How to do online theatre

As a play that I’ve been working on goes live tonight, here is a list of tips and tricks for putting on a play online*.

  1. Make sure there is a global pandemic for maximum disruption – nothing creates good theatre, as a total change in the status quo.
  2. Live in a country that favours its consumer and religious base – this way you will at least have something to fight against.
  3. Pick a script that was written for a live stage performance – as they say, if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.
  4. Observe those running the country – they will be your best inspiration (applies both for tragedy and comedy).
  5. Select your online audience carefully – those with dogs, babies and loud streets are ideal.
  6. Make sure the actors have as little room as possible to perform in – who ever said the larger your plank, the better your act?
  7. Actually, don’t worry about that – just have them perform sitting down. Why walk when you can lie down?
  8. Choose a software that is adequate for the project. Surely in the space of less than a year the tech giants must have created something that can replace a millennia-old technique?
  9. Ensure that everyone in the troupe has different versions of said system, so that any directions you give get lost in the ether.
  10. Create a delay in the internet connection so the actors can’t pick up their cues and definitely have it crash just as you are about to perform.
  11. Remind the actors that it is good fun to wait at their computer for 40 minutes before they get to say their one line. (Like this was any better backstage either).
  12. Let audience members and actors know that they are separated by a computer screen, a series of 1s and 0s, and miles and miles of land and sea. I’m sure you can find other ways of throwing roses and underwear at them.
  13. And speaking of audience interaction, what better way to engage by turning off your video, lowering your mic level and typing into a gif-filled chat? Much more exciting than the aforementioned roses and underwear, I’m sure.
  14. Forget about supporting the wider artistic community through employing hair and make up specialists, costumiers and artists. Who says a low-pixel image can’t replace a hand-painted backdrop?
  15. Finally, keep the camera on as you change out of your happy mask into your sad one.

*I will write more seriously about this endeavour when there is more distance, as I am actually very proud of what our small troupe has managed to do in these circumstances.

This is just something to remember the thrilling experience, which has surely been the most beautiful part – creating memories to share with others.

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