A Blog for All Seasons: exploring the joys and challenges of ""blog plays"". (SKINNYFEST)
The thing that drives a lot of people to reach out to each other by blogging is theatrical and if you can find a way to keep the 'blog on stage' active and immediate, the blog play really works.
You don't necessarily need to possess Mark Twain's writing skills to have your own blog, and this statement is borne out by a recent survey which determined that for every second that passes, a new blog mushrooms on the web. There are blogs about music, fashion, computers, politics and shopping. Actually there are blogs on virtually everything. Some are excellent, others are supremely dumb, while a few are globally known and have even been printed in book form. One example is "Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq", a blog by the anonymous Riverbend, a young Baghdadi woman chronicling life during the war. The first volume of Riverbend's blog was published in the UK last year while its follow-up will be out in September.
But if blogs work on the web and sell as printed books, what happens once the format is taken onto the stage? Blog fans will have a chance to find out at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as three plays, 'Blogging', 'Bloggers: Real Internet Diaries' and the stage adaptation of Riverbend's diary, arrive in town.
While 'Blogging' - staged by the Kentisbeare Players, a group of actors at the heart of the rural community in Mid-Devon - will concentrate on exploring modern life and its pressures, 'Bloggers: Real Internet Diaries', compiled by writer and director Oliver Mann, promises to be the stuff that voyeuristic dreams are made of, since it will introduce the audience to eleven true stories and will feature, among others, blogs by an agoraphobic sex chat-line operator and a nymphomaniac mum of three.
The attention of the critics, though, is on 'Girl Blog from Iraq: Baghdad Burning', adapted for the stage by Kimberly I. Kefgen, artistic director of the New York based non-profit theatre company Six Figures, and Loren Ingrid Noveck - its literary manager. "The blog blew us both away," Noveck states, "reading Riverbend made us realise how little we knew about the war. Her voice and her story changed the way we think about this war and our country's actions, and we wanted to share that experience." After reading the blog, Kefgen felt people had to hear Riverbend's story; "We realised that, as a community, we were tuning out regarding the war," she explains, "we wanted to find a way to confront the consequences of the war as a community, to start a dialogue. To experience Riverbend's words out loud in the company of others is an entirely different experience than reading them alone on your computer."
One of the most difficult challenges for Kefgen and Noveck was how to adapt the blog for the stage: both thought a one-person performance wouldn't have been satisfying and, in the end, they opted for the verbatim theatre format. "That choice has ultimately paid off in a really positive way," Kefgen explains, "but the experience of the play is in no way intended to substitute for reading the blog, rather, we hope it introduces people to the blog and inspires them to read it themselves."
But do blogs work on stage? According to Noveck blogs contain amazing stories and what makes them special is the fact that, though they retain the intimacy of diaries, they are written for an audience, so, in a way, they do have a connection with the theatre. Kefgen concurs; "The thing that drives a lot of people to reach out to each other by blogging is theatrical and if you can find a way to keep the 'blog on stage' active and immediate, the blog play definitely works," she states. Kefgen is also looking forward to seeing the two other blog plays on at the Fringe, "I hope we have a chance to meet their creators," she says, "and maybe commiserate on the challenges and joys of the 'blog play'."
The only way to see the value of a blog play is to see it acted, we might say, paraphrasing Voltaire. Only time will tell if this entirely new theatrical genre is here to stay. In the meantime, explore it all at the Fringe.
'Bloggers: Real Internet Diaries', Smirnoff Underbelly, Edinburgh, 3 (preview)-27 August, www.seebloggers.com