Breathing life back into performing arts

Violinist performing

COVID-19 has decimated the performing arts sector and many people are wondering what post-pandemic live performances will look like.

Will large auditoriums once again reverberate to the applause of a standing ovation? Are small intimate clubs a thing of the past?

With the performing arts sector reeling from the impact of COVID, many artists have started thinking about the industry’s long-term sustainability – lockdowns have forced individual performers and artistic companies into innovative ways in which they connect with their audiences.

From the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performing to empty auditoriums, to world renowned pianist Igor Levit streaming live from his lounge room in a tracksuit, artists are finding ways to still play for live performance lovers worldwide.

These digital innovations caused enormous change in the sector and inspired a University of Adelaide research team to look at new models for arts organisations to better ensure sustainability across the sector.

Led by Associate Professor Anna Goldsworthy, the team partnered with a number of key performing arts organisations in South Australia – the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, the State Theatre Company, Illuminate Adelaide and Patch Theatre – and the innovative new venue at Light Square, ‘The Lab’.  The Lab is a multi-functional, and multi-genre immersive performance space with an incredible 50 m2 of LED screens.

“The Lab will be used as a type of real-life laboratory to test different approaches and chart different outcomes across wellbeing and artistic perspectives,” says Associate Professor Goldsworthy.

The future of live performance is still evolving, so traditional spaces might need to look at innovative approaches like staggering seatings over the course of an evening.

Major spaces face bigger challenges. Big concert halls are already prohibitively expensive to open and run and uncertainty remains over their viability with reduced audience numbers.

“One way around this might be the ‘hybrid’ concert, designed for reduced live audiences augmented by larger remote ones.” Associate Professor Goldsworthy says.

What’s next?

“The unique nature of this research combined with the cutting-edge technological capabilities of ‘The Lab’ allows a number of performing arts organisations to reimagine their practice in relation to this venue,” explains Associate Professor Goldsworthy.

The new models born from this research will ensure sustainability across the sector, and with that, improve the wellbeing of both performers, audiences, and the broader community.

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