American Repertory Ensemble
Giving performance a life beyond 'live'
Obviously, it's the "live" in "live performance" that makes all the difference when it comes to a concert, play, or dance; it's being present while the thing is happening, where you can feel the immediacy of it and the exchange of energy between artists and audience, that gives it that distinctive kick from a filmed or televised event. And yet there are more efforts afoot of late to give audiences access to "live performances" through screens both large and small, and I don't mean just arena-rock gigaspectaculars such as U2 3D. Check out how the Metropolitan Opera has been expanding its fan base with its series The Met: Live in HD, beaming its productions into cinemas across the country. (And if you've missed sampling them so far, you have two more opportunities over the next two Wednesdays: encore performances of The Barber of Seville at 7pm July 29 and The Magic Flute at 7pm Aug. 5, both at the Regal Metropolitan 14.) And just last month, England's National Theatre launched a similar series with screenings of its current production of Phèdre starring Helen Mirren. Even in our neck of the woods, we're seeing live performances opened up to audiences beyond the theatre and concert hall: from the Butler School of Music's webcasts of its concerts to KLRU's filmed presentations of Austin Lyric Opera's Cinderella, Ballet Austin's Hamlet, and Conspirare in concert.
This week, American Repertory Ensemble dips its toe into the live-feed field. Artistic Director David Justin has teamed up with a couple of the fine folks at KLRU – namely, Austin City Limits producer Jeff Peterson and Dutch Rall, the Emmy-winning producer, director, cinematographer, and editor behind the Hamlet and Cinderella filmings – to send this weekend's opening night performance of See the Music, Hear the Dance over the Web. It won't actually be something everyone can see – the feed is going directly to a conference room at Texas Christian University, where it will be seen by a group of choreographers, dancers, dance administrators, and teachers attending the 11th CORPS de Ballet International Conference – but Justin sees this webcast as a "proof of concept activity" that will serve as a first step to get PBS stations around the state recording and broadcasting live performing arts events across Texas. "My hope," says Justin, "is that we will be laying groundwork that serves the greater arts community, many arts organizations, and a host of targeted underserved civic communities."
So far, Justin has found himself on a steep learning curve with regard to getting a live performance beyond the "live" part. "It is amazing how many hands must be in the pie," he says. "Fortunately, most of them are connected to people I am really enjoying working with. Identifying a cost-effective way for live performing arts to have a second, third, and fourth existence is exciting – not just in the potential solutions but in the many questions it raises about how people interact with art these days."
See the Music, Hear the Dance runs July 24-26, Friday, 8pm; Saturday, 2 & 8pm; and Sunday, 2pm, at the McCullough Theatre on the UT campus. For more information, call 762-4125 or visit www.americanrepensemble.org.