Helena Bell and Grant Watson discuss The Lamellar Project
With a global audience that heavily outnumbers the size of any traditional theatre, the future of devised theatre is bound to be online in some form. So, how can theatre productions fully embrace the internet? Samuel Fry asked Pursued by a Bear about The Lamellar Project.
You are currently developing a production that will be performed live in theatres and streamed across the internet. How would you describe the project?
The Lamellar Project is an international collaboration with Philadelphia based, US theatre company, Tiny Dynamite. We are creating a new, ground breaking, theatre production (live and online) about bio-diversity and climate change. The project is planned for international UK Arts and Science Festivals in 2016.
In 2015, as part of the UpStream Digital Awards, Pursued By A Bear (PBAB) will commission writer and film-maker Grant Watson to develop a transatlantic ‘eco-thriller’. Two actors, one in the UK and one in the US, will rehearse over Skype and produce a ‘scratch’ performance. This will then be played to an audience in both countries and it will be streamed live on to the internet to an online audience.
Where did the idea come from?
Our writer Grant Watson is particularly interested in environmental issues. He is currently making three promotional films for the environmental education organisation The Bay Trust and he also wanted to create an ‘eco-thriller’ that crosses national borders.
The idea was to utilise a theme that affects us all – the future of our planet – and to broadcast a production that confronts this to a global audience. Grant is excited by the idea of creating multi-stranded narratives, where various stories overlap across various mediums, so when he read about accelerated rates of evolution among certain species due to climate change he felt that a production that uses live and digital storytelling would be a natural fit.
How did you come together with, Philadelphia theatre company, Tiny Dynamite?
Pursued by a Bear’s Artistic Director Helena Bell first worked together with Tiny Dynamite’s Artistic Director Emma Gibson in the UK on a series of short new plays (‘BRIEFS’) in the late 1990’s. The collaboration was extremely fruitful with the successful plays further produced at The Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith. Emma went on to form her own new writing company in Philadelphia and invited Pursued by a Bear to submit ideas for projects the two companies could co-produce together. From that, The Lamellar Project was born.
Ensuring that the live streaming works well is likely to be key. Do you know what technologies you will use for this?
We have won an Upstream Digital Award (jointly funded by SHP Live and Greenhouse) which gives us cash plus invaluable live stream mentoring from experts Martin Franklin and Stephen Harrison. The American internet provider Comcast is also assisting our co-producers in Philadelphia with equipment and mentoring. The technologies and equipment we will be using are still to be confirmed.
What are your next steps?
We have planned a six month Research and Development process after which we plan to tour to UK and US Arts and Science Festivals, opening the live show at The Philadelphia Fringe Festival in 2016. The Lamellar Project will also be accessible on various other platforms.
How do you see this influencing the future of digital performance?
The internet is an incredibly powerful tool for telling stories. Firstly, the size of online audiences is far greater than that of any traditional stage show. Yet, most importantly, the internet provides a number of diverse platforms for storytellers – from social media streams such as Facebook and Twitter to video hosting sites such as YouTube and Vimeo. All of this means that a storyteller can create complex fictional worlds and spaces in which to explore the development of characters and themes.