YouTube and Theater

I’ve noticed that theater is making excessive use of YouTube. So far my scripts have made it onto YouTube more often than the stage. It seems like every theater company is videotaping their staged readings and productions to post on YouTube. Sometimes this is done to promote the show or reading and sometimes it is done to give the actors a video clip for self-promotion.

I’m not complaining, but theater is supposed to be a live performance on a stage. Something isn’t right if plays never make it onto the stage, but exist as YouTube videos. The playwright who finds himself writing scripts for video isn’t a playwright. He is a script writer. He should be writing screenplays.

It is important for playwrights to realize what is going on with the theater’s use of YouTube. I’ve seen some playwriting competitions which appear to be thinly veiled excuses for video production companies to drum up business. And I’ve seen playwriting opportunities which only serve to give an actor a YouTube video for self-promotion.

A playwright may need to change his writing if the script is sure to be videotaped. A scene will have to work on the small screen as well as on the stage. And a playwright will need to change his strategy if his portfolio consists entirely of YouTube videos.

Since I was very involved in the YouTube community before turning my attention back to the theater, I ask myself what am I doing back here? But fortunately I am very familiar with online video. Maybe I should reconsider online video. I remember that a lot of actors were using YouTube for self-promotion and there were many web series created by video production studios. Frequently you could not determine who was involved in producing a slick video. There was the famous incident of LonelyGirl15 posing as a vlogger when her videos were actually a work of fiction created by a screenwriter, a filmmaker, and a professional actress. And I’ve also seen videos by marketing agencies, theater companies, aspiring actors, aspiring comedians, amateur filmmakers, independent film producers, etc.

In the world of playwriting, I’ve come across some playwrights writing for online web series. It appears to be the actors in theater companies that start these kinds of projects. On YouTube the boundaries between theater, video production, filmmaking, and television become blurred with dramatic writers crossing into other areas almost by accident.

So how should I use this as a writer? First, I should search for theater artists who are active on YouTube and subscribe to their channel to interact with them. Second, I should study screenwriting since it appears to be impossible to avoid getting roped into that type of dramatic writing. I spent a considerable amount of time learning After Effects so maybe I should offer my video composition services to theater companies as a means of establishing a relationship. And finally, instead of producing my own plays maybe I should consider producing them as videos.

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