Q: What has been the impact of the film industry on different generations?

A: A few weeks ago, I listened to an audiobook of A Song For You (Robyn Crawford’s memoir; it details the author’s relationship with Whitney Houston, amongst other things). I was struck by an inconspicuous section of the book — one where Crawford recounts the credits of her favorite albums with ease; she evidently took pride in her intimacy with music — her ability to cite background instrumentalists and vocalists by ear. I pictured young and old versions of Robyn flipping through records, marinating in their liner notes. I realized I envied her slow, deliberate consumption of art.

Regardless of my personal efforts to be a deliberate art patron, I grew up in a rising fever of consumption. Rental and record stores were fading away by the time I was old enough to use them — giving way to the streaming revolution (namely: Netflix, MP3 players, and iPods). Conversations shifted from meandering meetings of interests to quick presumptions of interests; if a piece of on-trend media was only a click away, surely everyone must have known about it, and surely everyone ought to converse about it. The old excitement of getting to know people without presuming which media informs them is still present, but it’s dimmed. I often feel coerced into trying to prove how informed I am instead of enjoying my patronage.

In our extended era of hyper-consumption, I’m always asking myself how I can maintain a sense of wonder in my dealings. I read an article about kinescopes that made me ponder improvisation — a practice of creating miracles by letting actions run wild within flexible parameters. When so many films are available to us online, perhaps improvisation is our surviving element of surprise —  the key to staying on the edge of our seats.

Recent Kinescopic Experiments:

In recent years, live-TV networks have attempted to revive themselves with kinescopic productions — casting big-name stars in fan favorites such as Rent: Live (dir. Michael Greif & Alex Rudzinski, Fox, 2019), Hairspray: Live (dir. Kenny Leon, NBC, 2016) and The Wiz: Live (dir. Kenny Leon & Matthew Diamond, NBC, 2015). They were fun, manicured productions that made me long for more. Namely: for up-and-coming artists to have more chances to experiment with kinescope productions.

Tried-and-true stories like Rent, Hairspray, and The Wiz are a joy to revisit, but the pitfall of their status as classics is that, even with creative revisions, we already know what’s going to happen to characters. What would be stunning, surprising, to experience in kinescopes are stories most of us haven’t seen before — where every corner we turn is untreaded territory. That would bring me to the edge of my seat: live-action where truly new actions are unfolding.

*The live-TV productions I’ve mentioned can be streamed for free on Youtube, DailyMotion, Vimeo, etc.

Supplemental Readings:

The Streaming Revolution: So Much to Binge, So Hard to Remember’ by John Jurgensen

The New Rules of Music Snobbery’ by Spencer Kornhaber (Subheading: ‘Hulu’s High Fidelity reboot captures the end of elitist condescension and the rise of fervent eclecticism.’)

Theater to Stream: Cabaret Lives Online and Zombies Walk the Stage’ by Elisabeth Vincentelli

Review: “Readymade Cabaret 2.0” Brings Randomness to Virtual Theater’ by Elisabeth Vincentelli