AAAE 2021 Virtual Conference...
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Monday, May 3 • 2:00pm - 2:30pm
2 PM ET: God Bless Us Every One”: Hybrid Film-Theater Productions of A Christmas Carol and Existential Questions of the Nonprofit Theater in the United States during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Nonprofit theaters in the United States created hybrid film-theater adaptations of A Christmas Carol to replace their annual live productions during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. A Christmas Carol frequently serves specific purposes in a nonprofit theater’s season: generating a significant amount of revenue through ticket sales, merchandise, concessions and fees, attracting new audiences, engaging audiences who attend rarely, and reputation building through community engagement. During the pandemic, theaters were making a range of choices of whether to continue producing and/or sharing recorded content with audiences. In the unprecedented situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, the choice a theater would make with respect to their production of A Christmas Carol offers a unique insight into their state of operations and strategy because, based on the theater’s past activity, it offers the best chance for them to reach a range of audience groups and connect with their stakeholders.

Using content analysis examining the recordings of the productions and the accompanying material such as digital playbills, educational material, marketing messages and social media interaction, this study reveals that the theaters’ used these productions to navigate existential questions revealed when they could no longer produce live theatrical productions for in-person audiences. Three recorded versions of A Christmas Carol were analyzed: Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol produced by Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Dickens’ Holiday Classic produced by the Guthrie Theater, and On the Stage’s production of A Christmas Carol Live. A Christmas Carol Live was created by a film production company based on a 2018 production at the Geffen Playhouse. For 2020, the film was created and shown for the purpose of generating revenue for regional theaters across the United States.

The study shows that the theaters spend significant effort defending and re-articulating the importance of theater as an art form, even as they abstracted and redefined it through their film productions. The theaters also exert great effort in ensuring the audiences get a message about the theater’s history of positive community impact and how they continue that impact during the COVID-19 pandemic. These intentions were evident in the aesthetic choices made in the hybrid theater-film productions and in the contextualizing (educational) material and persuasive (marketing) material supporting the productions. The theaters’ purpose of engaging these lines of messaging are to answer a question being asked implicitly and explicitly during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis: why does your theater matter and why should it be supported?
Examining the recorded works being created by theaters and how they were used by their producers during this COVID-19 pandemic is important as a historical moment in the history of creative production, as well as informing what the lingering impact and influence of this time will be on live performing arts production when in-person events resume.

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avatar for Hannah Grannemann

Hannah Grannemann

Assistant Professor and Director of Arts Administration, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Professional Experience: Children’s Theater of Charlotte (Executive Director), PlayMakers Repertory Company (Managing Director). Publications: Cultural Management: Science and Education (2019), Arts Professional, U.K. (2020), We the Audience blog on ArtsJournal.com. Presentations... Read More →

Monday May 3, 2021 2:00pm - 2:30pm EDT
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