The hallmarks of choosing a good virtual play
Are you thinking of producing a virtual play, but you don't know what show would translate well to the Zoom (or any other streaming software) format?
Here's what we've learned makes for a good virtual play:
1. Plays written specifically for virtual theatre -- Many playwrights are creating scripts for this new format (sometimes called "Stay-at-Home Editions") that capitalize on being distanced from the other actors. Similarly, writers have taken their scripts that were written for stage performance and transformed them into virtual versions. These modified versions are a great place for new virtual theatre producers to begin.
2. More talk, less action -- A drawback to virtual theatre is that it's harder (but not impossible) to stage action scenes, but the flipside of that is the ability to focus on the actor's performance. Using scripts of the latter nature might make it more of a challenge to get that nuanced, interesting performance than you may see in a staged performance (where the audience is at a greater distance and has other things to look at), it can quite powerful.
3. Film on location -- Take your audience out of the theatre by pre-recording your show in the place the story happens! Rather than building a set, or using virtual backgrounds, put your actors in the place that the play occurs! If you can lockdown such a location, it can be something different than what an audience would get from the same piece in a theatre.
4. Experimental theatre -- Virtual theatre is the perfect place for trying something new or different, whether that means a new work, something that might be considered not in the mainstream, or a script you can just have fun with (for instance: the play Dog Sees God with hand-drawn, cartoon virtual backgrounds; or Twelfth Night with the same actor playing both Viola and Sebastian). The ability to bend the rules of theatre thanks to the wonders of technology and the internet can give a heretofore traditional play a new spin.
5. Monodramas, poetry readings, festivals -- You don't need to limit yourself to just plays! Consider a series of monologues or one-person shows, or a poetry slam! They might not have been enough of a draw to fill a large playhouse, but they can make your virtual theatre more like a coffeehouse with its intimacy and niche appeal. Festivals of any kind -- one minute plays, one acts, or whatever you can conjure up -- fit well into the open arms of virtual theatre because of its ability to cater to many voices at the same time.
Do you have other ideas for the best types of productions for virtual theatre? We'd love to hear your ideas and continue to grow this amazing new medium for performing arts!