The Power of Hybrid and Livestreaming for Theatre: A Stellar Conversation with TRU and The 24 Hour Plays

TRU, The 24 Hour Plays and Stellar discuss the limitless possibilities streaming offers theatre professionals.

What’s the best way to adapt your shows for hybrid audiences? Which features should you prioritize when seeking a streaming service to broadcast your events? And what exactly is a “virtual premiere”?

Last month, Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) President Bob Ost joined Madelyn Paquette, General Manager of The 24 Hour Plays, and Stellar’s Director of Theatre Sales Jody Bell for an “illuminating conversation about how streaming can offer limitless possibilities for live entertainment professionals looking to expand their reach.”

While we recommend checking out the entire conversation (see the video link below), we’ve pulled together a few key takeaways from their informative chat.

Key Takeaways:

#1 Adding urgency to your event with a “virtual premiere”

Organizers who are looking to offer streaming or hybrid productions of their live events may think their options are limited to livestreams, VODs (video on demand), and rentals. But as Stellar’s Jody Bell explains, there’s another option event producers and marketers should explore — something called “prerecorded to live.”

These types of online streams offer the reliability of prerecorded content, but incorporate a timeliness commonly only found in livestreaming and in-person events. As Bell explains:

"You are taking that prerecorded content, but you’re making an event of the time that the show is being premiered. And that’s exactly what we’re doing for an upcoming show for The 24 Hour Plays. They’re doing a “virtual premiere.”"

Virtual premieres allow you to give your audience a specific time and place (albeit a virtual place, of course) to experience your content for the very first time together. This shared experience adds a sense of urgency to your online event, and the added benefit of having more audience members available to chat at the same time helps boost overall engagement. Win-win!

#2 Like in-person events — but with staying power

The 24 Hour Plays, which produces theatrical works that are written, rehearsed, and performed in 24 hours (hence the name!), has been producing in-person shows since 1995. For their typical live shows, about a half-dozen mini-plays or musicals would be staged for one night only.

In fact, general manager Madelyn Paquette shared one of their artistic director’s favorite quips to describe the original plays that comprise each show: “Six plays, never seen before — in all likelihood, never to be seen again!”

Moving into the online space gave the company an opportunity to offer audiences multiple chances to experience a given show — or even opt for a repeat viewing — for the very first time:

"It’s only now … that we’ve gotten to experiment with the idea that maybe those plays actually can be seen again on screens who are not in theatres with us. But beforehand, it really was just however many hundred people were there that night — and that was it!"

#3 Partner with a trusted streaming platform to provide a seamless experience

The 24 Hour Plays started working with Stellar in 2022, but as general manager Madelyn Paquette explained, they wish they'd started working with Stellar sooner, as early experiences with various livestreaming solutions during the first months of the pandemic left them wishing they were more user-friendly and packed with with more robust features.

 What problems was the 24 Hour Plays team able to solve with Stellar? Paquette highlighted four specific areas: 

  1. “With Stellar, it’s been much, much easier for us to control that it’s really only people who are getting tickets who are seeing the show, which is great for us obviously from a revenue side, but also great in making our artists feel secure that in taking risks in this wild production process that we have, that it’s not just out there floating on the internet.”
  1. “Stellar has been a really efficient platform in terms of us being able to communicate with our audience in ways that feel a little bit more automated and official.”
  1. “So many of our events have a fundraising component as a non-profit, so having [the ‘donate’ button] built in was something that was really helpful and effective for us.”
  1. “Chat functionality was something we had fun with on YouTube, but I think the Stellar platform gives you even more ways to make people feel special or noticed in the chat and engage that way.”

#4 Hybrid events offer new opportunities for creativity

Shifting The 24 Hour Plays into the online domain, Paquette shared, allowed the company to experiment with “what we do in a really new way.” The addition of online and hybrid events has also exponentially increased the scope and creative output of the company:

"I think in a lot of ways the pandemic really provided us an opportunity to get to the core of what we do well in the company and find opportunities to produce more work. Before 2020, we were doing two or three live productions in New York a year, plus a smattering of partner shows that we were lightly to heavily involved in."

Since 2020, Paquette estimates the company has overseen 43 rounds of shows featuring a total of more than 600 dramatic monologues. As TRU president Bob Ost succinctly put it during this freewheeling chat:

"We've discovered that the virtual medium is actually useful and interesting and does offer opportunities for creativity. So I'm going to declare it official: We're officially an era of hybrid performance!"

Amir Kenan

Staff Writer

Amir Kenan is a seasoned writer in the live event and entertainment space.