New York-based producer Megan Schadler and I recently tried a technical experiment with Zoom, and we believe we may have found a way to harness the power of distance connection, with the desire for getting back in a room for close contact with colleagues. No one else has invited me to a meeting like this, or told me of it happening anywhere. Maybe we are pioneers – who knows.
On the last Wednesday in September, we all did what we have done every month since lockdown started. We logged onto Zoom and started introducing ourselves. Some of us are old friends who have never seen each other’s feet/legs (the joy of zoom and lockdown). Some of us had never been to a Producers’ Pool meeting before. We had producers from New York, festival creators from Edinburgh, commercial immersive theatre producers from the Netherlands, specialists in Musical Theatre and political theatre. We all gathered on Zoom and began to explore theatre futures.
But around half of us were in the same room when this happened. Half of us had gathered in Clapham Omnibus, welcomed by artistic director Marie McCarthy, to have our first in-the-flesh meeting since February 2020. We all had our laptops and headsets. We logged in, and we shared our worlds with those colleagues in Edinburgh and New York who were in their offices or homes. When someone in our Omnibus gathering was speaking, we could look over and see the whole human form, released from the boundaries of the celebrity squares we have used for so long. It was powerful and it worked.
When we went into ‘break out rooms’, those in the cloud met together in the normal way, facilitated by Caron Jane Lyon, who has been a rock throughout this pandemic for so many of us working technically, And those on the ground met together in the old-normal way. We got stuck into conversation around a table, maybe interrupting and getting over-excited in a way that Zoom helps to control. But it felt so human and right.
And then we went back into the Zoom and reported our findings and actions. We made connections in the chat. We did all the things which Zoom is great at. And at the end, those on zoom went back to work, to eat or feed the cat, and those in Omnibus had a drink and met each other with a sense of joy to being back together.
For me there was an added charge. 6 of the 9 first cohort for the Diploma in Creative Producing where in the bar at Omnibus meeting each other in-the-flesh for the first time. To me they have been work colleagues, confidentes and inspiring beings – and now they had feet and legs. I must admit we had a few drinks.
There is immense potential to wake up. We can meet up in a flesh-space with people who live near and feel comfortable and able to access the meeting room. And we can continue to meet up in the cloud with those across continents and those who are less able to make the trip to a central location.
Is ‘@Zoom in the flesh’ the way to wake up producers’ #creativity post-pandemic? @chrisgrady is excited by the possibilities after an experiment at @OmnibusTheatre. #Zoom #remotemeetings #theatre #usuk