Time for Shows Online?

It is not everyday that I get an email from Switzerland, especially one asking me to promote a performance that is in turn promoting the release of a Swiss watch. I gave a snort of derision of some corporation trying to get me to help them advertise their product. I hardly believed the subject line that implied the release was an exclusive for my blog.

But I have to emit a beleaguered sigh, grit my teeth and help the watch makers out in the process of admitting there might be something to be learned from their approach.

The event is the virtual performance of Kevin Spacey in The Interrogation of Leo and Lisa on May 16. The International Watch Company is launching a new Da Vinci line so the show is about Da Vinci and Mona Lisa. Along with a short blurb about the show were some photos for my use in any post I might make about the performance.

It is not outside the realm of imagination that we will see more of this type of event where delivery of a performance over the internet is underwritten by a single sponsor with a related product to sell. BMW had their online film series not so long ago doing the same thing.

I was torn about whether I should wait to post on this until after the play premiered online, thereby blunting whatever promotional benefit my entry might provide IWC. But I also thought it important to give people the opportunity to assess how well the premiere is executed.

Right now the links to the Play and Making Of videos are not active but will presumably have content on the 16th. You can access still photos of the performance right now. According to a number of articles I found online, the show was taped at the SIHH Watch Fair where it was performed at the gala. Although the IWC website doesn’t clearly indicate it, other articles covering the premiere noted that it can be viewed at 4 p.m. Central European Time, 7 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, 10 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, 10 p.m. Japan Standard Time.

A few interesting things to note if you are going to try this yourself. The website has mechanisms whereby you can remind yourself and tell friends, two features that are pretty much de rigueur on websites offering any type of information and services these days.

Their online program book has been translated into 10 languages, including two versions of Chinese. Granted the watch company has a more diverse audience and greater resources than most theatres. I suspect that in the future, much sooner than later in many parts of the U.S., providing information in multiple languages is going to be de rigueur itself in the pursuit of removing barriers to attendance.

There are many larger questions this whole situation raises like is there any point to taping a live performance? Is the format too much like TV for those who love the live experience and too limited for those who prefer the special effects possible with TV and film?

Is there some element of live performance the camera can capture that makes it worth taping? If so, then why aren’t recorded performances more popular? Do the camera people need to film from more exciting angles rather than straight on? If so, won’t the crouching cameramen interfere with the enjoyment of the live audience?

What I would really be interested in seeing is if the video of the performance is available outside of those time slots. It would be rather ironic if a watch company sponsored an event that you didn’t have to be prompt to participate in. If it is available at other times, was there really any value in generating a buzz to get people to watch on May 16? If it were Spiderman 3 being released, people would certainly flock. Kevin Spacey grilling historical figures probably doesn’t have as great a draw.

Just because it isn’t outside the realm of imagination that we will see more of this sort of thing doesn’t necessarily mean it is an idea with long term viability. Still the whole effort bears watching in order to ask these questions which all stem from a central question of Should We Consider Doing This and What Will It Look Like If We Do?

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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