More than anything else, what distinguishes the theatre from other experiences is that it’s living and breathing, ephemeral, with flesh and blood actors that you could run up and touch if you really wanted to. Every show is different, and after it finishes it becomes part of the story. Unlike film, television or literature, it’s difficult to distribute online – and, or course, you can’t pirate it. At least, that has been the case until now. Keeping up with a changing world and taking advantage of the latest technological advancements, it’s becoming possible to see theatre online.
New to the Spanish theatre scene is Alltheater, the first platform allowing theatre-lovers to see shows from the comfort of their own home, like the Netflix or Spotify of live performance. It has its advantages – sometimes people can’t see a play that they’d like to because it’s being staged too far away, or tickets are too expensive, and until now, that was that. But through this initiative, you can enjoy the dramatic arts from your own computer. On the other hand, a large part of seeing live theatre is the direct, visceral experience that creates a profound connection between audience and performers (when everything goes right, that is). “It’s clear that it’s not the same experience,” explains Eva Lapuente, who spearheads the project along with José Follos. “We want to create a different, digital experience.” Just like with many television and music platforms, Alltheater allows users to search by author, genre, or company, and it even offers trailers and playlists. You can enjoy the shows through any internet-capable device: computer, Smart TV, tablet, smartphone, or console.
The platform plans to live stream four plays a year (the first was Scratch, from the Madrid company Grumelot, recorded at the last Fringe Festival) that will be saved so that viewers will be able to access them for later viewing. Furthermore, the companies can present their own videos and charge up to three euros, of which the theater keeps 70%. Starting in August there will be 11 shows available that incorporate interactive transcription of the text, some with subtitles in two languages (they’re searching for a network of volunteer translators) and some even filmed in 360º, for complete immersion in the action. In fact, the platform as issued an open call for shows from this upcoming season to be recorded with this technique. “More than anything we’re interested in theatre that’s contemporary or experimental, that relates to new technology, although we’re negotiating deals to offer more traditional productions as well, such as ones from Teatro Real,” says the spokesperson.
Public theaters, although they can’t commercialize the works, can also collaborate with Alltheater by offering free content. Such is the case with the translation of Australian playwright Andrew Bovell's prize-winning work Cuando deje de llover (When the rain stops falling), directed by Julián Fuentes Reta, which will soon move on to Teatro Español. Other available shows include Dakota by Jordi Galcerán (directed by Carlos Martín), La grieta, entre animals salvajes by Gracia Morales y Juan Alberto Salvatierra (directed by Julio Grafa) and Anomia by Eugenio Amaya. “Projects like these are incredibly rewarding sources of inspiration, because they allow you to access interesting work produced by all kinds of people, delivered straight to wherever you are,” says Amaya. “The unrepeatable, communal experience and the digital experience – they're not mutually exclusive.”
This kind of initiative seems to be gaining international momentum; nowadays similar platforms are launching in Argentina (Teatrix), the United States (Broadway HD), and the United Kingdom (Digital Theatre). One advantage is that it can be converted into a resource for theatre developers all around the world. In reality, looking back, the idea isn't without precedent: since 1965 the public television program Estudio 1 has broadcast over 400 of the best national and international works directly into Spanish homes. The website Rtve also has plenty to offer.
Some theatre lovers have concerns about the digital world infringing upon the dramatic arts. Will the success of this kind of platform empty the theaters the way the arrival of online movie streaming emptied movie theaters? “We believe that the more people know about theatre, the more they’ll want to see it, so we hope that this initiative brings even more people to the theaters,” says Lapuente.
English version by Allison Light.