Translating Live to Online – Andrew McCarthy

My week at the Belltable:Connect Translating Live to Online workshop was an amazing experience. Having the opportunity to work with both Simon and Martin was very beneficial and enjoyable. The main aim for the week was to try to create the feel of “live” performance through the medium of a screen, ie. pre recorded. At the beginning of the week this felt very daunting as we have all been in performances that were recorded before, but we have never tried to convey this “live” feel before. One of my biggest challenges was trying to get understand the concept fully. When watching theatre online and I see performances on the stage I can suspend my belief and get the “Live” feel but as for other locations I was finding this difficult due to seeing so many movies and tv shows.

Over the course of the week we began to explore this feeling of “Live”. We did this by using a lot of physical theatre work. The week mainly consisted of Mask work, from using the Neutral mask to Larval Masks. In my training in Dublin I had done some mask work but never to this extent and detail. I found this was very beneficial and extremely rewarding by the end of the week. With using a mask it really challenges the actor to convey emotion through the body as no emotion can be conveyed through the mask. We did a lot of work on keeping the mask “alive” for the audience. This is very important to the overall workshop as it really challenges the audience to be aware of the audience and allows audience
connectivity, and this is vital in creating the “live” feel when watching on a screen.

Throughout the week we had a lot of discussions about how to make the experience of watching though a screen as realistic as possible. We talked about how camera angles and positioning of cameras are vital in making the experience both enjoyable and easy to watch while trying to convey the performance in the original intended way. We began experimenting with different angles of the camera shot to see what works and what doesn’t, we came up with a consensus that no matter what we are doing we need to have an establishing shot to set the scene. An audience member doesn’t just take note of the actors appearance and voice, they subconsciously take note of their posture, how they walk and many more things. We still need this in shooting “live” for online.

We discovered that using the zoom function on a camera creates a false sense of inclusiveness for the audience when watching theatre. The zoom function creates this feeling of the audience walking towards an actor when normally this isn’t possible in a theatre. Having the actor walking towards the camera helps to create the inclusiveness as well as keeps it realistic. We also discussed the whole concept of the “fear of live performance”. Normally on stage there is a fear in the back of everyone’s mind that something could go wrong, be it an actor forgetting a line to a prop falling onto the floor. Being able to create this feeling for the screen could help create the “live” feeling, and this could be done by doing a full take of a performance/ scene on multiple cameras. This also would create consistency in the footage instead of having multiple takes of the same few sentences until we find the correct one.

One of the biggest things I have taken away from this workshop is the use of “play”. When performing we need to play with the audience, there is both fun and serious play. We cannot just presume that the audience will follow along to everything we do, sometimes we need to guide them. We must always acknowledge the audience, this doesn’t mean we break the fourth wall, it means we (the actor) are aware they are present, and they are always active. If the performance isn’t tailored around the audience then what is the point of performing at all as nobody will be there to both enjoy it and to pay the money to watch it. And sadly there is no way to survive in this world without money.

I would just like to thank everyone involved in this workshop, Marketa, Simon, Martin, Belltable and The Lime Tree Theatre. This week was very explorative, beneficial and extremely enjoyable.