There's Room for Design in Online Theatre

May 1, 2020

By: David Grindle, USITT Executive Director

The live entertainment world is working to figure out how it will function in the Corona Virus Pandemic and the world beyond. This isn't an unusual thing for people in our world. We have been thrown curveballs before and lined them up for home runs on many occasions. We do that, in the same manner, we produce entertainment, by working together in collaboration.

Many theatre groups are taking the show online. Using meeting technology, you can see a show or hear a performer from the comfort of your isolation. Yes, those performances are subject to the microphone quality, bandwidth, and other technical issues, but they are a way to enjoy live performance.

In that world, I urge people to remember there isn't just room for designers, technicians, and stage managers, there is a need. While we can't build a set or costumes, we can't hang a light plot or ring out microphones, designers, technicians, and managers can play a pivotal role in the success of these endeavors.

Having a costume designer speak with the cast about color choices to pull from their personal wardrobes can help the audience follow the action and relationships in the plot. After all, they make those kinds of choices when designing every show.

A scenic designer might be able to suggest how to position your camera in a room so that performers can make entrances or exits. Maybe there is a way to arrange the items behind you. Or perhaps they can create virtual backgrounds.

Lighting and Sound designers can consult to help people look and sound their best. Stage Managers might be the perfect people along with technicians to ensure that mics are muted, the proper camera is featured, the connections to media are solid, and many other details are cared for.

Designers, managers, and technicians aren't tied to venues, they are part of the art and storytelling. As we find new ways to tell stories during this time, let's make sure we keep the team together because it will result in a better product, just like it always does.