Seeing Laura Ramoso’s hysterical one-woman show Frances got me thinking about the role social media plays in relation to theatre; not only as a means of promotion but as a form of theatre itself. And you don’t have to be a content creator to be a part of the Theatre of Social Media, everyone directs and edits how their social media presents them to the rest of the world (or your online social group at the very least).
After seeing Frances last week, I went on to TikTok’s website so I could check out the types of videos Ramoso usually posts. Though not a TikTok user myself, I was able to find her profile and watch a few of her videos. What I discovered is that the production I had just watched was a clever compilation of her TikToks, with the narrative of Frank and Frances as the anchor for the piece. It was very cleverly done and as I mentioned in my review you could certainly tell which characters were fan favourites. But that’s what got me thinking about those short videos as a type of theatre. Ramoso isn’t just recording parts of her life and posting them for public consumption, she’s creating characters and using quirky stereotypes to create comedic narratives, just like any stand-up comedian or comedy writer would have to do. While some characters like German Mom and Italian Dad are based on her real parents, she’s making the script and playing the parts herself (although I did see one of her trying to get her Dad to do a tongue twister and it was also really funny). It’s a difficult task to get a story encapsulated in such a short amount of time, but that’s what brilliant content creators like Ramoso are able to do.
However, even if creating stories for social media isn’t your main job (or even a side hustle), social media users have a tendency to curate what we post online. Some people are very particular about the aesthetic of their pages, while others have niche topics they post about. Just think about the number of photos or selfies you take before choosing which one to post. All of that amounts to a great deal of directing, editing, and overall production which goes into our online personas. Few people truly post about everything that goes on in their daily lives, that’d be tedious at the best of times. Instead, we curate, select, and report on the things we choose to have others see. That same effort has to go into staging a play, or really any kind of storytelling be it a novel, film, or television show. What sets social media is the element of immediacy; you can know in real time what’s happening in someone’s life if they choose to post about it.
Our fascination with storytelling goes back as far as we do; as soon as we learned to communicate, we began to tell stories and that’s not going to change any time soon. How we choose to tell those stories will. What I think is the most beautiful is that all of these means of storytelling exist at the same time. We know for a fact that social media can’t replace live theatre because after two years of having online readings or filmed performances as our only form of “live” theatre, in-person theatre has returned stronger than ever. I love that people are finding new ways to share their talent and their joy, no matter what form that takes.
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