Eva Price, three-time Tony-winning producer, joined Stellar CEO Jim McCarthy to discuss livestreaming as a new medium for theatre.
When the live entertainment industry shut down in early 2020, producer Eva Price — the three-time Tony-winning creative powerhouse behind big Broadway musicals like Oklahoma! and Jagged Little Pill — began to embrace streaming as a new medium for theatre, with shows in the live digital space like Jagged Live in NYC: A Broadway Reunion Concert and Cruel Intentions: The ‘90s Musical.
Last week, Eva joined Stellar CEO Jim McCarthy plus a few lucky audience members for a wide-ranging conversation about the joys, challenges and opportunities in producing and marketing streaming content.
While we highly recommend checking out the entire chat to experience Eva’s insights and truly infectious enthusiasm (see the video link below), we’ve pulled together a few key takeaways from this exclusive conversation with the award-winning producer and industry innovator.
Before the pandemic shut down the live theatre industry, Eva shared, she had relatively little interest or experience in producing online and hybrid events. That all changed in March of 2020, when Eva had no fewer than five shows running across the country including on Broadway — and by evening had a grand total of zero.
“Like any good piece of theater, we all need an inciting event — and my dramatic event was March 12, 2020.” Rather than allow the industry shutdown to slow her down, Eva saw opportunity for her partners, her performers and herself, using the pause in in-person productions to educate herself more fully about how streaming could maximize her audiences and to begin experimenting with the medium.
Eva saw this not just a chance to keep her business running (though that was certainly an important component), but a seize-the-day opportunity “to work, to create, to inspire [and] to lead."
One of the joys of an in-person experience is that it happens in one specific place, at one specific time, with one predetermined maximum number of people. But that’s also one of its greatest limitations. In contrast, online events have the ability to cross geographical boundaries and time zones, and offer audience capacities that dwarf any real-world venue.
In short, if your livestreams simply attempt to mimic the in-person experience, you may be missing out — and so may your audience.
Streaming events can also facilitate interactivity and participation, allow you to archive your event for future replays, and incorporate live chat functionality that allows audiences to interact with one another in ways that aren’t possible in most traditional in-person events. And that’s exactly what happened when Jagged Live in NYC streamed on Stellar, as Eva explained:
"When you're in a theater, you’re there with other people, but in another way, you're in your own little bubble of whoever you're with. Well, what I was seeing that night was literally hundreds of people meeting each other and really engaging with each other — not only about the show, but also on this other level where they just hit a resonance frequency. And it made me realize what was possible in a way that you can't even really get it in person."
The hit Broadway musical Jagged Little Pill developed a fervent fan base in just four short months. Then the pandemic struck, and Broadway ground to a halt. Eva realized that this engaged fan base was hungry for “the next thing that Jagged was going to give to us.” So she got to work.
For Jagged’s cast, crew and producing partners, that meant appearances at charity events, podcasts, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — and what would become Jagged Live in NYC: A Broadway Reunion Concert. These were events designed to keep the fan base (and the show’s creative team) engaged, making sure that the content they were creating throughout would “meet the moment.” Eva explained:
"We were at a place still in the pandemic that was about how do we show up and be there for each other. How do we create and perform and live and learn and all the beautiful lyrics that are from Alanis Morissette's album, like we were living the tenets of that album as a civilization in a society. And I think that helped — that we met the moment with that concert. The moment needed that show, and that show needed that moment."
Of course, in-person productions and livestreamed content both require an investment of time and money. Before the chat with Eva wrapped, the question of what inspires her confidence in a project to raise large capital and know which risks are worth taking was raised by a participant of the Stellar Salon.
Eva shared her personal perspective on the matter, noting that it’s all about measuring the risks you take in business, in art, and in life. To find the courage to move forward with and begin raising funds for a major project, she first seeks the data and research, but makes sure to balance that with her own personal connection to the project:
"I find the courage, I find the data, I find the research, I find the proof, I find the budgets and the pro formas, as well as the the reviews and the word of mouth — whatever it takes to push myself to ask for the money, and then spend the money and then risk the money, because it just feels like something I believe in and that I must do. … And so that's sort of how I approach every time I'm raising and spending money to produce be at virtually or on stage."
Jim McCarthy summed up his similar sentiments on the matter in this cautionary tale: “If you wait until you're sure that risk is going to pay off, you just never take good enough risks.”
What do livestream audiences want? We conducted a nationwide survey and here's what we found.