Dear Digital Immigrant:
That’s what you are – an immigrant to the digital age. The only true natives are those under the age of 18.
This is one of the juicy tidbits we learned from the recently concluded Theatre Communications group annual national theatre conference, which had non-profit theatre-makers numbering over 1,100 (the largest attendance in TCg’s 50 year history) flooding into Los Angeles. For three days we were packed into various plenary and breakout sessions to discuss the state of American theatre, the accomplishments we’ve achieved and the many challenges we face.
A number of the sessions this year focused on the proliferation of technology, and the ways this revolution impacts us as theatres. How do we use social media to market to a new generation? How does an audience that is accustomed to leisure activities “on demand” relate to an art form where a play starts at a specific time and specific location, not of the viewer’s choosing?
One of the most mind-blowing and inspiring speakers was futurist David Houle, who theorized that after thousands of years of the Agricultural Age, less than 150 years of the Industrial Age, and around 20 years of the Information Age, the world is giving way to “The Shift Age.” In this new era, time seems to be moving faster, technology is evolving at a rate we can’t keep up with, and the digital revolution is changing the planet in ways we can only begin to imagine.
But in Houle’s discussions about how these changes may impact the theatre, he drew some heartening conclusions. One thing he observed is that young people—the digital natives—as they become more secluded with personal electronic devices, are craving live interaction. In fact, he notes that young people hug each other more freely and frequently now than ever, and he attributes this to the need to compensate for the physical isolation they experience in so much of their lives.
He suggests that theatre can be a kind of hug for the digitally secluded, a tangible, live conversation that takes place nightly between the audience and the artists. And in an intimate space like Boston Court, there is no separation between the artist and the audience; sweat and breath are visceral and evident. Try to get that from your portable electronic devices!
At Boston Court we are devoted to both embracing the world as it shifts around us, and continuing to make the entire experience of seeing a play at Boston Court one that can’t be replicated digitally. One that, as Oscar Wilde (a theatremaker from the Industrial Age) said so eloquently, makes theatre “the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”
As ever, we hope you enjoy the conversation, the hug, and the ride!
Jessica Kubzansky Artistic director The Theatre @ Boston Court
Michael Michetti Artistic director The Theatre @ Boston Court