With the current global situation, we find ourselves in extraordinary circumstances where theatres are closed. Not only do I work in a theatre, I love attending live theatre. During this time, so many theatres are stepping up to the plate and are still delivering fantastic theatre content in whatever way they can. Most of this is taking the form of streaming previous performances that have been live recorded, for either cinema broadcasting or future DVD/Blu-ray release. So, I thought it would be really interesting to compare the experiences: live theatre vs online streaming.
Let’s start with the obvious, shall we? Live theatre is an experience – it’s not as simple as just watching a show.
I don’t know about you, but I often get gifted theatre tickets and that instantly adds the idea that visiting the theatre is a treat. Sometimes you make a whole evening of it: go out for dinner first or deem it a date night. Theatre tickets can also be expensive, depending on what you are seeing and where. The money you spend to go to the theatre can further aid the opinion that visiting the theatre is indeed a treat.
Additionally, there is an atmosphere when you visit the theatre that can not be recreated. The buzz of a full capacity audience, bustling around in the foyer or bar and the sudden hush that comes across the venue when you realise the show is about to begin. In a theatre environment, you are surrounded by people who are all attending for the same reason as you; to see the show. Therefore there is an instant rapport among the audience – for the love of the show, in one way or another, or simply for the love of theatre. This is something that online streams simply cannot replicate. However, it is amazing that people are going that extra mile to make it feel that way when social distancing. I’ve seen people creating tickets, dressing up to visit the living room and, of course, preparing lighting, snacks and beverages for the occasion.
Online Streaming does have some advantages though. These recordings don’t just happen – a lot of thought and preparation goes into them e.g. the angles required for each scene, when a wide shot or close up is required or where the focus needs to be in a given moment. Therefore, you don’t miss anything important when watching. I have experienced this first hand. I saw a show and due to where I was sitting, there was a side of the stage/set that was slightly obscured from my view. When I watched the same production on DVD, I saw a moment I had missed when watching live.
Furthermore, toilet breaks. The blessing that is the pause button. You don’t have that awful guilty feeling at home when you need to use the bathroom – trying carefully to get past the other audience members to the aisle to make your way out mid-performance. Especially if you end up needing the bathroom during a performance where leaving the auditorium mid-performance means you cannot re-enter! (Yes, I’ve been there). Online Streaming gives you that flexibility to just pause the show momentarily for whatever reason.
It also allows you, to a certain extent, to watch the show at your convenience. A lot of the streams currently are accessible for 48 hours minimum, some for a whole week. It means people working unconventional hours or those waiting for the children to fall asleep are still able to watch the show, even if they’ve missed its premiere.
Most importantly, online streams are providing all of us with that little bit of theatre that we need in this trying time. The fact so many theatres and companies have found a way to deliver us content we otherwise can’t access in its normal format is truly great.
That show you couldn’t see because you were working?
The show you couldn’t see because it wasn’t coming to a local venue?
Your favourite show you couldn’t see again due to financial reasons?
All likely to be solved by this industry adapting and still working incredibly hard on what they, and we, love.
Let us know what streams you’ve watched and which has been your favourite so other people can share the experience!
Speak again soon,
N.B In these unprecedented times, please consider donating to live streams, theatres and charities if you have the means to do so. For me, especially, it feels like they have kept us going and given us new things to watch and enjoy in a situation where there isn’t much else we can do.
We will keep you updated here if there are any changes in what is happening at the theatre.
Please do sign up for our weekly newsletter where all the news, gossip and current event information will be sent to your inbox each Friday during this time. We thank you for your support and understanding at this time and hope you are all keeping safe. We look forward to welcoming you back to the theatre soon.
News Update – 28/05/20
As you may be aware, at present we currently remain closed and all of our staff are working remotely, and we are busy with a Virtual Blakehay Theatre.
We are currently in the process of devising a plan on a phased re-opening when we are given the go ahead by central government and if this is safe to do so. We are taking our staff, companies and patrons safety as the upmost priority for any steps that we take and will not rush into opening without due diligence.
As soon as we have this plan and all of our risk assessments in place we will be sharing this with all of our companies that use our building, the timescales on this will need to be flexible as we are in a state of flux but we will endeavour to get back up and running as soon as it is safe to do so.
We have spoken to all of our companies that had shows booked in before September 2020 and these have all been postponed for later in the year or 2021. Some of our Autumn season performances have also decided to postpone until 2021 so that they can ensure the best and safest experience for everyone. (Please see our website and social media on information regarding postponed shows.)
Thank you for your understanding and support of your local theatre at this time, we hope that you are keeping safe and that we will be able to see you before too long.
News Update – 13/05/20
Further to the announcements by central government this week, we would like to inform you that nothing has changed at the theatre and we are still currently closed as a building and continuing with our Virtual Theatre and events online.
However, we are looking at plans as to how we will re-open in the future, but be rest assured that we will not re-open at any level until we can make the theatre safe for our staff, patrons, performers and producers. As soon as we know more and we are able to give you a fixed date of return we will update you.
In the meantime we are in constant communication with all of our producers and hirers regarding upcoming events and will inform you through email, our weekly newsletter, website and social media of any changes to any current events and shows.
Thank you for your support and understanding at this time and we hope you are keeping well and safe.
News Update – 06/05/20
We hope you are all staying safe and well.
The team are still hard at work during this time and we are in constant contact with all of our producers regarding our re-scheduled shows. Please do keep up to date with new re-scheduled dates as we are constantly reviewing the situation and moving shows around. All up to date information can be found on our website, Facebook page and through our weekly newsletter.
Please be rest assured that all tickets purchased are and will be valid for all re-scheduled shows, and we are emailing all those that have bought tickets as soon as we know any new dates or if anything changes. If you have bought tickets for shows and not received an email from us, this maybe that our customer records are not up to date, so please do contact our box office at firstname.lastname@example.org with any concerns or your up to date email address so that we can keep in contact.
At present the team is working with other UK theatres on plans and ideas of how we can get the theatre up and running safely as soon as possible, however this is just in the research stages at the moment and we will not open until it is absolutely safe to do so.
We hope you are enjoying our online ‘Virtual Blakehay Theatre’ and we are constantly updating this, so please let us know if we have missed anything. We want to take this opportunity to thank you all for your continued support during this time. We are missing you all and hope that we will see you at the theatre as soon as we can.
News Update – 14/04/20
We are in contact with all of our production companies and we will let you know via our Facebook Page, Website and Weekly Newsletter if anything changes to any of our show dates.
Please be rest assured that all tickets will be transferred to the new dates and we will inform you of these, and if you are unable to attend any of the new dates we will honour a full refund through our online ticket service, so please do keep buying your tickets to support your local theatre.
The blakehay box office email address is being monitored and is available from Monday to Friday from 10am to 2pm at this time. If you have already signed up to receive our monthly newsletter, you will automatically be sent this, but if not please do sign up to this online via our website as this is where we will be sending you updates from now on.
We have become a Virtual Theatre and would love for you all to get involved. If you are creating content, have live events on Facebook or would like to be part of this then please do the following; Like our Facebook Page and add us as a co host to any live events, tag us in Facebook using @BlakehayTheatre and we will do our best to share as many of your videos as possible.
We are constantly creating our own content to keep you smiling whilst we are all safely tucked up inside. Please do share this information as there are lots of amazing online live streams, Dance Classes, Yoga, Pilates, singing lessons etc out there and we would like to bring this to you all in one place. Stay safe #stayhome
We thank you for your understanding and patience during these uncertain times, we hope you keep safe and well and look forward to welcoming you back into the Blakehay Theatre soon.
You may have heard me talk about Frank? Who is he and where did he come from?
Well, some of you may know that before I was manager of the theatre, I used to teach dance at the theatre since 2004 on a Sunday morning. I started off teaching in the studio and then moved onto the stage.
At that time, I used to enter the main house auditorium through our accessible entrance and run up the stairs to turn on the house lights by the entrance to the lighting box.
Now the seats that we have in the main house are new and were put in, in about 2010. There used to be a few more seats and they were very heavy but would easily spring up if you weren’t careful.
Every Sunday morning I used to climb the stairs to turn on the lights and every morning the very top chair would go down as if someone was sitting on it. At the end of every session I would again run up the stairs to turn off the lights and the seat would return to its upright position. This was my first introduction to Frank.
Now I must say that I have no idea if Frank is their name, whether they are male or female, but I started saying good morning and goodbye to Frank from the start and it’s kind of stuck, so Frank it is. They don’t seem to mind it!
Over the years whilst teaching we had a couple of incidents that can’t be explained especially the mysterious piano playing….
I was teaching on the stage as normal when I heard a piano playing, thinking it was just the singing teacher or the track on my music I ignored this however, later on that morning we were all in the auditorium, kids sat on the stage and all teachers sat around talking to them. Suddenly we all stopped and looked at each other when we heard a piano playing. We accounted for everyone in the building and I went off to investigate.
Behind the stage is the ground floor dressing room and this was where I could hear the music coming from. I slowly opened the door to find the music stop and the old upright piano in the corner of the room with its lid down.
I shut the door to make my way back around to the stage when the music started again. I again went back to the dressing room and as soon as I opened the door the music stopped. I shut the door and waited outside and sure enough the piano playing started again so I pushed open the door as fast as I could but as soon as I looked into the room the music stopped. This went on a couple more times then the music just stopped.
I made my way back to the stage and admitted that I had no idea where the music was coming from and that there was nobody there. I blame Frank!!
It’s not just me though….
Not long after I started working at the theatre, I was having a conversation with the housekeeper, who had been there for several years, when she started talking about the ghost. I stood quietly whilst she spoke about how she had felt someone walk past her in the corridor and that she didn’t like being in the building on her own as she felt someone was there with her. I blamed Frank!!
We had a charity running a café in the theatre bar for a few months and one of them asked me who was talking in the disabled toilet? I explained that I was the only one in the building with her and I hadn’t heard anything. Sure enough if you are in the toilet you can hear people talking through the sink quite clearly! We blame Frank!!
Weston College students were in the theatre rehearsing on the stage for their upcoming show, there were only 4 of them, whilst I was working in the box office with the theatre closed to the public. One of them came running out of theatre to me in the box office looking panicked and almost in tears. I asked her if she was okay and she could hardly breathe but kept asking who the man was? I asked her what she meant, she said they were on stage and she saw a man in the windows of the top doors into the theatre watching them. I explained to her that I was the only other person in the building and that no-one could have got there without getting past me. We blamed Frank!!
Sometimes you hear unexplained noises, lights going on or off and a cold wind where you wouldn’t expect it. We have had a paranormal investigation, but they couldn’t find Frank but I know he’s there.
Most of the staff (past and present) are not happy about being in the theatre alone, but I love it. He’s friendly and never done anything to harm anyone.
So we live with him, I always say good morning and goodbye. Have a little chat with him if I’m alone.
So next time you visit do say hello to Frank, I think he likes to be acknowledged!
As they say all great theatres have a ghost!
Sally (Theatre Manager)
So today marks 9 years of me being here at the Blakehay Theatre. Yes that’s a full 9 years I have been here since April 2011. I thought it would be nice to share my first day with you…..it was different!
On my first day I was excited and nervous about what I had got myself into. I was asked to meet the Town Clerk at the council offices in Grove Park at 9am. We had a meeting in his office where I met the Facilities Manager who was to be my line manager.
You see I did not start as the Theatre manager but the theatre supervisor with the Facilities Manager overseeing the Blakehay, Weston Museum and the Waterpark. Please note that he had only been in the job a week himself!
Anyway, after a meeting with them both at Grove House, I was sent over to Weston Museum to have a meeting with the Facilities Manager (he was based there) and the Museum Supervisor (the museum was only taken over on the 1st April that year) to have a chat about how we would have weekly meetings and catch ups.
Now all this was great but time was marching on and we were now at 2pm and I hadn’t even set foot in the theatre!
A few days before my official start date I was called by the Town Clerk to say that the box office had been covered by agency staff and that the current one would be leaving before I started. Okay I said, little to my knowledge that on my first day I would be whisked into interviewing agency staff for the role!
So at 2.30pm, myself and the facilities manager finally end up walking back to the theatre, yep I had finally set foot inside the building!
Here I was met by the acting manager, taken up to the Studio, set up some tables and straight into interviews! Luckily the three of us were there, but I can honestly say I had absolutely no clue what to ask as I didn’t know the job myself! Anyway by 4.30pm we had picked a suitable candidate and they were to start in a couple of days.
After the interviews I was given a very large bunch of keys by the acting manager, told how to lock up and set the alarm and was then left with a good luck and a closing of the front door by both ex-acting manager and facilities manager.
Stood in an empty foyer with no clue what to do, I was now the theatre supervisor and set about trying to work out what key fitted which lock and where all the light switches were!
That’s it, that was my first day. Talk about a baptism of fire!!
Well within the year I managed to recruit some staff (only me, a housekeeper and our agency recruit, for a while) became the Theatre Manager and started building up the theatre with shows (only 2 on the books on my first day)!
There were struggles and stumbling blocks along the way and trying to adjust to how councils work but I have loved all 9 years of being at the Blakehay Theatre and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
I can honestly say that I still have that excitement of going to work each morning, thinking of ways to improve and adapt to the needs of the community and the entertainment business and have had the pleasure of working with an amazing team of staff, past and present.
In this time where the building is closed and we are all hunkered down in our homes, I am still excited and working on how we can further develop the theatre further when we are all back!
Theatre is in your blood, it doesn’t matter if you are on or off the stage. It’s the roar of the audience, the tingle in your skin when a show comes together the overture plays or the house lights go down and I am grateful that I am a part of that and long may it continue.
Stay safe and I hope to see you all soon!