Saturday, April 6, 2013

Theatres Use Technology Cautiously to Avoid Losing the Art Form


To use technology or to not, that is the question theatre producers are facing as the digital age progresses and audience numbers decline. The benefits and dangers of integrating technology into the craft has been an ongoing debate in the theatre community for years. Even theatre artists who dabble with using technology are skeptical to completely jump on the digital bandwagon for fear of losing the art's pure form.

Theatres Universally Recognize Technology as an Essential Marketing Tool

survey completed by the National Endowment for the Arts reports the majority of theatres are using their websites and social media outlets to promote and increase audience engagement. Theatre J’s Director of Community Outreach and New Media, Molly Winston cultivates audiences by using numerous technologies including a comprehensive website, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and a Wordpress blog. Winston shares the process of their blog and its effectiveness to promote their productions and generate audience involvement.



Digital Devices Involve Audience in Play Writing Process

Generous Company founding member David White utilizes clicker technology in a unique capacity to enable collaboration between playwrights and audiences. Before a performance, select audience members are given electronic devices. As the play unfolds without interruption, they answer their given question via the device on a scale of 1 through 9. When the answers are graphed, they illustrate the audience’s perspective at different points of the play. The data collected allows playwrights to confirm if they are clearly conveying their message throughout the production. White explains how this technology opens up a new realm of how playwrights receive audience feedback.


Mobile Technology Used to Introduce Younger Audiences to Classic Theatre

A trend dubbed “Tweet Seats” involves theatres catering to the mobile generation and their need to constantly tweet. These separate sections allow patrons to post updates throughout performances without disturbing other audience members. The trend is met with mixed reviews, but could be seen as an opportunity to connect with a new generation. When Towson University Professor Peter Wray directed the17th Century play The Misanthrope, his goal was to make the classical piece accessible to a younger audience. Setting the piece in present day Hollywood, actors tweeted with each other on stage between their lines, mirroring how the mobile generation connects today. Wray then encouraged the audience to tweet to the actors during performances, but added a catch.



Overuse of Technology Could Interfere with Theatre Audience Experience

Establishing a connection to the audience is paramount to a successful theatre experience. White and Wray both integrated technology into their productions, but agree that overuse can create distance and overshadow theatre’s ability to connect with people on a deep, emotional levelArtist Director of the Acting Company, Ian Belknap believes that technology excludes audience members from significant moments, he argues, “The essence of drama is two people that think they’re both right and want different things. Technology fails to create shock, awe and conflict.” On the other side of the debate, former Facebook Marketing Director, Randi Zuckerburg presented ideas at the TEDxBroadway event on how theatres could utilize technology to grow their audiences, such as live streaming performances at a lower cost. In response, Winston observes that technology cannot replicate the intrinsic value of experiencing live theatre in person.


The debate of whether or not to infuse technology into theatre will forge on for years due to the constant struggle between technological innovation and artistic integrity. It will remain to be seen if the pure art form of theatre can survive the digital age. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Theatre Artists Debate the Pros and Cons of Using Technology


To use technology or to not, that is the question theatre producers are facing as the digital age progresses and audience numbers decline. The benefits and dangers of integrating technology into the craft has been an ongoing debate in the theatre community for years. It was recently brought to the forefront by a gathering of experts and artists discussing the future of theatre at the TEDxBroadway event.  Former Facebook Marketing Director, Randi Zuckerburg presented ideas on how theatres could utilize technology to grow their audiences, such as live streaming performances at a lower cost. Zuckerburg urges theatres to move into the 21st Century and use technology to promote theatre, she asks, “Why should it just be a sliver of the world coming to Broadway...when we can bring Broadway to the entire world?” 

Digital Devices Involve Audience in Play Writing Process

Generous Company founding member David White utilizes clicker technology in a unique capacity to enable collaboration between playwrights and audiences. Before a performance, select audience members are given electronic devices and instructed to answer questions via the device throughout the play on a scale of 1 through 9. When the answers are graphed after the performance, they illustrate the audience’s perspective at different points of the play. The data collected allows playwrights to confirm if they are clearly conveying their message throughout the production. Normally, playwrights only receive audience feedback once the play is over, which as White explains can influence their answers and cause inaccurate data.


Marketing Technology is Widely Used for Promoting Theatres and Productions 

Theatre communities universally recognize technology as an essential tool for marketing. A survey completed by the National Endowment for the Arts reports the majority of organizations are using their websites and social media outlets to promote and increase audience engagement. Theatre J’s Director of Community Outreach and New Media, Molly Winston cultivates audiences by using numerous technologies including a comprehensive website, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and a Wordpress blog. Winston shares the process of their blog and its effectiveness to promote their productions and generate audience involvement.



Mobile Technology Used to Introduce Younger Audiences to Classic Theatre

A new trend dubbed “Tweet Seats” involves theatres catering to the mobile generation and their need to constantly tweet. These separate sections allow patrons to post updates throughout performances without disturbing other audience members. Although Tweet Seats are met with mixed reviews they could be seen as an opportunity for theatres to connect with a new generation. When Towson University Professor Peter Wray directed the17th Century play The Misanthrope, his goals were to make the classical piece accessible and pertinent to a younger audience. Setting the piece in present day Hollywood, actors tweeted with each other on stage in between their lines, mirroring how the celebrity and mobile generation connects today. Wray then took it a step further and encouraged the audience to tweet to the actors during performances, but added his own twist to help meld the theatrical and technical worlds.


Overuse of Technology in Theatre Could Sever Connection to Audiences

The benefits of utilizing technology are numerous but some theatre artists still remain skeptical and refuse to jump on the digital bandwagon. Ian Belknap, Artist Director of the Acting Company, believes that technology excludes audience members from significant moments, he argues, “The essence of drama is two people that think they’re both right and want different things.Technology fails to create shock, awe and conflict.” Although White and Wray integrated technology into their productions, they both agree that overuse can create distance and overshadow theatre’s ability to connect with people on a deep, emotional level. They also both contend that theatre is vital to our society because it builds and strengthens communities on both sides of the curtain. Additionally, Winston observes that technology cannot replicate the intrinsic value of experiencing theatre live and in person. 



The debate of whether or not to infuse technology into theatre will forge on for years due to the constant struggle between technological innovation and artistic integrity. It will remain to be seen if the pure art form of theatre can survive the digital age.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Community Bonds Tighten from St. Patrick’s Day Parade Tradition


The Harp and Shamrock Society of Gaithersburg successfully brought their community together for an energized, uplifting celebration during their annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. All participants featured in the parade are actively involved in community enrichment through their volunteer work and social activities. These locals were recognized for their dedication during Saturday’s festivities by a cheering and enthusiastic crowd comprised of their fellow community members. 


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Parade Entertainers Recognized for Aiding their Community 

The Gaithersburg High School Key Club had the honor of holding the parade banner and kicking things off this year. Established in 2010, the club includes teen activists who clocked over 4,000 hours of community service last year. In March, they raised $2,000 for Pennies for Patients, a fundraising campaign sponsored by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Another participating group, the Ring of Kerry Irish Dancers, have been teaching traditional Irish step dancing for twenty years to ages eight through eighty. They meet weekly and help bridge the generational gap in their community by carrying out their mission statement: have fun, learn to dance, and preserve the Irish heritage.



The Kapitol Klowns also use an art form to help bring community members together and have been performing in the DC Metro area for forty-four years. The Klowns meet monthly to promote the art of clowning, participate in regional events and donate to local charities, such as the Children’s Inn at NIH. Diane "Toodles" Jones says it’s vital for her to participate in events like the St. Patrick’s Day parade because she feels a strong need to give back to her community. 


Heritage Society Strives to Keep Locals Connected with Annual Parade 

For thirteen years the Harp and Shamrock Society of Gaithersburg organizes the St. Patrick’s Day parade in an effort to cultivate a cohesive community and to preserve Irish culture. Local Louise Carr has been a member of the society since its inception and notes the importance of community members coming together not only to celebrate the holiday but each other as well. The local children also play a pivotal role in the parade and Louise comments on the value of these kids showcasing their talents for their fellow friends and neighbors. 


Local Kids Play a Huge Role in Parade Festivities and their Community

Local children including Scouts troops, Hurley step dancers and Karate Kicks kids were featured and celebrated for their talents and work in the community. The Harp and Shamrock Society encourages children and teens to join the parade to help promote and advocate their participation in extracurricular activities. And in turn, these kids inspire their peers attending the parade to find their own talent and avenues of supporting the community. Gaithersburg mother Nicole is a first time attendee and explains she will become a recurring visitor because of the wonderful performances geared towards children of all ages. 


The St. Patrick’s Day parade brings a strong sense of fellowship to the participants and attendees. There is an Irish proverb that says, “The greatest sweetener of human life is friendship.” It seems this tradition is the local’s way of ensuring these ideals remain alive and well in their community. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Reporting with Mobile Technology is the Future of Journalism


With mobile technology, journalists can capture and report a news story almost instantaneously. This new age of journalism has given birth to “backpack journalists” and “Mojos” (mobile journalists) who rely on technology to stay in field and out of the newsroom. WTOP’s Neil Augenstein was one of the first reporters to forgo all of his equipment and make the iPhone his main tool for reporting. Neil explains how he can scoop the story faster than others who are not utilizing mobile devices to their full potential. 

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Reporting with One Device Requires Having the Best Accessories 

Although mobile technology has advanced over the years, journalists still sometimes need to use accessories to make a more polished product. Out in the field, Neil’s biggest complaint is that there is still not a microphone component that improves sound and doesn’t involve bulky equipment. However, there has been a recent breakthrough for the low battery issue that plagues all reporters. CES recently released a lightweight charger for all digital devices that doesn’t require an outlet to function. As technology continues to advance, reporters will only find it easier and more efficient to work off of one device. Neil explains how utilizing minimal devices enables journalists to get the scoop faster and how it is completely revolutionizing journalism. 

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Veteran and Budding Journalists are Adapting to Mobile Reporting 

Budding journalists are quickly adapting to mobile reporting, giving veteran reporters a run for their money. Recently, a college senior and recent graduate covered an historic basketball event when a player made an unreal 55 feet winning shot. After capturing the remarkable moment, the reporters put their social media skills to work and the video quickly went viral. However, there are veteran reporters who are shedding the heavy equipment and leaving the newsroom to become mobile journalists. WUSA reporter Scott Broom proudly describes himself as a “One Man Band” as he treks across the country in his news van using minimal equipment to get the news. While Scott was on the road covering Hurricane Isaac, disaster struck which could have prevented him from reporting on the event. However, Scott leveraged his technological knowledge and ingenuity to still get the story. 


Mobile technology is changing the way news is reported, however, Neil stresses that it doesn’t change the ethics behind journalism, “They're just tools.” he says, “It's still up to the multimedia reporter to learn and use journalistic standards, fairness, perspective, and taste, because they don't have an app for that.”

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Utilizing Trending Technology is Key to Success for Journalists

Journalism is changing and professionals are advising students they need ingenuity and creativity to get ahead in the industry. Budding and veteran journalists must learn to be adaptable and technologically savvy in order to survive.


Quick thinking in the field is expected of today's journalists 

At Saturday’s Face Time with the Pros seminar, journalism professionals volunteered to speak to students in their area of expertise, from mobile journalism to covering live stories. WUSA Scott Broom’s presentation included his mobile coverage of Hurricane Isaac. While Scott was on the road, disaster struck which could have prevented him from covering the story. But because of his inventiveness, the show went on and his report was a success. 

Photojournalist Bethany Swain spoke to students about creating opportunities for themselves and forward thinking. While working at CNN, Bethany spearheaded a project during her personal time before presenting it to the network, which eventually become the award winning series “In Focus.” Bethany also reviewed the basics of how to shoot a sequence and stressed the importance of “getting the moment.” And she reenforced Scott’s message of forward thinking and not dwelling on mistakes in the field.

Students benefit from pro's immediate feedback

Every group of students had several professionals working with them which enabled each student to get attention and advice on their specific area of interest. During the “Working the Live Shot” seminar, students listened to a simulated press conference and were then immediately ushered outside to the news van to report on camera. The workshop tested their abilities to retain the important information and to perform on the spot. University of Maryland Freshman Marina Dimarzo participated in the exercise and learned a lot from the experience and NBC4 news reporter Mark Segraves’ feedback.

Journalist pro attributes success to her education 

In its third year hosted by the University of Maryland, the NATAS Chesapeake Bay Chapter’s seminar included several professionals who had attended the university. One UMD Alumni, CBS News Correspondent Tolleah Price spoke to students about the value of returning to school after being out in the field. Tolleah, like most journalists, had the skills to succeed, but lacked the the background and networking pool to break into the industry. She attributes getting a job at CBS with attending UMD and participating in their Graduate Certificate Program.

The overall message delivered to students from the journalism professionals was to always look forward and keep moving with the times. Journalism will continue to change and if they want to be a part of the industry, they must find avenues to keep up with the current trends. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Technology Expert Must be Constantly Connected to the Web

Rebecca Nacht's iPhone and iPad are the main devices she uses daily for social media, texting, games, YouTube and web surfing. Rebecca wishes she could upgrade to the next level every time a new update comes out, but admits she’s not in a hurry to pay for it.


Rebecca is first in line when the latest gadget or upgrade is released

Rebecca enjoys having the most updated technology at her fingertips. Currently she owns an iPhone 5, iPad, Macbook and PC laptop and that’s not counting the devices she uses at work! Working at an IT company and constantly advising customers to invest in the latest technology definitely makes it easier for her to keep up to date on the newest trends. However, as Rebecca explains, it also feeds into her hunger to keep ahead of the curve and invest in the latest technology for herself. 
One of the perks of being “plugged in” with the latest gadget is that you never miss a beat. A perk that Rebecca treasures immensely. Whether it’s an update on her friend’s baby, celebrity gossip, or world news, Rebecca loves that her trusty digital devices allow her to “hear it first.” She also likes in turn, being able to update her followers and friends on her latest nail designs. And Rebecca is not the only one with the yen to be constantly updated on the latest buzz. People have become so addicted to checking their phones, that an game was invented to squelch phone usage by your friends during dinner outings. Rebecca agrees that society has gotten to the point where people can’t live without knowing what’s going 24/7.

Easy access to information could cause researching skills to downturn

Another advantage to technology Rebecca enjoys is the ability to access information with just a click of a button. Rebecca and her sister kid each other when one poses a question to the other because to them, there is no need to ask. As they jokingly put it, they each have a “little google machine” at their disposal that can supply them with endless information. Although that is a positive aspect to technology, Rebecca also recognizes that our ability to receive knowledge instantly without much effort may have some negative effects for future generations.


Weighing the positives and negatives, Rebecca is determined to remain plugged in and looks forward to the technology advances of the future. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Florida Conference Teaches Journalists to Adapt to Digital Age


University of Maryland's Professor Yaros urged journalists to join the digital age at the Journalism Interactive Conference at the University of Florida last week. During the conference's 7 tutorials offered in 70 minutes, Professor Yaros presented the top 10 lessons for mobile journalism. Below, he speaks of the two most important tips to help journalists report for the mobile audience. 




Conference Focuses on Mobile Journalism 

The Journalism Interactive Conference and partnership between University of Maryland and Florida was created to help journalists adapt to technology. In their second year, the conference focused primarily on data, design, mobile and presentation. Professor Yaros spoke to the importance of journalists writing for the mobile audience.