that could make that shift. Now that many theatres are producing live shows again, they are still offering digital versions of their live programming, and we at On The Stage believe that this hybrid model is the future of theatre. Live streaming your in-person performance is the best of both worlds. Because we’re committed to your theatre’s success, we’ve compiled these pro tips for producing a perfect hybrid show. Let’s dive in.
(If you’re still not convinced of the benefits of hybrid theatre or if you should consider streaming, read this first and also this.)
Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More
- First things first: expect a steep learning curve and allow for more time than you think you need to plan and execute your company’s first hybrid theatre experience.
- A lot of work goes into planning your theatre season, and adding a streaming element may require additional consideration when it comes to your plays. Many theatres are currently producing shows with smaller casts than before the pandemic, and there are both financial and health reasons for this. Artistically it’s also easier to mount a smaller show, and we’ve got eight play suggestions for you.
- Consider hiring a professional digital production team or at least a consultant.
- Research and select the best technology and streaming platform for your theatre. Some theatres have live-streamed using a smartphone and a tripod. Avoid unnecessary digital crashes by selecting a platform with enough bandwidth for your virtual audience. Also, keep in mind the online security of your company and audience members when making these selections.
- Make sure you have secured all necessary contracts and rights for both live and digital productions for your script, any unions you’re working with such as Equity, and other elements such as music.
- Read this to learn about more specific ways to improve your virtual production.
- Market your theatre’s offerings so your audience knows their options. Do a targeting marketing campaign to build a digital audience ahead of the live stream.
- Rehearse as many days as your streaming team needs and keep extra rehearsal days in the calendar “just in case.”
- Have your lighting designer attend early streaming rehearsals so they can adjust the lighting as necessary so it works for both the stage and the camera.
- Make sure the cameras for your live stream are not blocking sightlines from certain seats, and if they are, consider reducing the price point or removing those seats from purchase entirely.
- Use one of the final rehearsals as a taped run that you can save as an on-demand archive or to run as a backup if your live feed goes down.
- Plan how you’re going to open and close the live stream so everything looks intentional and programmed. This might mean adding a pre-taped intro and closing.
- Make an iron-clad emergency plan if there are major technical issues during the stream, including a communications plan for your virtual audience
- When issues arise, course-correct as you’re able and also take notes during the entire production process for “what to remember for next time” to discuss during your post-mortem.
- The night before: check and recheck that all your equipment is working, the wires and cables are set (with extras on hand), and any battery packs are charging properly.
Day of Show
- Do an equipment check first thing and make sure all your technology is charged and in working order. This includes your internet.
- Put up signs in the theatre alerting in-person patrons that today is a live stream day.
- In the pre-show speech, mention the streaming audience and have your live audience wave and cheer to acknowledge your digital guests so they feel like they’re part of your event because they are!
- Be ready for anything (you did all the pre-planning above, right?)
- Have fun! This is still new and experimental in the theatre industry. You’re on the cutting edge and also part of the future.
Are you ready to bring hybrid theatre to your company? On The Stage has just the thing. Our streaming tools are cost-effective and easy to use for both theatre administrators and audiences. Book a free demo to find out more.
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