February 2021: A few years ago I was involved in a digital theatre project called SpiderWebShow, which is still going today. In early 2015, the project members were each asked to articulate a vision of theatre in 2030. Our answers appeared as part of Sarah Garton Stanley’s article “Spinning a National Imaginary” in Canadian Theatre Review. I recently stumbled over my answers again and thought it was fun, so here it is.
Theatre keeps fracturing and forking, so there is no coherent vision for theatre in 2030. Instead a thousand new genres are flourishing. Including:
Actors re-enact episodes of popular television shows, incorporating audience suggestions for script improvements, character motivations and alternate outcomes. Over time these theatrical versions are deviating so far from their source material as to bear almost no resemblance.
Preparations are underway for the first theatre performance to be produced on another planet. It takes the format of a ritualized memorial to the Soviet Mars 2 lander, the first human artifact to reach the surface of the Red Planet. The performance has an audience of three humans and five robots.
Artificial intelligences that have ingested the entire known cultural corpus from the Epic of Gilgamesh to The Real Housewives of Taipei have become prolific authors of theatrical works, with the leading programs having written billions of plays, most of which remain unperformed and unread by humans.
The audience receives a weekly email describing to them a piece of theatre they could have seen but did not attend. It describes the production in broad strokes, provides a list of specific moments or telling details for credibility, and a unique, algorithmically generated opinion about the production you can share with friends.
A movement of touring companies which thrive throughout the western North American dust bowl, mounting quasi-religious revivalist passion plays about water conservation and ecological hubris, and distributing desperately needed bottled water and iodine pills.