Feature Story

Innovative technology hits the theatre stage

by Stephanie Chan

Innovative technology hits the theatre stage

The Tonys are here—let's celebrate the latest and most creative uses of technology in theatre.

With the annual Tony Awards steadily approaching, many are looking towards the current atmosphere of theatre and musical arts. 

It's clear how technology has been affecting the movie industry—and even music festivals like Coachella. Notably, Cisco is partnering with Live Nation to equip 20 outdoor amphitheaters with Cisco Connected Stadium Wi-Fi to ensure every attendee is connected. Beyond this, innovative tech within theatre might strike some as a little more dubious. 

It turns out that technology is finding creative outlet on stages, much like the play adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, which uses visual technologies and projections to help bring the state of a character's mind to life.

Redbrick writes that Shakespeare's stage play The Tempest has been outfitted with sensors and screens to make the character Ariel—a magical sprite—appear in projections throughout the theater.

Technology is at the core for the massive theatre and performing arts productions of Cirque du Soliel. The gymnast-meets-divers show, Cirque du Soliel's "O", is entrenched with technology to keep performers safe and audiences happy. CNET reports that the shows' live band plays through underwater speakers so swimmers can constantly keep on beat. Divers remain underwater with air hoses and regulators to make sure performers stay breathing.

Two consoles keep everything in "O" running as it should, with every lighting cue, and stage movement tightly controlled. 

But what about those who can't physically make it to the theatre? Redbrick reports that since 2009, National Theater has broadcast productions like A Streetcar Named Desire and Of Mice and Men to over 2,000 people around the world. Some argue that theatre should be enjoyed live and in the arena itself, but technology still makes the experience a possibility for those with less accessibility.

Theatre can be an extremely pared down—or in the case of "O"—extravagantly technological experience.  Whether with sensors, visuals, or tricky lighting, innovation in theatre tech is making shows more immersive for audiences. 

                                                                                   ###