Zoom Audiences Deserve Your Best
Let's first talk about the elephant in the room. COVID has destroyed lives, crippled industries, ruined relationships, and intruded on our world in a way that will forever change us. We all know this and we all are dealing with the affects that COVID has had on our personal and professional lives. And I know that most are staying positive and doing the best they can under the circumstances, but...
I'm growing more and more frustrated, disappointed, disgusted and flat out angry at the lack of attention to detail and quality that I am experiencing when I attend a Zoom production when I've purchased a ticket or made a donation. I will happily forgive every frustration below if the Zoom play is promoted as a "work in progress" or a "reading to help the playwright work out some ideas," but when the Zoom play is marketed and advertised as being ready to present to an audience, I remain steadfast in my opinions below.
I know going into the Zoom play that it is not intended to be a fully realized production like it would be if I went to the theater. I know that the Zoom play is not intended to be of the quality of a fully produced TV show or Movie. I know that the Zoom play lives somewhere in the space between a live version of an audio book and a video version of a staged play reading, but...
I am pleading with the Producers, Directors and Actors that are putting on Zoom plays to please respect the audience more.
Sometimes, I am giving you 2 hours of my life, my attention, my support, my money, my passion and when what is presented online is more like a "work in process" or a "rehearsal", I find myself frustrated and disappointed throughout the production and this impacts my appreciation of the piece.
Just because the play is being shared over Zoom does not give anyone involved in the production the permission to produce poor quality work, technically as well as theatrically, and present it in a way that makes the audience perceive that they will be viewing a quality production.
Here are some suggestions and ideas that I've thought about and have read from other frustrated audience members, to help the Producers, Directors and Actors, honor and respect the audience in the same way they do for a live production.
Ensure all actors are using the same framing on their computer or phone. When some are horizontal and some are vertical, it makes it harder for the audience to believe the imaginary world.
Have similar backgrounds whenever possible, so it doesn't appear as if everyone is in their bedrooms or living rooms.
Find a quiet space to perform so we don't hear your dogs barking or families talking in the background.
Make sure the lighting is of quality and consistent for all actors. Different lighting creates different moods.
Don't wear wired or wireless headphones. When modern technology is visible like that it breaks the world of the play.
Stop picking up your water bottles to drink while your camera is on. Again, do everything possible to not break the world of the play.
Change your name on your video window to your character's name so when we see you talk, we see the character's name, not the actor's name.
Know where the other actors are so if you're looking left, that it appears as if you're talking to them and not in the opposite direction.
Wear clothes that reasonable represent the character, the play and the period. Wearing sweatpants and a hoodie while watching The Cherry Orchard creates issues for many audience members.
Memorize your lines. Just because it's a Zoom play does not give you permission to be lazy with your process. Audiences do not show up to watch you read from a script.
If the cast is going to read from the script, then have them all be consistent. Having some with printed pages, some reading from their laptops and some using their phones breaks the world of the play.
If you're going to have a Narrator, change the name on their video box to Narrator and keep their video off, just use the audio.
Make sure that everyone acting is contributing the the overall emotional level of the piece. The cast must all be in the same emotional world. Having some actors "reading" and "representing" while others have their foot on the emotional gas pedal comes across as inconsistent and overacting. The entire cast should be helping to tell the same story.
I am sure there are more thoughts that could be offered here, but they all boil down to one specific theme:
YOUR ONLINE AUDIENCE DESERVES
YOUR BEST AND YOUR RESPECT!
Don't put out less than quality work just because we can't get audiences into theaters right now. Honor the Zoom medium. Respect the audience as you would if they were in person. Don't be lazy. Do quality work that you can be proud to put your name on.
OK - I have vented enough. I hope that some (if not all) of this blog has resonated with you in some way that inspires your to do your best.
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I hope this post has inspired you in some small way. I look forward to reading your comments.
Bye for now and Stay Safe My Fellow Travelers.
See you inside the Toolbox.