Is the Future of Arts About Broadcasting?

National Theatre Live Screening: "Othello"

National Theatre Live Screening: “Othello”

Michael Kaiser of the Kennedy Center speculates in this article about the future viability of regional and medium-sized arts organizations as producers of actual live entertainment. He doesn’t directly express an opinion, but he seems to be implying that the ability to broadcast performances (like the UK’s National Theatre or the Metropolitan Opera) will basically create a star effect and drive regional organizations into obsolescence.

Three answers and a comment:

• This will only happen if you don’t believe there’s a difference between experiencing something on a screen and experiencing something in person.

• This will only happen if live entertainment and arts organizations are different from a range of other forms (like pop music, sports and so forth) where finding new ways to get people to participate does not motivate them to want to come to the live event when they can. (BTW, David Sabel of National Theatre told us at TEDxBroadway that their broadcasts had had just that effect.)

• This will happen if, as a group, regional arts organizations see it as their mission to provide “the usual” to the arts patrons who happen to live near them as opposed to having an independent, important and individual mission.

• If you’re responsible for the future of a live arts organization (or any live organization) and don’t DEEPLY APPRECIATE that your product (our product, since we’re all in this together if you’re reading this) is inconvenient by nature, and do everything you can to make that inconvenience pay your audience back in a rich, interesting, great, positive experience … then, yeah, you might not make it.

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