The Development of Online Drama - Dr. Zhang Wei Lue


The theater industry has suffered an unprecedented winter this year because of the epidemic, but it has also given birth to a new form: online drama. Traditionally, the digitalization of drama is more about the simple transformation of traditional theater into screen form, or the creation of drama text in the premise of screen presentation. But since this year's online drama, it has greatly subverted the traditional form of drama performance, but also for the audience to produce new challenges and requirements. This article will provide a brief review of this year's online drama development and address some of its problems.

Extended auditorium: the British National Theatre

How to move a play out of a limited theater audience to reach a larger audience? This is a slightly archaic subject. Long before the rise of the Internet, a great deal of dramatic content was being recorded and released on compact discs in an attempt to reach a larger audience. However, due to the inherent need for a sense of presence in dramatic performances and the relatively simple recording methods at the beginning, most of these images were eventually put into the archives as classic programs for later generations to appreciate. Although the original intention of its marketization is not the same, but it also provides valuable materials for academic research and review. In recent years, western theater production companies have gradually increased their investment in the visualization of drama. Among them, NT Live, a subsidiary of the British National Theatre, has successfully carried out the practice in this direction.

NT Live is a theatrical visualisation project that started in 2015, was introduced to China in the same year, and has been operating successfully ever since. Their practice is rooted in the theatrical tradition - the core is still to perform on the stage. Unlike previous documentaries, NT Live is more about the effects of the screen. As a result, their work includes photographic camera scheduling and lighting, making it a hybrid of live and screen art.

In addition, strong actor recruitment ability is also the key to its success. This is also due to NT's own reputation in traditional drama. Among its many introducations in China, King Lear, starring Ian McKellen, and Frankenstein, starring Bennicot Cumberbatch, have attracted the most attention. This kind of success based on actor's charisma is not uncommon. In the domestic context, first-tier theaters such as the Beijing People's Art Theater and the National Theatre also have the potential to achieve similar achievements.

The Vaguer Relationship: Chong Wang and Fuchuan Experimental Theatre Company

The fourth wall of theater theory has long been torn apart in modern entertainment, and more recently in online theater. Since the beginning of this year, due to the uncertainty of offline entertainment, a large number of drama practitioners have had to create based on online. The first problem to be solved in online creation is: how to solve the sense of presence?

The darkness of the theater, pointing to the light and the fixed seat for a long time the intangible force viewers to follow the performance on the stage, which is based on the physical conditions of telepresence, also more or less become a number of theatre practitioners practice: we often see some drama don't work, as long as plus sensual stimulation, will be higher than the standard of appraisal. The constraints of the moment pull this method away and force it back to its roots of story and narrative. Of course, there are plenty of augmented reality options available to address the topic of telepresence. However, the latter is sufficiently large to be a subject in its own right, and this article will begin with an example of the former.

One of this year's standout productions is Chong Wang's online drama Waiting for Godot. Chong Wang's experimental troupe has done all the rehearsals online, which is a bold attempt. During the performance, the audience was invited into the studio to watch the performance composed of multiple camera images. This work is divided into two parts and will be performed over two days. Although the innovation in means is worthy of affirmation, it can not cover up the problems he exposed: the strangeness of the audience and the rupture of the narrative.

Audiences' strangeness may come from a variety of sources: unaccustomed to dramatic narratives on screen; Dramatic performance is not used to; Or maybe they don't know how to deal with actors who used to be tens of meters apart. In online drama, they still seem to be the audience, but closer than ever to the performers; They also seem to be considered part of the whole of drama, but they never have the ability to participate. A new spectator relationship is created here, but it is not in a positive direction: the troupe still creates in accordance with the ideas of drama creation, and the audience still observes in accordance with the logic of watching drama, resulting in the logic of the audience and the actors of this work jumping out of the track at the same time.

The narrative fracture is even more obvious: after moving the platform online, waiting for Godot, already obscure, becomes a bizarre show. Interactions between screens are slightly awkward because of delays, and conversations between actors even have to predict each other to work smoothly. Moreover, the high mobility of the audience in online performances also makes many audiences who do not know that the performance consists of the upper and lower parts confused, so a large number of comments focus on the point of "not understanding". Perhaps Ms Wang wants to do the opposite, to rebel against the narrative. However, this practice has also proved unsuccessful.

The direction of online drama

Online drama does have its potential, but it is necessary to break out of the creative logic of traditional drama. The interactive and narrative methods of traditional dramas may not meet the needs of online entertainment, so the creators have at least two choices: to move towards gamified narrative, or to move towards the fast food culture of the younger generation. No matter which direction to go, online drama is still a field that needs to be developed and crossover.