TFA Working Group: How to Move a Festival Online #2

09 April 20 - Online

Can festivals adapt to digital space? How do you curate an online festival? How do you engage the audience? Can you make a digital festival financially sustainable? This discussion looks at what happens to festivals and the arts when we can no longer gather is person. Sharing examples of digital art and online festivals, we'll explore the pros and cons of digitizing a festival and offer advice on the practicalities of moving performance online.


How did you shift to digital/online? How was your experience with this situation? Artist perspective

  • Summary of the piece: Performance of Snapshots by Convergence Theatre: New Virtual Theatre about Islam, Sexuality, and Cultural Appropriation
  • The piece was originally supposed to have actors having phone conversations, disconnection, what does it mean to be in different places across the world.
  • How do we tell stories? How do we experience relationships being in different areas?
  • What does digital do in the connection or disconnection aspect: Easy to change phone calls into video calls (used Zoom).
  • Two people in different spaces. Acting the scene that they were supposed to play, as if there was no audience. Actors + Asif + Director.
  • Technical side: You could see them through their phone or through fixed/direct screens. No camera controls, they were moving around. Actors had to do their text, choosing when to turn their microphone/camera on and off. Paying attention to the frame and to different modes.
  • Performance side: the piece had been developing with Convergence since September. Community reads, fundraisers: Not starting from scratch.
  • 11 March 2020: Public reading through Zoom: they decided the entire process would be digital
  • They were supposed to play at a University local theatre but moved to an Online performance
  • Spent 2 weeks rehearsal on Zoom (same as live), what are the relationships between the characters, what do we need to do with the text...
  • Live streaming: gave them a test channel: able to see the output from what it would look like livestream.
  • Gallery or one performer at a time (on Zoom): much valuable (one performer at a time VS multiple)
  • Looking to do an interactive version: online or livestream: different platform:, open broadcast (End of May, the beginning of June)
  • The technical side of live streaming: Hardwire (superior) is needed
  • Main things in terms of logistics and issues discussion: how do we catch the audience’s attention when being online
  • Separate contract for May and June, main Convergence activity, questioning the scale of it.
  • Switch from being in-person performance to digital not because of the epidemic but because they CARE: it was an important decision because much there was still a lot of uncertainty at this
  • moment. Key thing: What best serves the community?
  • Access to all bigger range of people than a small group
  • The scale is a huge asset for them, particular to their case, circumstance and context.


  • Working with Sepehr on Reconnect Festival.
  • 6 years he has been working on this: How to migrate classical performance and theatre to online platforms?
  • 1st time moving to Instagram Live: experimental
  • They received 122 applications from different continents and countries
  • The whole idea was they were not recommending bringing existing shows but advising applicants to design shows especially for this platform
  • Difference between broadcasting, going live with existing shows as on Instagram, Zoom, Hangouts and to design specific shows for each platform.
  • Poetry, storytellers, theatre, dance, musicians... A lot of discussions panels with researchers, scholars, university professors, critics... No book or guideline
  • Experimenting + Analyzing all the shows
  • After all this: they will have a lot of resources
  • There was an open call, previously: 45 works (20-25 shows that they adapted for Instagram)
  • + 20 shows designed especially for Instagram.
  • People get engaged when they know it was designed for Instagram.
  • Staring or not at the camera makes it different. In an online meeting, you look at others but on Instagram, you are looking at the camera. It is important to know the features, to be aware of the technology we are using. Performers need to know where the camera is and that the audience is watching them.
  • If you pay for shows (even 1 dollar) it feels valuable: tickets for accessibility, something that needs to be discussed. Not in these times of Epidemic but afterwards if Online content is still on.
  • Average 700 viewers per Instagram Live



  • The physical aspect, the directions
  • Getting through that weirdness is a challenge
  • You are in a way performing to yourself but not: people are watching you
  • Director new to this ‘digital’ product and never met these people in person, difficulties to demonstrate what you mean


  • Faced three main problems
  • Faced a lot of technological problems, requested some features for Instagram Live to a friend
  • Censorship: master of censorship: play this music or not, permission to get on stage, publish an article or perform... hard time to do this censorship process themselves.
  • Find a platform, which is free, cheap, not limited, adapt to time zones.
  • No funding

Some main questions and comments:

Christina Illmayr, Sweden

  • “I agree with you the internet being overloaded but maybe there are also chances for
  • connecting (internationally)? That way it is easier for the world to connect without having to travel.”

Erica McCalman, Australia

  • “This article is doing the rounds in Australia today; I think it struck a chord as people have started questioning our motivations and value in bringing performance online.” 

Keith Nurse, South Africa

  • Does training in this area: this year it will be focusing a lot more on digital. He has been talking with festival organizers in SA, festivals have been cancelled until August. Some films which have been curated in festivals are now online; becomes accessible to anybody! Accessing these films might be a challenge but it is really good quality. Online performing becomes viable.

Sepehr Sharifzadeh, Iran

  • “We're going to have an artist from Colombia performing audio/visual electro music for 13 min in about 20 min (9/04) feel free to join on your Instagram app on your phone: Pablo Andres Cardona Correa”

Nada Shemais, Egypt

  • In Egypt, not everyone has access to internet connection so it causes gaps in accessibility but that won’t stop Cairotronica.

Rosette Nteyafas, Uganda

  • Struggling with what to do during the lockdown. As in Egypt, not everyone has a good access to internet. Uganda: every organization/system of art has to be closed down.
  • How do we engage with different teams online?

Lorenzo Pappagallo, Spain

  • He shares here all theatre shows streamed online from big cultural institutions around the world to smaller initiatives. Feel free to add any new links!