Philadelphia Theater Company Uses the Internet as a Part of the Performance

The internet has dramatically changed most aspects of communication and entertainment over the last two decades.  Even theater, which has remained remarkably loyal to its Greek origins over the last few thousand years, is now being changed by the internet, especially when it comes to New Paradise Laboratories, a Philadelphia-based theater company that is using the internet and social media to present its plays.

For example, for the production Fatebook, the audience can browse the production’s cast list online and follow the characters’ social media accounts.  By browsing the characters’ Facebook accounts one begins to become immersed in the characters’ thoughts, personalities, and can observe online interactions between the characters.  After following that, the group’s performance of Fatebook consisted of the characters interacting at a party — characters that some audience members had been following for months though social media, a 45-minute audio tour, and a YouTube video.

Katy Otto, the New Paradise Laboratories “Activity Coordinator,” tells, “A few years ago, we realized there was a whole audience of people that weren’t really participating in theater but they really heavily influenced by the Internet. They grew up online.  NPL had a lot of interest in making theater that would appeal to these people.”

Whit MacLaughlin, the Artistic Director, adds, “I feel like it’s like a medium where stories can be told in a whole bunch of ways.  I wanted to find out how you use translate theater into an online space. You have to figure out the narration of social media — how to convey something about a person.”

The online characters for Fatebook aren’t something that developed only weeks or a month before the live show.  Actress Annie Enneking reveals that she had been portraying her character through social media for nearly a year and, since the character is a musician, Enneking recorded songs as the character.  She explains, “I felt very vulnerable to do it.  I was creating the character online for nine months.”  Of course, there are both benefits and drawbacks with “living” with a character that long.  “What I loved the most was that I had a constant outlet for my creativity. I would follow my impulses. I was creating little pieces for my character,” she adds. “After the show closed, it felt like a little death.”

It’s certainly a direct way to connect with audiences.  While I see social media as a great way to promote theater, I’ve never seen a theater group use social media as a component to the production as much as this.  To me it’s similar to how movie studios have used viral marketing to promote their latest films — though I’d be curious to find out how effective those marketing techniques work on a much smaller theater audience.

Check out the rather eclectic New Paradise Laboratories website here.

Leave a Reply
William H. Macy: “This may sound pretentious, but I am getting better at what I do every day”
"I love the fact that I work every day." - William H. Macy
Luke Hemsworth on ‘Westworld’: “It was a no-brainer to me. I was absolutely going to jump onboard”
"As an actor, if you're given very little information about what's going on, then you're forced to make it up." - Luke Hemsworth
Khary Payton on His ‘Walking Dead’ Audition: “It was one of the more substantial auditions I’ve ever done”
"I always say I’m in the hope business. You’ve got to stay hopeful. You’ve got to get up off your behind and try again..." - Khary Payton
Hayley Atwell’s Best Career Advice: “I’d say the main thing is: show up. Show up and be professional”
Atwell reflects on her career and recounts why she wanted to become an actress since she was a child and what was the best career advice she ever received.
Mike Colter on Playing ‘Luke Cage’: “I was looking at it from the standpoint of an artist”
Colter says that it didn't take long for him to understand the importance of the character in comic book history.