Justine has a new boss who’s rude, vulgar, and off-putting. Michael talks to strangers on the internet about their sexual fantasies for a living. Saddo, a fifty-something and one of Michael’s customers, has sadistic fantasies involving his daughter. And to top it all off, Christmas is right around the corner.
This is Herding Cats. The play, written by Lucinda Coxon, is a dark drama about finding intimacy and connection in the modern world. And in the most recent revival the modern world breaks the fourth wall, and makes its presence known in more ways than one.
“This new production contains a big experiment which we’re using to tell the story,” director Anthony Banks told Theatre Weekly during an interview about the play’s Soho Theatre run. “One of the three actors is performing live in Los Angeles while the other two perform live at Soho Theatre.”
It’s the actor playing Saddo who performs the show in LA. He’s live streamed and his image is projected onto a massive on-stage screen. This touch is, of course, dramatically fitting, considering Saddo exists for both Micael and Justine as just some guy on the internet, and the audience sees him as they do, through a screen. And while this experiment in form fits nicely into both narrative and theme, off-stage, the show is an experiment in the business of theatre.
Audience members could of course see the play in person. But live streaming and video-on-demand versions were made available as well, allowing folks to tune in and watch the show at any time from any place. One could say that this touch is artistically fitting, with these digital theatre-goers viewing the show through the eyes of Saddo, who, like the crowd watching through a live stream, witnesses events unfold through a digital lens.
But it’s also an example of how the show, produced by OHenry Productions, is breaking ground even when the lights go down.
“Life is busy,” says Oliver Roth, the lead producer on Herding Cats and owner of OHenry Productions. “Potential ticket buyers’ schedules are unpredictable, they may live in various time zones. We wanted everything to be live, but we also didn’t want scheduling issues to get in the way of someone being able to see the show.”
Creating an accessible way for fans to view shows live without physically being in the theatre may seem obvious in the age of Netflix and cable-cutting, but it’s something theatre has been slow to adopt. Sure, Hamilton was put up on Disney+, but when it comes to the industry as a whole, theatre lags behind film, television, and even other forms of live performance like concerts and stand-up comedy when it comes to accessible live streaming and VOD options. Which is what makes OHenry Productions’s approach to Herding Cats so ground-breaking.
Not only does live streaming and VOD give busy theatre fans a chance to watch new shows, but productions themselves can benefit immensely from extra revenue. It opens the show up to a global audience, allowing shows big and small, another revenue avenue to recoup finances. And a VOD option keeps cash flowing even when the theatre goes dark, an essentiality in an age of fast-moving digital products and unwieldy pandemic restrictions.
But Herding Cats isn’t just breaking ground when it comes to streaming. They’re taking advantage of another form of cutting-edge tech to repackage their product and offer it to audiences worldwide.
NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are digital products that take advantage of blockchain technology to validate authenticity. This new form of digital product is changing the way industries interact with fans and market their products. Sites like NBA Topshot and NFT games like Axie Infinity are two examples of how industries like gaming and sports are adopting NFTs.
Now, thanks to Herding Cats and Third Act, they’re taking over theatre.
The production partnered with Third Act, theatre’s first NFT marketplace, to bring NFTs to theatre fans. “The show was digital, so it made sense to work with new digital offerings like NFTs,” says Roth. “As theatre continues to find new ways to work in an increasingly digital and remote world, it makes sense to review how other areas of our industry will follow. For merchandising, it seems like participation in the NFT marketplace is a great fit.”
NFTs are a new way for productions to add revenue that, like VOD, continues coming in even when the theatre goes dark. A percentage of every transaction made through Third Act goes directly back to the original IP owner, allowing theatre, an industry with notoriously fickle finances, a way to bring in additional revenue.
And NFTs can be more than just merchandise. Producers can take advantage of NFTs to market their shows. Giving an NFT version of your show’s ticket, for example, is a great value add to incentivize purchase.
While NFTs sound high-tech, and to some extent they are, the process of turning your IP into an NFT is fairly simple. Third Act boasts a full-service offering, from NFT design to minting to promotion. And while some NFT marketplaces make use of confusing crypto wallets and terminology, Third Act makes it easy for fans and shows to find one another. Everything on the Third Act marketplace is listed in USD, and wallet creation happens in one click.
With production companies like OHenry Productions putting up shows like Herding Cats that take advantage of modern day tech, the industry will surely take notice. The Herding Cats collection is available on Third Act. Be sure to Sign-up today for a chance to own a piece of theatre history.