The Playgoer: Royal National Theatre Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You?

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Royal National Theatre Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You?

I missed this back in January, but the UK's Royal National Theatre is making a go at Met Opera style live screenings, bringing live performance to cinemas.

NT Live is an exciting new initiative to broadcast live performances of plays onto cinema screens worldwide. The four show pilot season will launch with Phèdre, with Helen Mirren, Margaret Tyzack and Dominic Cooper.On 25 June the performance of Phèdre will be filmed in high definition and broadcast via satellite to approximately 50 cinemas and arts centres, reaching a widespread audience live across the UK. Tickets will cost £10. Over 100 venues around the world will also screen the production.
And one of those 100 venues? Washington DC's Shakespeare Theatre! Where admission to Phèdre will be $20. More than a movie, alas.

Ok, maybe not the savior of theatre, but I'm certainly to see what happens. And I gotta hand it to them that, Helen Mirren aside, Phèdre is hardly the crowd pleasing choice for an opener. (I mean, we're talkin' about Racine here, people.)

And naturally we have to wonder if the practice will spread here. If it ever does happen here the pilot project will no doubt be a Broadway show and the venuture strictly not not-for-profit. (In fact, I believe the final B'way performance of Rent was already broadcast in similar fashion.)

Where it would have the biggest impact, though, is not on Broadway but on "the road." Watch for road presenters to start looking into this as a cheaper alternative to live touring productions. I mean, why put up millions for the a show's B-team to come to town when you can just show the video "live from Broadway" with the original celebrity star intact?

Other than that, though, it'll be hard for American nonprofit theatre to get in on this act without major celebrity actors (or maybe writers) to draw attention. Lincoln Center Theater has benefitted from PBS' "Live From Lincoln Center" telecasts and aired some shows on tv. (Roundabout also had a PBS contract for a while.) Frankly, I'd like to see non-New York companies take part in this, so we can all see--on a national platform- what, say, the Guthrie and the Goodman are doing for a change.

Meanwhile, "NT Live," being in Britain, is thoroughly subsidized of course. And tied in with a mission to spread culture across the nation:
NT Live fits in with the government's determination to get more culture outside of London. The culture secretary, Andy Burnham, has been involved in moves to create a Manchester base for the Royal Opera House and recently advocated having a different city as British capital of culture every four years, allowing events such as the Brits, the Baftas and the Turner Prize to decamp out of London.
See, that's why you have a "culture secretary." National Endowment for the Arts could never get something that big done.

1 comment:

Playgoer said...

Ah, turns out NT's Phedre broadcast will indeed be coming to theaters near ME as well.

At Lincoln Center Walter Reade Cinema on July 6, and BAM on July 9.