In March of 2020, the Majestic Theater had to temporarily close its doors as the world went into lockdown. While the theater hasn’t reopened to the public yet, they did find a way to keep the show going.
Enter the era of Zoom theater. Performances are just a few clicks away. Buy your tickets online and sit in the comfort of your own home to watch live or prerecorded shows.
This digital theater has kept actors and audiences both safe during the pandemic while still allowing them a badly needed creative outlet.
As with any digital space, there are drawbacks. Some of the intimacy of live theatre is lost when you’re viewing through a screen.
Rue Dickey, an actor in the Majesticpiece show The Fate of Frankenstein, sums it up saying, “Zoom theatre loses some of the connection between performers — it’s harder to build rapport and character relationships through a screen, the same way it’s hard to talk to loved ones through a screen.”
Supervisor Jimbo Ivy says, “Blocking so that actors stay six feet apart and conveying intimacy? Super hard. Obviously the visceral presence is lost when you aren’t in a room with the cast, but I feel like the authenticity and impact has been maintained due to the ingenuity of our staff and volunteers.”
Indeed, there is a lot to be gained from Zoom theatre. Even without the visceral experience of being in the same room with actors, the performances still have the power to move. It has also made theater more accessible.
Actor Rina Alvarez says, “Zoom theatre is fun because it gives you a lot more freedom and accessibility in regards to doing it from home in an environment one’s more comfortable with, [as well as] physically being comfortable and not running around on and off stage.”
Zoom theatre has also drawn in new actors and directors because of this new level of accessibility.
“We learned during the last year that there were a lot of communities that our ‘normal’ process isn’t serving,” Ivy says. “As we head back to full operations, we’re working with our communities to create a new normal that serves everyone in our community with equity as a foundation.”
Beyond just giving actors a necessary creative outlet and welcoming in a wider slice of the community, Zoom theatre has proved a great source of technical innovation for the Majestic. This not only includes turning Zoom into a viable performance space, but also in something as basic as ticket sales.
The transition from normal box office to purely digital took four or five shows to really iron out, according to Ivy. Now ticketing is running as smoothly as it used to for in-person shows.
By all accounts, Zoom theatre has been a successful endeavor both for actors and theatergoers. Even when the Majestic opens its doors again, Zoom theater might stick around in some form or another.