On January 14, Toronto-based Expect Theatre launches PlayME, an exciting new initiative that is set to change the playing ground for Canadian theatre at home and internationally. PlayME will be a national digital theatre that presents an annual season of new theatre scripts in podcast format, raising the profile of Canadian plays and playwrights as well as offering audiences high-quality drama for free.
Expect will take some of the most interesting current and innovative un-produced or under-produced scripts in the country, audio record them, add post-production elements (music and sound effects) and release them as podcasts - basically presenting a season of modern radio drama, lining up with the growing trend of "on-demand" entertainment.
With no other entity in the country producing professional Canadian radio drama any longer, Expect's PlayME fills a much-needed role. Plays will be sourced through new play contests as well as curated by Expect's Artistic Directors, Laura Mullin and Chris Tolley, who produce and spearhead this project. Gregory J. Sinclair, former Head of Drama at CBC Radio and now Director of Audio Programs at Soulpepper Theatre, acts as Consulting Producer.
PlayME will feature both established and emerging playwrights with casts encompassing both up-and-coming and distinguished, seasoned actors. All PlayME podcasts will operate under ACTRA agreements.
The first season of PlayME will feature six plays plus ancillary interviews. Podcasts will be released in a weekly serialized format for each play. Audiences can choose to listen as chapters are released or wait until the full play has been posted. An archive will be kept where every podcast will be available on demand.
PlayME will take advantage of the agility the digital age offers. As opposed to the traditional theatre producing model with seasons announced a year or more in advance, PlayME can turn around a performance-ready script into a fully produced piece within days - and in a cost effective manner. PlayME can react to current events and audience feedback as needed. Each PlayME script in the season will only be revealed at the end of the previous podcast.
The demand for creative digital content is growing at a rapid rate. While live theatre audiences are dwindling, podcast listeners are growing. Serial, the wildly popular, ground-breaking podcast series from the creators of This American Life on NPR, became a cultural phenomenon in its first season. In April of 2015, Pew Research Center noted that 17% of Americans aged 12 and up had listened to a podcast in the last month (almost double since 2008), while fully one-third (33%) of those aged 12 years have listened to at least one podcast. Canadian statistics are likely very similar.
PlayME has the opportunity to transform the way Canadian theatre is experienced and accessed. With this bold and innovative approach to disseminating plays, PlayME will increase exposure for Canadian artists across the country and internationally as anyone worldwide will be able to stream and/or download these podcasts.
Expect Theatre is an award winning, Toronto-based company dedicated to producing cutting edge, original, multi-disciplinary productions that explore modern urban life. The company's creations incorporate elements such as site-specific spaces, verbatim theatre, integrated arts, and audience/performer interaction. Formed in 1998 by co-Artistic Directors Laura Mullin and Chris Tolley, the company's mission is to engage and inspire audiences through compelling narratives and innovative productions. Expect has a long track record of creating integrated theatre works, radio plays for CBC, viral videos and site-specific performance art installations. Works include Romeo/Juliet Remixed, Static, Awake, CBC Radio's Tunnel Runners, on-line documentary Rexdale Voices and the annual urbanNOISE festival. http://www.expect.org http://www.playmepodcast.com/
PlayME is supported by the Toronto Arts Council's Open Door Fund, the Ontario Arts Council and the Ontario Trillium Foundation.