Theatre Royal Stratford East is to stream activity from its rehearsal room live on its new website so that audiences can see what is happening inside the venue.
The decision to live-stream video from different parts of the building is part of a wider move by the east London theatre to make its redesigned website more “democratic”. Theatre Royal artistic director Kerry Michael said the new video stream would act “like a shop window”.
Rather than listing upcoming productions, Theatre Royal’s new homepage asks visitors to choose from one of four statements – I would like to see what’s on, I would like to join the conversation, I would like to explore your channel or I would like to get involved. The different options then give viewers opportunities to see videos made by the theatre and to upload their own video content and post their views on theatre and other issues, as well as buying tickets.
Michael said staff at the venue were viewing the website as the organisation’s “third space” alongside the main stage and the bar.
He explained: “Yes, it’s about selling tickets, but it is also about finding a virtual way you can engage with our organisation. People talk about how exciting it is to hang out in our bar, or how good our access programmes are, or how political we are in our debates and that is now represented in a virtual way.”
Michael said the ideas for the new website grew out of the theatre’s work on the Open Stages project, in which the team handed programming power over to audiences. Creating a web channel also follows the organisation’s other online work, such as selling tickets directly through Facebook and establishing a ‘tweet zone’ in its auditorium so audience members in certain seats can post responses to a show as it is happening. He said he had “upset a lot of people” by creating the tweet zones, but believed that embracing change was part of the venue’s ethos.
He said: “Something that this theatre has always done is change and evolve and be at the heart of change and it’s more pertinent now with what’s happening around us with the Olympics. Joan Littlewood and Philip Hedley have set this theatre on this rhythm which is constantly about trying to move forward, and that is what I have inherited and what we are trying to do. This is one bit of that.”
Most of the website has now gone live, with some features – including the live-streaming – to follow. Michael said he hoped the new site “will have a life of its own” and that people use it as a resource. “It’s not always about leading back to Theatre Royal Stratford East,” he added.