What Does the Future of the Performing Arts Look Like?

Life in the arts is uncertain and difficult at the best of times and it’s been the question on everyone’s lips for the most of 2020. How will the arts fair after COVID? It has to be said that support for the arts could've been handled better but I don’t want to write about fear and devastation. I’m going to talk about the positives that could come out of these terrible times. Here is my take on the future of the arts, especially theatre, post COVID-19.

Rise of Digital Medium

Sounds ominous, doesn't it? Like a SkyNet subplot.

It's hard not to talk about what's going on in the world right now. Our community - the performers, the writers, the audiences - may never be the same again. Other pandemics have happened in the past, it's true, and things have changed and gone back to how they were afterwards in the past. But this time, we think things may change for good. For the better.

Theatres are emptier now than they've ever been, but performance is still happening!
Theatres are emptier now more than ever.

The arts adapted quickly to the social restrictions imposed by a global pandemic and it was admirable to watch. Theatre companies with the funds managed this better than most and it took longer for community groups to catch up. Those who didn’t have the technical knowledge have either learnt or taken this time to re-evaluate how they create content. This, of course, meant that there was a rush to keep up with demand at the potential sacrifice of quality, but I’m looking at this as a lesson.

I recommend that we all look at this as a lesson.

After we’re back to “normal”, I think performance companies will be far more willing to embrace digitizing the industry. It will be easier to audition for performances using programs like Zoom, Google Meet or even Facebook messenger video chats. Those in remote communities will have a chance to enter the industry without travelling potentially hundreds of kilometres for each audition and callback.

And whilst we're on the topic of remote communities (something that’s very close to my heart), the rise of online classes to teach those who can’t attend full time training because of location, work or both will only expand the industry and give us a wider reach!

With live performances, as well, what's to stop us from offering online tickets to live-streams or paid private links? Filming performances not only gives theatre professionals the chance to make a showreel from existing credits, but more of a chance to be seen on an international level. As a side note, it's a great way for actors to see how they present themselves to an audience. I would need a separate post about all the shows I’ve wanted to see in Sydney that I haven’t been able to and that isn’t even that big of a distance. What about watching shows on Broadway? The ticket price would be easier to stomach if a plane ticket and accommodation weren’t attached as well. And what about those who can’t attend live performances, those in hospice care, those who are homebound from a disability or illness. This caters to them as well!

Isn’t that what everyone in the industry wants? Bigger audiences? To pull down the red velvet curtains that make us so inaccessible to the public?

Artistic therapy

2020 has been a rough year.

We’ve all gone through collective trauma and we all need to take our own time in processing everything. What would you say if I told you this has happened before and that there is a tried and tested method of dealing with this? Art therapy has been around for centuries, not in a modern understanding but humans always use art as a coping mechanism. That’s why there are paintings and photos of truly horrific and traumatic events. It's not just about documenting things for future generations. It’s about better understanding how human nature reacts to these events and helping others process their own emotions.

Scripts and performances are already circulating with themes of loneliness, isolation and the culture that has evolved from the pandemic.

I think art therapy will take on a deeper meaning in the near future. It won’t stop at creating in order to understand our own feelings, it will grow into a new form of communication. Everyone has a need to create. It might be buried under stigma and fear but it's there, and when trauma starts boiling our emotions we need to scream out. Protest art is on the rise and it is beautiful. And it can’t be ignored.

All I can say is, "More please!"

The Show WILL Go On

Nothing will stop the arts.

People have tried before. And every time, a lot of art was lost, but it always comes back stronger. The saying goes, “The show must go on”, but must implies that we as artists are obliged to put on our works, that it's a luxury. Personally I don’t view it that way.

I say: “The show will go on!”

The arts are a necessity, and the need to create is as natural as breathing. That being said, performances have been cancelled and won’t go on the way they were intended. Many performances won’t go on at all because they can’t see the end of this, and money does get in the way. What if you knew the show would happen anyway? That it was just a matter of time and adapting?

So many events of mine have been cancelled, they can’t go on in 2020 and that's okay. I’ll put them on in the future and honestly being given the time to put more thought into the logistics of it will only make it a better show and easier on stress levels. With all that's going on around us we should take this opportunity and learn from it. Grow as artists, and come back with a force that can’t be ignored.

2020 will not see the death of the arts.

I know it in my bones that we won’t see the arts die out in my lifetime. But the arts will be different by the time I’m eighty. No one can deny that. Storytelling and performance is one of the strongest parts of human nature, and it is the nature of humans to change. We just need to embrace the change in the industry instead of fighting it with thoughts of Tradition and that old standby of “It's the way we’ve always done it.”

Growth is good. Change is good. If we support each other and look at the positives of all that’s happened instead of focusing on the negatives then there is no way that the arts will dissolve.

These last few months have been a bitter pill. But maybe this crisis has been the medicine we needed to fix a system that hasn't been adapting the changes and chances that technology has forced on the rest of the world. It's a strange, maybe confronting thought, I know, but there might be something there.

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