Live from New York: The Potential of Performance Broadcasts
To say the rising costs of seeing a Broadway show have not made it difficult for theaters to bring in socioeconomically diverse crowds would be to ignore the impacts of economic changes on the industry.
Aside from obtaining tickets, usually a trip to New York involves airfare/train tickets, accommodations, food/drink, etc. Unless one is within a reasonable distance of New York, very few people could make a day of it.
BroadwayHD streams recordings of performances online, allowing audiences who may not have the means to venture to New York to view select shows. Yet, this does nothing for arts lovers who would be thrilled to see a show like Hamilton or Wicked live.
However, Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters, as well as companies such as Roundabout Theatre Company and The Public Theatre could increase their revenues by livestreaming select performances, announced prior to the date, for a fraction of the cost of a ticket.
Now, the difference between theater and film, really, is that cameras are usually not involved in the former. But given shifts in the US economy, and the cost of traveling to New York for most people, a livestreaming service charging fees that would vary by show could bring in new audiences.
The idea of theater is to show a reflection of reality, even in shows where no single moment could realistically occur in real life. Theatergoers attempt to find a bit of themselves in a given character. I know that seeing Falsettos in December was a deeply personal experience for me as a gay man.
I'm sure that there are those who believe bringing cameras into a theater dampens the impact of the performance. But if someone really wants to keep theatre alive, they'd need to find ways to open theaters to those who don't have the money or the time to be there in person.
Max Granitz is a native of Southeast Michigan, currently residing in Grand Rapids. He studies creative writing at Grand Valley State University, where he will be a senior in the fall, and has been involved in the performing arts since his junior year of high school. He plans to move to New York in the fall of 2018 and enroll in the Master’s program in Performance Studies at NYU.