The coronavirus has hit the performing arts hard, as audiences shy away from enclosed spaces. But all is not lost. Theatrical company No Meets has created a new online theatre that brings the magic of the stage to smartphones, PCs, and tablets and a new generation of theatergoers.

The online theatre is called ZA, a Japanese word that means ‘theatre’ or ‘stage’. Unlike most online video subscription services, ZA gives you the feeling and excitement of actually going to the theatre. Whether you’re at home or out with friends or family, it allows you to experience the magic of the theatre without the risk of infection present in a physical theatre.

ZA is not just a new way of experiencing the stage. It also changes the way the audience reacts to the players, bringing an interactive element to the experience. For example, in some ZA plays the audience gets to choose which version of the story it wants to watch. They also get a chance to share their thoughts and feelings while watching the play.

ZA is not an all-you-can-view type of service, whereby you can watch at any time for a fixed subscription fee. It is more akin to a live theatrical performance, in that you can only see a play at a specific time.

“ZA is a place to create new plays. A place to see plays by various theatre companies,” says theatre manager and ZA founder Ryosuke Fujiki. “But it’s also a way of spreading Japanese theatre to the world. Above all, we aim to become an online theatre that customers who love theatre will love.”

“With the coronavirus, the theatre world has suffered a great deal,” says Yuuki Hiroya of the No Meets Theatre Company. “But I think many people are going to try out this new experience of performing and watching theatre online.”

“Of course, there is nothing better than performing in a real theatre. But real and online theatre don’t have to be hostile to one another. Their coexistence may enrich the theatre market.”

As well as online streaming of theatrical performances, ZA provides theatre companies with stage sets. There is limit on the number of seats available, which should allow the company to both charge less money for and make more money from ticket sales.

ZA theatre is scheduled to open on November 25th. The first performance will be a Kokeraotoshi performance by No Meets, entitled If you can still laugh!

You can watch ZA’s first production, which showcases the possibilities of its approach to drama, here:

For more information, see the No Meets website

By - George Lloyd.