The Marriage Between Video And Stage

Cody Fullbrook 

For you fellow Australians who call Perth home, you may have attended some shows at this year’s Fringe Festival in which numerous venues across the city annually host performers from all over Australia and beyond. What surprised me above all else, excluding the price of the food, were how many shows used advertising videos that cycled through social media, with shows themselves implementing video into their acts.

Over the last few years there has been a noticeable increase in pairing video and stage.  But, why?  Or should I be asking, why not? It’s an important question to ask.

With our ever-growing technology, it would be unwise not to tap into its potential to improve a show’s entertainment quality, but also to reach a larger audience. Comedians like Louis C.K. and Australia’s own Tom Gleeson have sold their stand-up specials online, where customers may download the video recording for a surprisingly cheap cost, compared to seeing them live.

Netflix has a sizeable selection of stand-up comedy, and even musicals like Oklahoma and Shrek The Musical can be bought on YouTube. Most interesting of all were the recent productions of Peter Pan and Grease which were performed as stage musicals, but filmed live and immediately sent to broadcast television.

Everyone is on YouTube now. Audiences and even other artists seem to look down on performers with virtually no social media presence, and for those that do have one, the rapid style of online marketing can gradually bleed into their act’s presentation. Why shouldn’t the viewers want to see video cutaways during a live stand up show?  It’s not only what they’ve grown up to expect, but it’s how they learned the show existed at all.

The Perth Fringe festival had key examples of shows that utilised projectors, such as John Robertson: The Dark Room, Sonny Yang VS Fringe and Chase. Even larger artists like Bill Bailey and Wayne Brady have used screens to add to their performances.

There isn’t a marriage between stage and video so much as a shotgun wedding.  Many artists seem obligated to use video, not because it’s a necessary and desired addition, but because they know that watching someone on stage doesn’t draw as many people nowadays. Everyone is on their phone, constantly barraged with fast advertisements and cutaways. All art must adapt or perish.

In a few years, we may look at implementing video into stage shows the same way we currently view lighting designs. Expected and essential. A simple static shot of a specific terrain can instantly set the scene for a play. Comedians can use visual aids to assist their jokes. Even circuses can project episodes of The Simpsons if we get bored of watching someone twirl fire for 20 minutes.

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