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Theatre is – Live, Digital, Both?

PACT Advocacy Chair, Bonnie Green, shares some thoughts on the intersection of theatre and digital technology.

As Chair of the Advocacy Committee, I starting forcing myself to drive down the digital theatre highway about a year ago, but I’m still of two minds – wavering from “OMG, digital will make theatre better/faster/bigger!” to “Theatre is our unique art form and doesn’t NEED the digital tsunami BECAUSE theatre is LIVE.”


There – confessed.


And I know this keeps you up at night, too.  I swear that the following two statements erupted from the same colleague, each statement appropriately accompanied by honest, in-the-moment, defensive backup:

1 (a):  we’ve totally missed the digital wave

1 (b):  theatre is not a digital art form.

Defensive is the operative word here. That is because the digital opportunities foreseen by the Canada Council and others at the recent Arts in a Digital World Summit envision a world where the boundaries of traditional disciplines – like theatre – are crumbling. Where creators and artists are ‘free’ to think outside of the known formats and expectations in order to create something unanticipated, something new. Simon Brault said, “Let’s envision what we can do better and how we can structure things more effectively so that past, present and especially future artistic creation remains vital, diversified, strong, free, possible, shared, able to take risks, appreciated and highly meaningful for individuals, communities and society at large.”  (He also said that by 2021 over 10% of Council funding will be invested in digital projects).

DIGITAL is not going away.  And it has an impact on all of us.  It’s not smart to just give it peripheral attention, or to react like some digital victim.  No, we have to OWN this digital thing:


Artists should be leaders.


And PACT must be a theatre leader.  A digital theatre leader.  We must help our members envision digital potential and digital possibility.  And then theatre will adapt to change, as it always does.

So, I challenge you to answer:  what should a Digital Theatre Leader do?

Hey. Perhaps Canada Council’s new $88.5-million Digital Fund, rolling out later this year, can help…let’s access that fund!


The Digital Fund’s 3 foci

  • Digital literacy and intelligence
  • Citizen access to the arts
  • Transformation of organizations

As we continue to do the digital dance, we at PACT want your feedback.  Big points, little points, missing points.  Let’s collectively improve our own digital literacy, thereby highlighting and increasing opportunities for theatre across the country.


My Digital Theatre Timeline

  • June 2015 – CCA announces new funding model – Digital arts practice (content) is separate discipline
  • May 2015 – PACTCON15, Toronto, panel on “digital theatre”
  • May 2016 – PACTCON16, Calgary, breakout session on “digital theatre”
  • June 2016 – CCA Arts in a Digital World survey begins
  • July 2016 – PACT sends “digital theatre” letter to Minister Joly
  • Oct 2016 – Heritage invites 2 PACT members to the Edmonton round-table on DigiCanCon
  • Nov 2016 – PACT hosts webinar on CanCon in a Digital World; sends report to Heritage
  • Feb 2017 – CCA posts Arts in a Digital World Literature Review and Survey Data Report
  • March 2017 – CCA holds Arts in a Digital World SUMMIT, Montreal
  • March 2017 – CCA announces $88.5-million digital fund, timeframe is fall of 2017 to March 2021
  • March 2017 – Bonnie challenges PACT members to RESPOND! GO!
  • May 2017 – PACTCON17 – open space session!
  • Summer 2017 – CCA Digital Fund technical details and project eligibility info coming
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