What Will Theatre Look Like In 100 Years?

What will theatre, and Shakespeare in particular, look like in 100 years?

When people want to talk to me about who they think is a “modern Shakespeare” I always respond the same way: “Talk to me in 450 years and we’ll see if anybody’s still talking about your guy.”

But it does bring up something that we can talk about.  Shakespeare hasn’t remained static for all that time. The words aren’t changing, but everything else is.  Women on stage.  Electric lights.  Film.  Our attitudes toward race, gender, anti-Semitism.  All up for discussion.

What’s happening now that you think will be standard a generation (or two) from now?

I think that gender and race-blind casting is an obvious one.  I think we could debate all day the difference between “King Lear portrayed by a woman” and “King Lear portrayed as a woman” but that’s a topic for a different day.  Just like men played all the female roles at one point, I have no problem with women playing the men’s roles.  But when you change the actual character – making Prospera the mother figure rather than Prospero’s father figure, or making Hamlet the daughter rather than the son – well, then I think you’ve changed the source material and are now telling a different story than Shakespeare did, and creating a whole new thing. Which is fine, but then you shift into “based on Shakespeare” or “inspired by Shakespeare” territory. Don’t tell me I’m going to see Hamlet and deliver me the melancholy princess of Denmark.

Even that much is typically enough to get Facebook mad at me 🙂 and it’s not really the aspect of Shakespeare that most interests me.  I’d much rather talk about technology.

I’ve wanted to redesign the whole idea of the script for a long time. I wrote about my desire to see “Gonzo” Shakespeare back when the iPad2 first came out. This year we saw The Tempest with a completely computer-generated Ariel.  And let’s not forget this story about Shakespeare via portal, where some of the actors “on stage” are actually being broadcast from a thousand miles away.

What’s next?

Something I haven’t seen yet, but I’d love to see?  Interact with the audience’s smart phones.  A day will come, if it hasn’t already when we can just assume that everybody has one.  Imagine telling people that they can download an app to be a part of the show, just like donning 3d glasses at a movie.  Then comes a scene when everybody exits…then all our phones light up, and you see and hear Hamlet, “How all occasions do inform against me, And spur my dull revenge!”  It needs work, you’ve had to deal with the brightness,

How far we’ve already come!

the volume, etc.. but that’s just one idea off the top of my head as I sit here and write this.  Maybe in 100 years, we won’t even need the device. We’ll just have the sounds and images projected right into our heads.

Moore’s Law tells us that the advancement of technology is ever accelerating.  What’s taken 20 years thus far will take 2 years going forward. So 100 years is a long time.  Can we even imagine?

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