What If…Archival Recordings Played A Role In Theatre Education?

by Richard Stucker

in What If

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What if the unions allowed regional theatres to use their archival recordings in their on-site theatre classes?

First of all, I am BEGGIN’ you – record your best productions, please. Even after my recording of over 650 live play productions across the country over the last 30+ years, there are thousands of amazing regional theatre productions that NEED to be captured before they close.

Most regional theatre performances have short runs of usually 4 to 6 weeks, and relatively small audiences of primarily local residents – a very privileged few. And except for the rare, charmed productions that tour, or move to Broadway, or more recently, are captured for digital cinema release, the rest of these regional productions are short-lived, their amazing staging never to be seen again. And that is such a waste.

You need to capture these amazing productions, if only for your archive. At least you will have some of your best productions in the can.

But on to my premise, to further inspire you to record your productions.

To date, there has been no real motivation for archival recordings. I am finding that the excessive restrictions placed on their usage makes them practically worthless other than for documentation.

So, WHAT IF the unions involved allowed regional theatres to use these archival recordings for their own on-site theatre classrooms? This would be an invaluable teaching aid where the recordings could be slowed down, advanced frame-by-frame, frozen, rewound and replayed.

No more relying on your students to watch a live performance, and miss the critical nuance that may happen in the blink of an eye.

To go one step further, capture these amazing productions in High Definition. It’s no more expensive today than standard definition video, and the results provide in an increase in resolution of over 225%. The days of dangling a tiny consumer camera from the ceiling or the edge of the mezzanine and recording these fuzzy, over exposed, out of focus images, with distorted audio from the on-camera microphone onto a VHS deck should be stopped! Please!

Just put a little thought into the process, like borrow a decent HD camera, use a fluid head tripod, train an operator and take a sound feed instead of using the camera mic. These little things make a BIG difference.

But most importantly, start recording your best productions and then use these recordings in the classrooms.

Richard Stucker is a veteran Producer, Director / Technical Director, Videographer and Editor with over 40 years of video production experience. He began his career in 1966, while still attending the University of Iowa, where he would earn his BA degree in Speech and Dramatic Arts, with a major in Television, Radio and Film Production. He was first employed in a medium market commercial TV station in the Midwest as a ‘one-man-band’ commercial cinematographer / editor, and live studio Director / TD. He honed his skills there for nearly ten years, before he was hired over the next several years as a staff Producer / Director for 3 major video production houses around the country, starting in Pittsburgh, then Dallas and Minneapolis.

It was while he was working in Minneapolis that he began directing the live, mulitcamera recordings of regional theatre productions for the TOFT Collection of the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. Richard remembers fondly this first recording of “She Stoops to Conquer” at the Guthrie Theatre in 1978 – now one of over 650 complete plays, dance and opera productions that he has video directed, or shot as a single camera production.

It was shortly after that first live theatre recording that Richard became an independent Producer/Director/TD and Videographer, and began his business in the NE in the Boston area. Over the next 25 years he expanded his client base to include the Harvard Business School, Jack Morton Worldwide, Boston Consulting Group, Harris Creative, Scharff-Weisberg in New York, the Paley Center for Media (NY and LA) and Video Applications in LA. He added individual theatre clients as well, including the Hartford Stage, and the Theatre for a New Audience, and even the Washington National Opera. And in 2005 he began shooting many of his live theatre recordings in High Definition, for regional theatre clients that included Westport Country Playhouse; the Trinity Rep in Providence, and the entire last season of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival..

Richard now has 6 small, regional satellite offices nationwide, serving the entire West coast, the Chicago area, the NE from Maine to D.C., Florida, Texas and Arizona, and he became a TCG Business Affiliate Member in 2010