An online platform consisting of live performances, audio, music, ebooks and learning resources, ‘Thespie’ aims to “help rebuild theatre in a way that’s better for artists and better for audiences; helping to kickstart the return of safe, live performance.” Recognising the needs of both theatre creatives and theatre goers, founder Tyler Stoops has drawn on his technical background to offer a multi-faceted experience promoting accessibility, especially to rural audiences. Currently available to visit online, Tyler tells us more about the platform.
Hi Tyler, you founded ‘Thespie’, an online theatre streaming service in May in response to the Covid pandemic. How have you found creating this new platform at such a challenging time?
2020 was full of ridiculous challenges for all of us, but it’s been really inspiring to be part of a team that’s looking to reshape how audiences discover and engage with theatre. We were actually created well before the pandemic, focusing on giving our users better ways to sift through the hundreds of shows playing in London. But once theatres closed last March, we realised that our mission to connect artists and audiences was more vital than ever, so we went into high gear to adjust the technology so that it could help showcase digital theatre performances, as well as theatre-related music/audio and learning resources. And in the back half of the year we expanded further to help some artists produce their own live shows, and selling streaming tickets to concerts that we produced. It’s been immensely rewarding amidst a rather bleak and emotional period for the industry.
How did you approach creating the platform?
I have an arts and technology background, having started professionally in technical theatre, then moving into casting and artistic planning, then working on streaming and media projects for the Metropolitan Opera in New York, one of the pioneering companies in digital delivery of performances. I then worked in various technology roles for Disney and Amazon, before returning to the arts by creating Thespie. As someone who loves so many different kinds of performance, I knew how hard it was to discover the full breadth of performances running at a given time, and many friends would tell me they never knew where to begin when deciding what they should see. So in creating the platform we started by focusing on the potential audience member, and what tools they needed to help them find a performance that’s right for their interests.
‘Thespie’ includes a range of digital features, including live performances, audio, music, ebooks, learning resources and London theatre listings. Why include these features?
Thespie’s mission is to reinvent how people engage with the arts—increasing attendance/viewership, while fostering a more direct, human connection between artists and audiences. While a lot of platforms use technology to sell tickets, our team of lifelong theatre/arts fans knows that the journey of audiences is much broader than your ticket transaction, or even seeing the show. You need a broader view of what’s available, a sense for what will match your interest, and the ability to explore and learn about shows. Our goal is to give people the tools to deepen their connection to artforms, artists, organisations, so that they can discover more and make the arts a bigger part of their lives.
Have you learned anything new from creating the platform? If so, what?
In 2020 I think the most important thing that I’ve learned is that artists need our help, and that phenomenally moving work can happen when you empower artists to build the shows they want to create and share the stories and songs that they want to share. Theatre artists spend most of their careers fitting into other people’s expectations, and sometimes are even taken advantage of to move the commercial aims of a show or organisation, without proper compensation. But our hope is that we can be an agent of bringing power back to the artists and helping them find new ways to connect with audiences and thrive.
How do you envision theatre moving forward within our digital age?
Theatre is incredibly diverse in its approaches, and I think that will continue to be true in the years to come. Society is changing pretty rapidly in terms of how people choose to spend their time and money, and theatre-makers and arts organisations are going to have to work hard to help audiences know what they can expect for the price of a ticket, either in person or streaming. I know the opportunity to switch off from social media and immerse yourself in a unique live experience of story and/or song is going to be even more emotionally rewarding once it’s 100% safe to gather in venues again. But we’ll all need to work together to help the arts compete for people’s time and attention, and to keep using these digital tools that we’ve developed over the past 10 months to maintain access to those who love theatre but can’t make it to see performances in person, or who can’t afford the cost of tickets.
What are your hopes for Thespie moving forward?
We’re going to continue to innovate on behalf of artists and audiences, and have a number of exciting things in the works. My hope is that we can be part of ensuring a strong future return to live performance, delight audiences by continuing to introduce them to shows and artists they might not have been aware of, and help people around the globe develop a lifelong love for theatre and the performing arts.
What can audiences expect from the online streaming platform?
Audiences can expect that we’ll keep expanding our platform and strategy to help Thespie continue to take root. We will continue to advocate for theatre and its artists, supporting and/or introducing business models that are more equitable and sustainable than some of what’s in use across the industry today. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, and artists and live entertainment workers will be depending on all of us to recruit large audiences again, once the health situation is under control and live performance is safe again.
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
To find out more about Thespie, visit here…