New Media Meets an Old Medium at PCS


You raise some good points here.

Sojourn similarly explored twitter and other live interactive forms as part of our Fall work in DC around the election, and our show, The Race.

I think the question of what an audience, for whom 'interruption' is a daily part of information and narrative discourse, wants, or even needs, to engage, be delighted, be is the contemporary question of live performance.

hand2mouth explores it, like other modern experimental ensembles, by creating pop culture heavy imagistic and more and more participatory events that are not to be witnessed but joined. Fever Theater seems to do it through an examination of ritual and community. Likewise, at Sojourn, we keep pushing the relationship between story and participation, with site, journey and technology as our main modes of formal inquiry.

There is the event, and there is getting people to the event.
And marketing techno-sophistication to web-savvy young audiences as a way to let them know that- 'yes, we know you are interacting with your culture in a new way, and we want to meet you there'- its smart.

I think the real revolution, already happening all over, but difficult at the big houses, is when these opportunities to engage aren't just in response to the event, but actually allow the 'audience' to 'impact' the event.

The phenomenon of new arts consumers isn't just to get them in the door, but give them opportunities to co-author. As the web, and video games, and music and film all do now...that is the frontier for live performance. And its a challenging, exciting one.

And a place like Portland should be, and in many ways is, exactly where the conversation is happening.

Michael Rohd

Thanks for the report on a novel approach to incorporating 21st century technology into an ancient art form. Michael Rohd provides a thoughful perspective too (as always). I've posted additional commentary at
Ummm. January 19th is a Monday...just saying
Fascinating stuff, Alison. Speaking as a geezer who doesn't know a twitter from a cheep (good lord, I've never even sent a text message, although I DO know how to use my cell phone) I know I can't speak for the tech-savvy generation my kids belong to. But I do know arts groups have been worrying about the graying of the audience for as long as I've been writing about the performing arts, and that stretches back to the late 1970s. I once asked David Shifrin, artistic director of Chamber Music Northwest, about it, and he said the average age of the audience now (this was about four years ago) was pretty much the same as when he'd begun at CMNW more than 20 years before. So, there's some truth to the "growing into art" argument.

But, I think, only some. One thing that's changed remarkably is the level of access to the arts in America's public schools. When I was a school kid in the 1950s and '60s, even in a less-than-prosperous small town, we had full-time music teachers from grade school on up, and art teachers in junior high and high school (in grade school, art was a regular part of almost every teacher's bag of tricks), and I had teachers in other disciplines who would routinely use the arts to teach their own subjects. While we've been busy leaving No Child Behind, we've left a massive hole in the educational experience. And without some sort of decent, everyday (or at least, regular) exposure to the ideas and practices of art when they're kids, I think a lot of people WON'T follow the old pattern: The traditional art forms, at least as presented in traditional ways, simply won't ever hook them.

Of course, a three-minute song can be a wondrous thing. And the fractured form that contemporary aesthetics is taking has its own excitement -- of collaboration, of something new, of being part of a mosaic instead of buying in to the old-fashioned Artist as Solitary Genius model. I think it's great that groups like Sojourn are exploring this sort of thing (although the world of visual arts so far is way ahead of theater in this regard, and theater's ahead of opera and classical music). A good rhymed couplet is every bit as aesthetically satisfying as an epic poem, and usually a good deal more accessible. For better and for worse, art forms will always break up and re-create themselves.

One thing does worry me, though, about the shortened tech-age attention span: Are we losing the ability to follow extended arguments, just at the time when the increased complexity of the world would seem to demand that we pay close attention? I don't mean that long is good for long's sake -- I've never managed to get farther than 60 pages in Proust -- but a four-hour encounter with Shakespeare, an hour-long symphony (music compresses time so that Beethoven's hour equals roughly Shakespeare's four), an evening-length ballet, a Mozart opera are more than just potentially exhilarating sensual experiences, they're exercises in extended thought.

Unfortunately, theater and classical music and opera and ballet are exceedingly expensive enterprises, and with shrinking audiences, they (like newspapers) are in danger of tipping over the edge and going out of business. Bummer.

So. Maybe the path to Ibsen and O'Neill and Arthur Miller runs through new theater -- the twittering, elliptical, short-burst, energetic, phantasmagoric stuff that young theater people are creating. Maybe, if Hand2Mouth and Sojourn and Vertigo and others grab your attention and spark your interest, at some point, when you have your marriage and your mortgage and your 2.2 kids, that long-form stuff will start to look more appealing and you'll add Center Stage or Artists Rep or Oregon Ballet Theatre or the symphony or the opera to your list. Or maybe not.

Just sayin'.

I'm sure Bob Hicks wrote some great stuff there. I don't know though. I just skimmed it. I have a shortened "tech-age" attention span and can't follow extended arguments.
And then there's that tech-age love of snarky sarcasm (snarkasm?) to go with the shortened attention span.