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Shakespeare-On-Demand

Whoa.

So this week, The Globe theatre in London announced a new service they will be providing, check out the full article here:

With new Shakespeare on-demand service, London’s Globe Theatre extends its reach worldwide

Yes, you read that right.

Shakespeare is coming to your living room!

O, I’m so excited!

I’m excited because I love Shakespeare. I mean, I have a huge crush on him. I just think he writes good.

So it’s cool to get him all to myself whenever I want.

But let’s talk about the implications of this technology:

Imagine that we are all citizens of Mega-London, a worldwide city where all people can attend performances at The Globe. But to be actually present at The Globe, you have to be actually present  at The Globe. In other words, those who are privileged enough to live close and have the money can enjoy live theatre, but those who are too far away, or too poor, can only watch a digital shadow of the event. Now, the story is as potent as it is live, isn’t it?

Or do we lose something important by moving so far away?

295-mosaic-shakespeare

I think we do. I think we lose Community.

Think about it: some audiences pay top dollar to be present, and to experience communal laughs and cries; they get to become a part of the ensemble. But the least expensive tickets, the On-Demand tickets, are cordoned off, separated, alienated from each other and from the actors. It is the curse of the recorded image and the personal computer.

And the saddest part is that it is the groundlings, the poor, who have been dispersed. The wealthy have been invited into the theatre itself, and the rabble have been excised; they drink the dribbles of art that leak through the cracks in the table.

And yet, these groundlings (me, for example) would never have been able to sit at the table anyway, and we’re so hungry.

So I think the politics of this service are quite complicated, and it gets at a central question about art in the technological age: does theatre have to be live?

I think about this a lot, especially as the line between what is live and what is recorded becomes blurred: there is now the live-stream, the live-tweeted play, the web-chat, and the Face-book tie-in side-quest. What does it even mean to be live anymore?

Well, I think there’s one thing that can’t be faked (yet): being in the room with another human.

There is just something about it; the mirror-neurons firing, the micro-expressions tracked, the undeniable, three-dimensional, valid, equally-human, emotional connection that we pack-animals make when we know there is another feeling/thinking being in the room. It changes our behavior, it changes our thinking. I’m sure it changes our brain chemistry. It’s just, real.

I miss real.

And groundlings are more real, more vivid than anyone. I can’t help but read in this VOD Shakespeare the de-humanization, the separation, the alienation of the poor. And all because we want to share Shakespeare, something real, with each other. It makes me sad. It makes me wonder if maybe we should just, ya know, put up a play. It’s not all fancy, maybe it will be less artful. But it is real.

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One comment on “Shakespeare-On-Demand

  1. Great reading this. As one considering forming a theatre company I couldn’t agree more with your article. ‘The live plays the thing to honour the groundling’

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