Art Works Blog

NEA Arts: Theater Goes Transmedia

Amanda Detmer and Sanaa Lathan in the West Coast premiere of Lynn Nottage’s By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, which uses the Internet to expand the main character's persona. Photo by Michael Lamont

In our new issue of NEA Arts, we look at some of the incredible projects that have resulted from the intersection of art and technology. Take theater for example. In the past few years, theater has moved beyond the physical stage and played out across the Internet and social media. This art of transmedia storytelling has been gaining momentum thanks to a collaboration between the Black Women Playwrights’ Group (BWPG) and Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC). As we looked at the new, multi-platform works that have emerged from this initiative, we found that technology isn't just a tool for theatrical experimentation, but a vehicle for allowing new voices to be heard. Playwright Karen Evans, founder and president of BWPG, told the NEA how the group's push to explore technology was inspired by a national conference in 2008:

“We gathered 100 playwrights and scholars in Chicago, people at all stages of their careers,” said Evans. “One of the points of the conference was to ask our members, How can we help? What can we do to make your professional and creative lives better?”

A key theme that emerged from the resulting discussions was equal parts technology and opportunity. “The playwrights wanted to know more about the intersection of digital media and theater,” Evans recalled. “The rate of productions at regional and community theaters is less than two percent for women of color. Information is power, and we predicted that learning more about digital media could help us get more productions and reach more people with our work.”

Click here to read our full piece on transmedia storytelling. Elsewhere in the issue, you can read about the art of video games, learn about the Smithsonian's mobile strategy, or watch a slideshow on Sonic Trace, which uses digital media to tell the stories of Latin American immigrants.

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