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Theater at the Movies

April 25, 2009

This is an interesting article about live theater broadcasting in movie theaters. I would not call this true social networking, but what effect does this have on the art of theater itself? Is this a case of technology undermining live theater?


From The Times January 15, 2009

Helen Mirren’s stage comeback to be shown at

cinemas across the UK

Ben Hoyle

Helen Mirren’s return to the stage – already one of the most eagerly awaited cultural events of the year – is about to be one of the most ground-breaking. On June 25 her performance in Phèdre, a 17th-century French tragedy, will be beamed live from the National Theatre in London to 50 cinemas around the country and, within 24 hours, a further 100 all over the globe. Operas, concerts and sports events have already proved that there is an audience for live event broadcasts but theatres had held back, wary of previous lifeless attempts to film stage plays. The National, however, sees this as an opportunity to grow support. Nicholas Hytner, the director of the National, said yesterday that the sector needed to find out whether there was an audience. Related Links * Oliver! revival pulls in £15m before it even opens * Our critics choose the best theatre, dance and music of the year ahead * The best British film actresses of all time “It feels like somebody is going to try this and if somebody’s got to try it, it has to be us. If it works it will be obviously a tremendous step forward. “If Olivier’s National Theatre had been available in a cinema in Manchester when I was growing up I would have gone every time. It would have been a fantastic resource for me.” The pilot programme will be made up of four plays, priced lower than usual to reflect the intrusiveness of the cameras in the auditorium. They will be screened once only as “liveness is pretty essential”. The idea is to treat the performance as an outside broadcast with cameramen moving round and zooming in for close-ups to provide a more cinematic product than has been achieved previously; 3-D technology could be used in future seasons. Phèdre by Racine, adapted from a Greek myth about the fatal love of Theseus’ wife for her stepson, is the only play selected for filming so far. The production will be from a translation by Ted Hughes and also stars Dominic Cooper and Margaret Tyzack. Hytner, who is also directing the play, said that it was a natural choice for the first show and that Mirren had agreed to be the centrepiece of a publicity campaign. “I really think it will be brilliant. I think it will work.” The Metropolitan Opera in New York pioneered live broadcasts several years ago and enjoyed a significant advantage over the National, Hytner said. “The music in opera subconsciously prevents the audience from bringing a cinematic frame of reference to bear…

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