The Challenges of Producing Online Theatre
By Nik Grundison
Every year I put on a charity musical theatre concert at my local theatre. The vast majority of people involved aren’t professional performers, but instead amateurs that love the arts, and put their all into learning and performing songs from a wide variety of musicals. I love the challenge every year of producing, choreographing, and directing a large cast, and it’s gone from strength to strength every year. Until 2020; the year of Covid-19. With the theatre being closed until 2021, I knew we wouldn’t be able to stage our usual production, but I was determined to put some sort of show together, and post it online. So I assembled the cast, picked some of our more popular group numbers, selected some soloists and got to work, keeping myself very busy during my maternity leave! Here are some of the challenges we faced, and my top tips for producing online theatre. 1. Rehearsals Traditional rehearsals haven’t been possible, so we have been getting together via Zoom to go through some of the more difficult numbers. Unfortunately you can’t have everyone singing at the same time on Zoom due to the delay, but it is great to get everyone together. I’ve also been sending out videos and voice notes to the cast to help them learn material. 2. Synchronicity When we sing as a group we all listen to each other – we naturally tune into the sound of others, we hold notes for the same length, and our harmonies blend together. But when we film individually and can’t hear each other, we lose that sense and sound of togetherness. I’ve tried to solve this by sending out the backing tracks with myself singing the different parts, but nothing beats being able to sing all together as a community. 3. Confidence It can be pretty nerve wracking singing alone to a camera, and sending it off to be put online for the whole world to see! I found at first many of our cast were unsure, or a bit apprehensive, but as time has gone on, I’ve seen their confidence blossom. I’ve even had some of our ‘background’ ensemble members come forward and take on some solo lines or parts that they might not have been keen to do in front of a live audience. What’s that saying? – dance like no one is watching, and sing like no one is listening! 4. Production Values With people filming in their homes, we have a variety of backgrounds, sound and picture quality, costumes, etc! We’ve tried to keep this as consistent as possible, and of course it will never match the spectacle of the stage with lighting, live music and effects. Luckily we have a very good editor on hand, one of the technical team at the theatre, and I’m really excited to see what he does with the group numbers!
Overall I’m really glad we have taken on this challenge. No it won’t be a perfect production, but it’s given a real sense of purpose throughout lockdown, and given the cast something to be a proud of. I can’t wait to watch the finished product, along with witty interludes from our usual hosts, and raise some much needed money for our closed theatres.
A Night at the Musicals will be broadcast on YouTube at RoyaltyTheatreOfficial on the 28th August.