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Is there a better name than "virtual" theatre?

It's time to settle the issue -- What should we call this new format that is a mash-up between stage and screen?


Until now, several different words or phrases have been ascribed to it. Some of them being:

  • virtual theatre

  • Zoom theatre

  • online theatre

  • distance theatre

  • streaming theatre

Clearly, from the name of my group, I rest mostly firmly in the first camp. To don my English teacher cap, virtual literally means (in the technological sense):

  • not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so.

  • carried out, accessed, or stored by means of a computer, especially over a network.

I generally agree with those definitions, perhaps with the slight exception of "not physically existing." The people behind a "virtual production," from the actors to the director, are real; we are not fabrications of the mind. (At least, I hope not.)

The rest of the terms are either product-endorsing and/or confusing; "Distance theatre" is a no-go because, while I might be on the other side of the country from the actors on screen, I can feel more connected to them than I do watching a Broadway production up in the nosebleed seats.


There is also a possibility that this type of theatre will enter a hybrid model -- live audiences and audiences watching online. But using the name "hybrid theatre" sounds too clunky, like something Dr. Moreau would have created if he'd gone to New York City instead of his own island. ("Hybrid" is also a word that causes the educator in me to throw up a little in my mouth after this past year of teaching with this approach.)


"Online" and "streaming" are more apt terms, but likewise seem too restricted by their definitions to just the internet space. Therefore, we are left with either a new definition of the word "virtual" (and language does change/morph with time), or perhaps an even simpler solution: just "theatre." No qualifying, no unspoken delegitimizing, but just call it exactly what it is. Because, at the end of the day (or end of the show), it is essentially a performance brought to you by actors from a script intended for an audience.


Indeed, movies are theatre in a way, television too. In all these methods of entertainment delivery, a performance is given to an audience who wanted to see it. And while companies like mine, who specifically produce without a permanent playhouse might need more time to be seen as the same as one that trods the boards, we all want to bring beloved stories to eager viewers -- whether it's from 4 feet above us, or thousands of miles away.


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