Stellar Salon Recap: Insights on Accessibility and Embracing Hybrid Theatre from Producer Miranda Gohh

Check out the entire discussion and some of our favorite highlights from the conversation.

When it comes to being a proponent of accessibility and representation in the theatre industry, producer Miranda Gohh is a true leader in the space.

In 2022, she produced Circle Jerk (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama) Off-Broadway and online. Additionally, she's the Founder of Theatre Producers of Color (TPOC) and the Associate Producer at Davenport Theatrical Enterprises, working on the Broadway production of A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical, as well as the regional productions of Harmony, The Griswold's Broadway Vacation, and Joy.

Recently, we were fortunate to have Miranda join Stellar CEO Jim McCarthy and several key audience members to discuss the new creative possibilities that come with embracing hybrid theatre performances, and the incredible impact of increasing theatre’s accessibility.

Check out the entire discussion below and some of our favorite highlights from the conversation.

#1: One of the key recipes for Circle Jerk’s success was finding creative ways to address both in-person and online audiences

As Miranda shared during the salon, Circle Jerk broke the mold for hybrid live entertainment by truly delivering unique experiences for both in-person and online audiences.

“There really almost were two separate productions,” Miranda explained. "We likened [the show] to an SNL recording where we would see all the action unfold as audience members and the different videos and cameras moving… There was a screen at the theatre that was part of the in-person experience. The third act is almost all through iPhone screens a la Tik Tok… For the intermission screen, we had a live actor who sat for 15 minutes at the stool while the countdown clock went down…”

The effort to speak to both audiences paid off.

“We had a few repeat attendees who saw it seven times in the three weeks that we were up and we had people from the UK to Australia to California,” Miranda shared. “So in terms of the accessibility of being able to reach those people who weren’t in New York but still wanted to see the show, that was awesome.”

#2 - It’s time to get over the idea of audiences “just coming back”

During the course of the conversation, Talia Light Rake, event producer/director and creator of the virtual theatre festival Playdate Theatre, brought a question about the industry’s future to the table: “Since the world has opened back up in a way, have the thoughts of producers toward streaming as a revenue stream now changed?” 

Reflecting on the industry’s current state of financial struggle, Jim shared his perspective: 

“I think the mental challenge for people in theatre right now is getting over the idea of audiences “coming back”. I think there was a feeling – and I certainly had this feeling – that the bell rings and audiences come back after the pandemic. [But] the pandemic just went on too long with the Delta and Omicron wave having the impact they had on the live world that instead of this idea of coming back, I think this is the audience. The current level is the audience and the challenge for producers and everybody in the industry is to build tomorrow’s audience on top of the base that we have today.”

Miranda echoed Jim’s take: “In terms of audiences returning, we just have to acknowledge that we live in a different world than we did pre-pandemic…We have to start thinking outside the box in terms of reaching people where they are.” 

#3 - The online theatre experience can be just as engaging as watching a show in-person -- in its own right

During the conversation, Sam Rose, creator of REWIND an original 80s pop musical, shared a sentiment regarding live theatre that has come to many of our minds: 

“There’s nothing like sitting in a live theatre, watching a live performance and people experiencing the same thing… It seems to me that to capture the kind of energy that people receive in a live theatre, with live performers and getting that same willingness to suspend disbelief and be pulled in via a stream is really, really challenging. The two-dimensional aspect of it makes it a very challenging proposition.”

This led the group to discuss the value of a true, hybrid live performance versus streaming a pre-recorded and edited performance. As Jim shared, “When you add in the live dimension of it, like Circle Jerk did, it’s easier to feel as if you’re part of it…You don’t have to make a choice. If you know how to design for the screen, you can have two different but good experiences that are live.”

As an example, the group discussed the amazing live chat engagement you can find on the streaming side of hybrid performances. The broadcast of Jagged Live in NYC on Stellar, for example, had thousands of people joining a live chat pre-show, and then hundreds of people remaining on the chat for 2 hours post-show.

“That’s not the same as being in-person with people in a room but, on the other hand, if we're honest about it, if we’re sitting in a room with a thousand other people watching a theater show. Do you really interact with them that much?” 

Jim continued, “It’s different and there’s a different plus minus there but there are some interesting possibilities that come up in terms of live interactions with other human beings that you don’t really get from in-person… You get other things from in-person too… There’s not an either-or.”

Talia added a great point to this end: “Instead of having this 'either-or', it’s the 'and' mentality where we figure out have to have this great third experience for that in order to happen.

#4 - Digital live entertainment can broaden accessibility on many levels

Whether it be health reasons, financial reasons or even simply geography, the group unanimously agreed that there’s no doubt that hybrid theatre shows can dramatically increase accessibility for countless audiences.

Luisa Lyons, Creator of the Filmed Live Musicals website and podcast, opened up about her personal experience as someone who has faced health concerns in the past:

“Pre-pandemic I worked on Broadway and would see hundreds of shows a year and now – I'm scared to go to the theatre and there’s a part of me that feels angry. I feel like I’m being left behind and that world is now closed off to me. I know for many people who are immunocompromised who have disabilities, literally going to the theatre and being around a thousand unmasked people is a death sentence.” 

Luisa added, “It’s really frustrating when there’s this technology available, when there’s proof that there’s so much for it and it’s not happening. I’m like, ‘Who do I talk to to make this happen?’”

The good news is that change is on the horizon. The success of shows like Circle Jerk and forward-thinking approach of theatre producers and creators like Miranda, Luisa, Sam, and Talia, is proof of that.

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