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Theatre in the age of video: NIDA and TDC reflect on how video has influenced theatre as they extend partnership

Image of video projection in 2020 student production 'GhostsImage of video projection in 2020 NIDA student production, Ghosts, directed by Priscilla Jackman. Photographer: Phil Erbacher

As the arts landscape of 2021 develops, the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) and video technology specialists TDC reflect on how ‘the video age’ has influenced theatre. The trend for video in live theatre gave rise to NIDA and TDC’s partnership, which the two have now renewed as they enter their sixth year of working together.

TDC are the technology experts who bring the iconic lights of Vivid Sydney to life each year – and they’re increasingly in demand in film, TV and theatre, such as their work in The Invisible Man, The Voice, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Frozen.

Asked about the influence of video on theatre, NIDA’s Director Centre for Technology, Production and Management Graham Henstock reflected, ‘Video technology and design permeate almost every part of our lived reality and the theatre is no exception.

‘The incorporation of video into theatrical works is expanding the possibilities of storytelling, scenic design, and audience engagement. It is even changing our understanding of what constitutes a theatre by opening the door to the creation of theatrical performances that span across platforms, spaces and borders.

Still from 'Ghost Lights', part of NIDA's 2020 Digital Theatre Festival
Still from Ghost Lights, concept and directed by Katy Alexander as part of NIDA's Digital Theatre Festival in 2020.

‘It is not surprising, then, that the aspiring artists we train at NIDA seek to incorporate video elements into their performance-making, storytelling and artistic practice.

‘From live-projected video adding visual texture and dramaturgical depth to our stage shows, to our recent live-streaming of digital theatre created for online platforms, TDC's experienced project managers and engineers have been supporting our students every step of the way.

‘The result is the rise of a generation of NIDA-trained theatre-makers who possess the technical and artistic ability to effectively integrate video technology into their work.  At a time when the use of video in live performance is becoming increasingly prevalent, the relationship between TDC and NIDA is empowering our graduates to become leaders in this area.’

Opportunities for such exploration happen regularly at NIDA, most visibly during the triannual student productions. TDC's experienced technicians and engineers bring their expertise to these ambitious collaborations, particularly regarding the latest advances in projection, media servers, LED technology and its dynamic use in entertainment, and technical  support. During the COVID restrictions of 2020, TDC’s expert advice made NIDA’s Digital Theatre Festival possible, in which shows were live-streamed on YouTube, Zoom and Twitch.

Still from 'A Pox on Both Your Houses', part of NIDA's 2020 Digital Theatre Festival
Still from A Pox on Both Your Houses, written and directed by Deborah Pollard as part of NIDA's Digital Theatre Festival in 2020.

TDC’s Managing Director, Michael Hassett says, ‘It is a natural fit for TDC to partner with NIDA. Our partnership over the last five years has been incredible, we have seen students eager to understand and incorporate the use of video throughout their work.

‘Over the past decade, our ever-increasing involvement in Australian and international theatre productions and film has shown the demand for the next generation to be skilled with the knowledge in video technology to bring productions to the next level.’

NIDA CEO Liz Hughes said, ‘NIDA is thrilled to extend this partnership with TDC. Their expertise in new technologies connects us to the latest industry trends and supports our students to explore the boundaries of storytelling.’

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