Historical Zoom MeetingsOn July 15, 2020 by Jasmine Bowen
As the world changes, Live History has had to adapt, as many other companies have done. Before all of this, email seemed to be the top of our technical skills. When the pandemic hit, we knew that we had to learn a lot.
Don’t get me wrong, we could churn butter or use an abacus in our sleep (Ok, maybe not quite with the ease of our ancestors, but we were getting there!). However, the idea of taking all our clues, costumes, props and story lines online and still creating an immersive historic experience was a bit…daunting.
The major difference I found, between acting online and acting in person was that I had to learn other ways to engage the crowd, and still have them feel as if they were getting an individual experience, despite the fact that I could not turn and have a quick conversation or give them a small task to do, like I did in person. As “Whispers” turned to “Round Table: International Waters”, I learned how use people’s backgrounds, their chat names, and their comments to create an experience that still felt unique, while looking at several boxes of faces in front of me. Usually, when doing shows, I am surrounded by the energy of the artefacts and the building itself. Now, surrounded by my kitchen (And a family of raccoons walking across my deck more than once) , the magic of immersion came from the stories and the conversation, more than ever before.
Alecia P., who recently performed in our world debut of “Timeless Gathering”, sponsored by Lynde House Museum, as well as a solo “Whispers” event, put it beautifully when I asked her how she felt about her experience.
“Thanks to the innovation of technology, while theatres may be closed artists have been able to continue to create content for audiences online. I have had the privilege to perform with Live History in an Instagram show and a zoom show and let me tell you performing theatre online has its challenges but also its rewards. One of the most challenging aspects of trying to do a live show was the delay that happens over video chat. No matter how good your internet is, there will be a delay in the audio and video that affects the pace of the experience. Also if you don’t have good internet you risk the chance of everything cutting in and out. This makes it hard to sit through a show and keep your full attention. One aspect of Live History that translated perfectly to online was the interactive element. By interacting with the audience and making them part of the story, it helped keep their focus and interest peaked. It felt more like a conversation than, “oh now I am going to sit here for an hour and watch some actor talk to me in their living room”. I loved being able to connect with audience members and see their immediate reactions on screen. It also allowed for more intimate audiences so the performances could feel more personal. Overall this adaption to creating theatre online has had a great start, and I can’t wait to continue to brainstorm more ideas and concepts to make the experience more captivating. But lets be honest, there is nothing quite like a show in person. That connection, energy and tangible experience is something that I hope we can get back to when the time comes. ”
Sophie M., Alecia’s co-star, also had some interesting tips and tidbits:
“Going from in-person to virtual performances was nice because I never had to leave the comfort of my own home and so being able to perform in my own safe space was a nifty change (not to mention you could wear pj bottoms and no one would ever know). However, it also felt a little more constrained and lacked a bit spontaneity as you had to call on others to speak so to avoid voices overlapping. Some technical difficulties are of course to be expected (a couple of frozen screens here and there) but that also presented new opportunity to play. Regardless, both live and virtual performances have pros and cons, I’ve just learned to thrive with what I’ve got. Having the opportunity to perform again is all that matters really!”
I am very glad that we have the technology and the opportunity to continue to tell these stories. I am forever grateful to a team who is continuously willing to rise to the challenges that each new day brings. We may not know what the future holds, but we know that our duty is to tell the stories of the past, and we will continue to do so, as a way to learn from the past and also find the strength and creativity to continue in such trying times, as many have before us. There are so many stories yet to be told, and it seems our own story in this new world is just beginning.
So for now, we’ll see you in the past, using the way of the future!