Much to the dismay of theater-loving Penn Staters, the many theaters on Broadway in New York City closed in March 2020 amid city-wide restrictions on large gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.
Still, Broadway fans didn’t have to wait long for their dose of drama with Disney releasing “Hamilton,” starring its original Broadway cast, on Disney + in July 2020. “Diana” is planning to release a recording. from the musical about the late princess on Netflix ahead of its Broadway opening in December, and “Come From Away” will debut in a performance filmed on Apple TV.
Within Penn State’s performing arts community, the question remains about the need – or lack of it – and the feasibility of filming more professional productions for broadcast on streaming platforms.
Student Mackenzie Detwiler has said she sees the large-scale release of “Hamilton” as a positive sign for the future of theater and streaming.
“I think it was a step in the right direction,” said Detwiler (junior music education). “It was a bit the first [event] introduce musicals into [accessible] media, and this exhibit is really great.
However, Frederick Miller said that while he doesn’t think recording shows can truly capture the experience of attending a live performance, streaming musicals make live theater more accessible.
“[The live theatre experience] is an act of fellowship, ”Miller (junior theater) said via email. “I don’t think it can be reproduced on film. The film captures the moment and freezes it – the live theater is meant to be experienced in real time.
“There is a real accessibility problem in the theater industry, [and] I don’t think people realize the expense that occurs when they go to a Broadway show. If capturing a professional show on film means that a potential audience member [can see it], I see no problem.
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Gwendolyn Walker, assistant vocal teacher in the musical theater program, also said she believes putting shows on streaming platforms will help the future of theater by inspiring the next generation.
“My parents took me [to Broadway] once every five years… If I could have seen what was happening on Broadway in my house, that would have been great, ”Walker said. “The fact that the public interest has renewed in [seeing shows] makes Broadway stronger, and it’s exciting.
However, Walker echoed Miller’s stance on the uniqueness of live performances.
“Live theater is where you create an energy where we all agree we’re going to tell a story,” Walker said. “There’s this beautiful exchange of respect and vulnerability and… energy that you can’t create in a virtual world.”
Additionally, Muggs Leone said that showing live shows on streaming services can only increase profits and popularity and would not discourage potential members of the audience from attending live performances.
“I like to compare it to music streaming artists,” said Leone (first year psychology student). “Just because I can stream Lady Gaga’s music to my iPhone doesn’t mean I don’t want to go to a Lady Gaga concert afterwards, because there is an energy… an experience that you can’t get with the streaming. “
Leone said that streaming live shows can attract new fans to the theater world and attract nostalgic viewings from former audience members.
“I love that ‘Hamilton’ is streaming… I think it’s a big step in getting people to watch and see theater,” Leone said. “If you are someone who has [already] seen the show, it’s like a living memory.