Welcome to the first professional "live and in person
and live and online" theatrical performance portal.
Performances are streamed live at the date and time
advertised with the LIPLO™ insignia
Stephanie Riso is lead developer of the LIPLO™ live entertainment portal and founder of two organizations: Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre (PICT) which she began in 1996 with business partner Andrew S. Paul, and Cabaret Pittsburgh which recently dissolved due to the economic crisis. Stephanie holds a degree in vocal performance from Carnegie Mellon University, has performed professionally in the Pittsburgh and surrounding area, and recently participated in the prestigious BMI Lehman-Engel Musical Theatre Writing workshop in NYC as a composer/lyricist. She currently serves as operations director of PICT and is attempting to become the first to live stream professional theatrical performances over the internet. Stephanie is originally from Buffalo, NY and currently resides in Pittsburgh with her husband.
A new live entertainment performance portal trademarked LIPLO™ is in its final phase of testing before it is expected to hit the commercial market sometime in 2010. The portal was expected to have started its first trial theatrical performance with PICT’s production of The History Boys by Alan Bennett on Saturday, August 15, 2009 at 8:00pm, however, the Actors Equity Association national office refused to allow the live streaming to proceed despite the fact that proper permissions were acquired from the authors, designers and actors through work with AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). AFTRA and AEA are sister unions, so when AEA decided not to allow the performance to proceed AFTRA was unwilling to proceed as well. At this time, we are seeking other performances that can inaugurate the live performance portal and hope to finalize testing by the end of the year so it can be available for purchase next year.
LIPLO™ was tested in the cabaret genre in 2007 and 2008 and successfully streamed 15 performances live over the internet. This was an underground trial and was not highly publicized. The work was done in collaboration with CMU graduate Alex Geis of 21 Productions which continues today.
When it was decided to test LIPLO™ for the theatre genre it was clear that the biggest obstacles would be the unions, so when Stephanie received positive responses from Actors Equity to continue discussions with AFTRA the day when professional live theatre could be streamed seemed reachable/possible.
The goal is to test the live streaming so that the best possible online product can be made available. Questions arise such as – do we need a multi-camera, live edit feed, or does one camera with zoom and panning capability suffice? What does it feel like as the audience and what other things might be needed to make the live online viewing experience worthwhile (worth the money)? Is there great potential for audience and sponsorship? Does this present a realistic new revenue stream for companies and those who create live theatre? What is the realistic potential and how do we make this new activity equitable for all parties involved? These are the questions we sought to answer with this trial period. And, if a small company can succeed in answer these questions than a larger company shouldn’t have any problems at all making this work…
A request to AEA was made as long ago as 2004 to webcast and was denied – a colleague in Chicago told Stephanie…so that has been five years and no progress on this matter has been made. It has also been stated by the AEA rep, Larry Lorczak, that many other companies have submitted proposals for live streaming, but all have been denied? Why? They won’t answer that… You have to wonder where AEA’s priorities are on this matter and which interests they are looking out for…The challenge is that it is unclear who holds the authority on live streaming – that is what the unions are fighting over.
The benefits of having live performances stream through one portal allows for clear branding of the concept of watching a show “live and in person and live and online” – whether you are in the room or sitting at your computer it is live and unedited just as if you were at the theatre – of course with a different view. This allows handicapped and elderly the option to enjoy live performance, schools who may not have funding to bus students to the theatre, those who are new parents that can’t get away to the theatre, theatre-junkies who can’t get to the city where the performance is located, and those who have lost their jobs or simply can’t afford the cost to attend the performance at the theatre.
I encourage you to visit http://www.technologyinthearts.org/?p=1078 as this article gives a good bit of the story of how it all started.
As for the technology, I would have to defer to the multi-media engineer to explain everything that goes into the ultimate product entitled LIPLO™. In short, however, it is a website portal which you can enter by submitting a valid email. Right now, when you enter it, there is a video explaining why the first live performance didn’t happen – so you can see the beginnings of how the portal is intended to work. The video currently streaming has been recorded, but on a live performance night, the performance would live stream as it happens. This has already been done successfully in the cabaret genre, so it is completely feasible and possible for theatre. Other elements include the camera and the cameraman, and a Quicktime viewer (which can be downloaded for free). Behind the website façade and camera work is the magic of Alex Geis programming supported by Carnegie Mellon University and his affiliation at CMU. So, beyond that explanation, we would need him to discuss anything more technical than that…
As for applications, any live performance for which the rights have been acquired can be included in the entertainment portal. However, the goal is to make sure that the quality of the performances – both in the producing of the performance and the streaming – are of the highest quality. We expect this to be a subscription service or pay-per-view service so the product needs to be worth paying for…Although, it is completely possible to live stream other live performances such as high school musicals, live interviews, etc. and the cost is not prohibitive, so it would just be a matter of making sure the organization has the proper permissions.
Enclosed is the LIPLO™ logo. As lead developer – this means that I came up with the concept, the acronym, meaning “Live and In Person and Live and Online” (aka LIPLO™), trademarked it, and began to develop what it means, how it works, and how it would be implemented or used. For example, my goal is to start a trend by which the concept of viewing a live event, live and online as it happens while an audience sits in the same venue, but a person sits in front of a computer would mean that the online viewer is experiencing LIPLO™. The performance has people watching live and in person BUT ALSO live and online so it is a shared experience, albeit a slightly different experience and vantage point perhaps.
The idea to create LIPLO™ was out of a necessity to reach more than 42 people in a small café with cabaret entertainment. The ongoing challenge for small entertainment companies or venues, which are either small by choice or by necessity, is how to compete for audiences and support when there are thousands attending events at football stadiums or theatres, which in turn provides critical advertising dollars and opportunities. Yet, sitting among 50,000 other people versus being 1 of 60 people feels different – and even watching online will feel different too. So, I sought out how to potentially increase my audience size without having to change the venue or the intimacy of cabaret. When I returned back to Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre, a company I co-founded in 1996 (I returned in 2008 to help in a recovery effort to eliminate roughly $200,000 of debt on a million dollar organization), I started thinking about how the LIPLO™ concept might work for theatre and open up new revenue streams and audiences beyond the limits of greater Pittsburgh. That is how this all came about with some testing in between and, of course, finding Alex Geis and maintaining my long-time relationship with videographer Randy Griffith.
However, let me be clear that this is still a work in progress – especially for theatre. The technology is there and the quality is there, but I am one person with an idea and a catchy, trademarked concept. I don’t have the power to convince a huge union to give LIPLO™ its proper development, I don’t have the money to meet their unreasonable financial demands, and I don’t have money to simply bombard the market with the idea and the product…so all I can do is keep reaching for the stars, I may never get there by I’ll get higher than if I never tried at all. And, who knows, maybe – finally – a little luck with come my way and we will indeed have LIPLO™ signature performances for people to enjoy from their homes.
Please also visit www.LIPLO.com.
More info at www.LIPLO.com
Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre
P.O. Box 23607