Now, the Internet, which has become the information tool of the Y2K generation, is emerging as the next logical place to promote theater. The Internet opens up a world of audio and visual possibilities that will offer Web browsers a few highlights from a show at his or her own discretion, not unlike movie trailers, which have already found their way from the big screen and television to the home computer monitor.
Streaming video, the latest in Internet technology, will likely serve as the dynamic means through which potential ticket buyers will view clips of shows, whether they are running on Broadway, Off-Broadway, or halfway around the world. Two such streaming presentations are about to be launched on Theatermania.com; one for the long-running Off-Broadway hit Tony n' Tina's Wedding, the other for the soaring, carnival-esque De La Guarda (click on the picture to see the new streaming video), currently playing in both New York City and London. Both clips are designed to capture the key ingredients of these shows, and will be available on demand for the Internet user. These clips are the forerunners of what is expected to be a major innovation in creative theater marketing.
The co-founder of Theatermania.com, Tony n' Tina producer Joe Corcoran, points out how important it is for shows to gain this type of visibility. "Everyone wants to get nominated for a Tony Award partly because they get a few minutes of exposure on national television. The beauty here is that any show can have a short clip, accessible 24 hours a day. It is also a great way for people to see off-Broadway productions and other shows which they are not familiar with...it will open theater up to a much wider audience as more shows do this."
Jeff Meltzer, co-president of Add Motion, a streaming video production company, explains "It's a natural extension of original content provision for Web sites. One of the ways to really stand out on the Web is to use the latest in technology, which is streaming. De La Guarda, which is a true sight and sound show, is a perfect start for this kind of visual technology."
Thus far, the single drawback to the advent of streaming video is that only 25% of Internet users are actually equipped to see it. However, as new technology advances faster than you can read this article, the increase in potential viewers grows rapidly. Meltzer is very enthusiastic, adding "All the new computers coming out will have the technology permanently installed so that anyone will be able to see streaming video with relative ease. Instead of waiting on the ticket line and trying to decide from the printed page, people will look at a clip of a show, get a feel for it and ultimately be able to order the tickets."
Darren Sussman, President of Theatermania.com, is equally encouraged by the surging growth of the Internet and its capabilities. "In two to three years, once broadband opens up, 100% of Internet users should have the technology" says Sussman. "Right now we're just taking baby steps by putting up the first two shows. We want to see how they work as a promotional tool."
By the Spring, Theatermania.com plans to offer a generous selection of clips for productions in several markets. While the artistry, ambiance and personal fulfillment that comes from seeing live theater can never be matched by the images on a PC monitor, a moment, a sound bite, a clip of what transpires within the walls of those theaters may yet whet the cultural appetite of millions.