The director chatted to us about his new online theatre company Crowd Pleaser Theatre.
Hi Mark – thanks so much for talking to me. Could you tell me more about Crowd Pleaser Theatre? Thanks Emma! As a self-employed writer, ‘Crowd Pleaser Theatre’ is the trading name for my theatrical work. I choose what shows to do, direct them, and release them. It’s a bit of a one-man band, but of course I couldn’t do it without my wonderful collaborators. The work is primarily based online, through the new livestreaming platform Tidze.com, although I hope one day to be able to do
shows in actual theatres!
How did the idea for the company come about? Well, I’ve worked for over a decade in various theatres, but never did any professional writing,
directing or anything like that. During lockdown, I saw a lot of shows that got put online by companies like the National Theatre, and some Shakespeare performed by actors all at home on Zoom cameras (‘The Show Must Go Online’). I thought, “why don’t I try a bit of that?” All you need is
a camera and a few people to work with. And a new entrepreneur is born!
How many of you are involved with Crowd Pleaser Theatre? Depends on who is needed for each project. I’m the guy who’s there for every show as director, and I reach out to actors or crew depending on what the show requires. It’s all on a volunteer basis right now, but I’m hoping one day we’ll be able to do this professionally.
How easy was it to put the company together? Couldn’t be easier! I’m self-employed anyway, and ‘Crowd Pleaser’ is the name I trade under for
making shows. As luck would have it, I got in on Tidze when it was first being set up, and the founder, Liam, was very helpful explaining the platform to me. I had never dabbled in live streaming before! Then, I got together some old work colleagues and we tried a few scripts to see what worked best.
Our first play was an adaptation of ‘Ghosts’ by Henrik Ibsen. I recorded us several times doing the play as one extended Zoom call. Then a friend kindly edited the best takes together to make one show. It was live streamed over several nights one weekend. Got very good feedback!
What kind of productions do you hope to put on? Oooh, there’s lots of things I hope to do in. More adaptations of great plays, some original written work, a musical, and even a pantomime. Right now, the hard part is finding a project that you can make work on Zoom. It’s not the same as when you’re in a theatre, watching the actors on the stage in front of you.
What would you say the main aim of the company is? “To bring the old tradition of acting into the modern world of streaming!” (That’s the Crowd Pleaser slogan!) Seriously though, it’s a way of keeping theatre alive during this time, when the industry seems at its lowest point. And it’s a good
way of finding new ways to do things you can’t do in the usual old way. Most important of all – it’s fun!
Do you think despite the tough conditions that have been put on theatre this year, it has been a good year for theatre in terms of creativity? In spite of all this year has brought, it’s been a great year for theatre in terms of creativity! Seriously, how long is it since the industry has had a challenge like this to get them thinking up new ideas to
get work out there? The live streaming, and the way they worked around doing in-venue shows…with what they’ve come up with this year, theatre will be exploding with creativity in the years ahead! Think of all the great writing that people have been doing too, that we haven’t seen yet!
It’s never been a better time to get started in the creative arts. Thanks to the internet, people can now have an audience for their work across the planet. And you can do it from your own home! I certainly wouldn’t have thought I could start my own theatre group back in the pre-Covid days. Who knows what we will see in the years ahead?
By Emma Clarendon