First-Time Virtual Production: Riverfront Playhouse Shares Their Journey
In December 2020, CACT member theatre Riverfront Playhouse produced a virtual show for the Christmas season.
'Tis the Season’ was available from December 11 through December 31, 2020 through the theatre's website www.riverfrontplayhouse.net.
This was Riverfront Playhouse's first virtual production in a brand new theatre that they have not been able to open to the public due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Riverfront Playhouse Board President Darryll Alvey is sure it will not be the last.
Darryll and wife Ronda Alvey (Board Secretary) graciously offered to share their journey from "complete lack of experience" (Darryll's words!) to an internet show offering.
What was the deciding factor in choosing to present a virtual production?
While there were several factors such as keeping our name in front of our patrons, showcasing our new theatre and seeking donations our immediate need was to generate income. The regular daily expenses continue to come due so our ability to raise funds to pay them is essential.
How did you choose 'Tis the Season as the production?
The producer and director wrote the script to avoid playwright expenses which made it cost effective as well as a timely content for Christmas.
What first steps did you take in preparing to present 'Tis the Season?
The first challenges were the acquisition of cameras, camera operators and editors. Other early concerns were the proper platform for ticket sale and viewing. We had no experience at all with this production approach.
What was a challenge in presenting this way?
TicketSpice provided the services we contracted for, including the WePay automatic pay feature. We did not know that all promotion would be our responsibility and therefore we did not begin promotion early in the production phase. That slow advertising startup was mostly due to our lack of confidence that we could actually deliver what we were producing. We had not secured an Editor until the first day of filming. Camera operators were also recruited at the last minute( I was one of them).
What was a surprise or benefit in presenting this way?
One of the benefits of filming was the ability to film several versions of the same song or scene to get the very best performance available.It also allowed the director to minimize cast presence to meet Covid-19 safety protocol. Costuming and stage sets were also easy to change because of the time availability.
What insights or advice would you share with another theatre organization who is considering but not yet presented a production virtually?
I would advise any group considering virtual production with ticket sales to select an online provider that can help with equipment selection advice and ticket sales/marketing platforms as well. The whole project needs to be coordinated with each element addressed as it relates to other elements. There are now several available.
Does RP have any plans to present future virtual productions?
We are planning another virtual production. We have selected a play/musical and confirming the rights. We expect our 2021-2022 Season to be totally virtual. It’s the new normal. We also expect to continue a virtual/live mix for the foreseeable future.
A special thanks to Darryll Alvey, Ronda Alvey, Karen Taylor, Steve Main, and Larry Morgon