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Live Theatre: On Stage and In Your Home

November 18th, 2021

No doubt about it. We’re in the midst of a paradigm shift—a time for reconsidering old assumptions even as we hope for a so-called return to normal.

Consider: the past two years have seen an explosion of teleconferences, delivery services, and online commerce. Mask wearing and physical distancing effectively canceled last year’s cold and flu season, and mRNA technology has become a medical game-changer. Likewise, changes in the arts have been seismic.

Above: David Nackman’s performance in Karloff: the Man and the Monster marked Prime Stage Theatre’s return to live performances after a year of virtual productions. A recording of the play is currently available via video-on-demand from AnywhereSeat.

With more people staying at home in the first quarter of 2021, the sale of print books grew 29 percent while ebook and audio editions saw dramatic increases as well. Likewise, sales of physical media players (once thought destined for extinction) grew 27 percent in the first few months of the 2020 lockdown, while the growth of streaming services was even more dramatic, with subscriptions passing 1 billion.

And then there was Warner Brothers with its decision to release “its entire 2021 slate of feature films on HBO Max simultaneously with the release in theaters” even as Broadway’s Hamilton played on Disney+. And now, services like Anywhere Seat, Marque TV, and Broadway on Demand are further increasing the availability of live-theatre productions by streaming them to homes around the world.

Of course, at-home entertainment isn’t likely to supplant live theatre. Just as cinema didn’t replace the stage and movie houses survived the advent of TV, at-home streaming will never be the same as a night out. That’s something I was reminded of two weeks ago when I attended opening night of Prime Stage’s Karloff–my first attendance at a live theatre event in nearly two years. Sitting fifth-row center, surrounded by vaxed-and-masked friends and strangers, I realized the truth of a comment that filmmaker Edgar Wright recently made about staying in vs going out. “Sitting in the dark with strangers,” he said, “is a communal experience that no platform streaming to your living room can provide.”

Nevertheless, if you were unable to attend Karloff live, you can thank the recent paradigm shift for making it possible to catch the show via video-on-demand.

Between now and November 28, Prime Stage Theatre’s production of Karloff: The Man and the Monster is available via the streaming service Anywhere Seat. Tickets and information are available at the Prime Stage website, where you can also learn about future performance—both live and virtual.

The world is changing. The old normal may be a thing of the past, but given recent advancements, the new one may be even better.

Below: The official trailer for Prime Stage Theatre’s production of Randy Bowser’s Karloff: The Man and the Monster, directed by Arthur DeConceliis, currently available via vod.