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Music and Theatre Under Rāhui: Emily Edrosa & Freya Finch

All sectors of the arts are having to adapt and move into a virtual world. Zoe Larsen Cumming interviewed a musician in L.A., Emily Edrosa, about her experience with live streaming and how the music industry is placed to make the online shift. She also interviewed actor/director Freya Finch about live streaming in the theatre world and what is lost and gained when theatre becomes virtual. First her interview with Emily:

 

Emily Edrosa: My name is Emily Edrosa and I am a musician. I think?

Before Covid-19 did you have any experience with live streaming or is it something that you’ve had to learn along the way?

EE: I’m trying to think but I don’t think that I’ve ever done any live streaming. I’ve done performances that were filmed for YouTube or just for the internet but nothing that was to be broadcast live.

On that note, with how in the music industry you do film things to be put online, do you think that sort of gives it an advantage? Is it better equipped that some other sectors of the arts to adapt into a virtual world in regards to how we stream songs and watch live performances online?

EE: I would say, yeah. I’m not sure what other sectors of the arts would be. Like, visual art, you look at photos or pictures on the internet but to look at a piece of art, for me at least, it means a lot more to see it in person. So, yes. It’s obviously very different than being at a show. But to answer your question I think the live music industry is probably a little bit more equipped to deal with this kind of thing.

And you were just a part of Home Sick, that home-to-home music festival. Could you talk a little bit about what that was?

EE: That’s a festival that my U.S. label – they’re also a management company – [put on]. It’s all the bands that are on Park The Van. So they just emailed us and [asked] if we wanted to do it. Logistically for them to do that it was a lot more complicated than just if I was like “oh, I’m gonna open my phone and go on Instagram Live or Facebook Live” because everything had to be sort of coordinated. I’d never done it before. We all had to have the same settings on the computer and be using the same program and then be sharing it to their thing – it’s hard to explain.

So I guess solo artists I suppose are somewhat less affected, but how are bands sort of working this new scene and how do they participate in live streaming?

EE: Yeah, it’s sort of interesting because I am a solo artist but my new album does have a lot of bass and drums on it. For the live stream I wanted to be playing my new material, so I had to use backing tracks which I hadn’t really done before. Like, a lot of the artists that played yesterday, a lot of bands did just have the lead person doing acoustic songs. But also with this quarantine, I think one band yesterday performed because they were all flatmates, so that comes into it as well.

What was it like performing knowing people were watching you but not having that audience energy to feed off?

EE: It was definitely very different. Even so much as I was looking up at the computer and there was such a huge lag. So I’d look up at myself and I’d be doing something complete different. So it was really strange. I think it’s something you could get used to but you have to settle into it a bit. Even my physical response from my body was “heh, whaddaya think???”. You just have to be like I’m doing this thing, it’s fun, you have to in a way be a lot more in yourself. Certainly, a more mellow, introspective experience.

How do you think when this is all over the music industry would have changed?

EE: It does seem like the music industry was one of the first things to go. Live shows were cancelled before people stopped going to work. I think it’s very difficult. I do sort of roll my eyes a bit because people haven’t really been willing to pay for the recording of live music for a while now. And then so everyone’s like well live is the only way you’re gonna make money. And I mean now, are people gonna pay for live streaming of shows? I don’t know. Is there gonna be some sort of Spotify that comes along then you can kinda click through all these live shows that are happening at once and you can choose one and it’s like $12 a month. The whole system is pretty - well I feel like - it’s pretty bleak. On the other hand, as with everything that comes out of this, maybe we’re gonna be living in some sort of post-capitalist society. I don’t know.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

EE: It’s just weird for me because I just signed to this label and I had a lot of stuff that I was going to do this year. My album’s meant to come out in September but because everything’s on hold people aren’t putting out their records because they can’t do the tour around it. So my label’s pushing back the stuff that was gonna be released in May. I don’t know what anything looks like anymore and I sort of just want to make records and put them on the internet for free and live in the bush. Like, living in America right now and living in L.A. is just, like, “oh shit”. But, I mean, maybe I’ll write some songs about it, I dunno.

 

Next we hear from actor, director and theatre maker Freya Finch. Zoe first asked if live streaming was something she’d ever had to do before:

 

Freya Finch: No, I’m very, like, not a tech savvy person. I didn’t even really have Instagram ‘til a few months ago so, I’m definitely not one of those people that’s all over that. I really admire people who kill it on social media but it’s a very new thing to me. I just did my first live stream for Silo Theatre this morning.

Can you talk a bit about what Silo Theatre’s Instagram Residency is?

FF: Yeah, it’s an 8-week initiative where for the next 8 weeks, each week there’s a different artist in residence and every morning at 9 AM they engage the Instagram audience in any way they like. So, there’s lot of variety. I’m kind of reading stories each morning and talking about the writers who wrote them and some links to other artists. But there’s a whole variety of stuff that’s gonna be happening over the next 8 weeks.

How equipped do you think the theatre world is to move, hopefully temporarily, into a virtual space?

FF: I think we’re pretty well equipped for it. I guess in a way we’ve been gearing towards this for a while, right? Like, everything is becoming so online anyway.  But I’m definitely, like, struggling, and I’m sure many theatre practitioners are, with the reality of something that is so fundamentally live – that’s the point of live theatre – moving into a digital space.

In London, the National Theatre has announced they will be streaming their shows for free on YouTube. As you said, theatre is such a live experience, what do you think is changed when the theatre experience is moved online? What do we miss out on, and is there anything maybe that’s gained?

FF: I think what’s gained, first of all, is, it’s accessibility, right? With what National Theatre is doing especially if its free or at least very cheap there’s suddenly millions of people who can access that who wouldn’t have been able to, because of location, for one, but also money, secondly, is a big issue we face in theatre. It’s expensive to put on shows and that means tickets have to be expensive and that means lots of people can’t go and watch theatre which is a total challenge. I think what’s lost though is just that rawness you get from a live act of theatre. Seeing the performers sweat in front of you, seeing them working really hard and that kind of anticipation and almost nervousness from the performers and the audience about the fact were witnessing a live act. If it goes wrong it goes wrong and that’s that, and that creates such a wonderful tension that is much harder to feel over a screen. And I think the other thing we lose by it being online is actually a feeling of community and connection within the audience. Because theatre is also an act of a big group of people coming together in the same space and witnessing the same event and whether you realise it or not, I really believe that you leave that experience as a stronger whole. And I think for me something I’m struggling with is the idea of everyone sitting in their own private screen in their own private home and witnessing something. I think it’s a real shame for theatre to have to move away from this collective witnessing and this community space, but also this is the time we’re in and it’s better to have some access than none at all, right?

You briefly mentioned how accessibility and money is a really good thing but I guess money goes two ways and is there anything, especially in New Zealand - because we do have to move into this online space with live streaming and that takes new technology - are there any initiatives set up to fund this?

FF: Beyond what I’m hearing from theatre companies who are employing artists to still make work in an online way I’m not totally sure. I’m sure as time goes on there’ll be more and more. To work in an online sphere you do have to have access to a reasonable phone even. So, I guess I’m not totally sure to be honest, but I hope that more and more things come about that encourage people to still be engaging in creative ways, digitally and online

What do you think the last effects of this will be on theatre?

FF: Oh, big question, Zoe! I really hope that, as you say, when all this is over, if this is all over - in terms of you know, we don’t know how long it’s going to be until we can all meet in a public shared space - but I hope that it makes people hungry for that live theatre experience. And we’re in an age where people are constantly accessing arts and culture online, even theatre now as were seeing, and I think that’s wonderful especially in a time like this. But I really do feel that you can’t replicate live theatre and I hope that we almost swing the other way and people really crave live music, live art, live performance and maybe there’s a big renaissance.

 

Listen to the bCast here.