create / 2016

Audio Theatre 2.0: An IT Platform for Audience Engagement and Student Creativity

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by L.A. Theatre Works

LATW, the nation’s leading producer of audio theatre, seeks to expand the reach of local productions across the globe and enable students to create their own theatre-based educational apps.


Are any other organizations collaborating on this proposal?

LATW is in conversations with two LAUSD schools which will partner on the development of the educational platform section of our new website. We cannot, however, announce the schools’ name at this time as we have not yet received official confirmation and permission.

Please describe your project proposal.

L.A. Theatre Works has a treasure trove of 500+ plays recorded by award-winning actors for the audio format. We want to build an online infrastructure that will expand worldwide access to these Los Angeles-based works, create new artistic opportunities via the online platform, and increase public and student engagement with theatre – including models for LAUSD students to create their own interactive educational technology based on our new educational platform resources.

Which of the create metrics will your proposal impact?​

  • Arts establishments
  • Employment in the creative industries
  • Measures of cultural and global economic influence (“soft power”)

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • County of Los Angeles
  • LAUSD

Describe in greater detail how your proposal will make LA the best place to create?

Over the past 25 years, L.A. Theatre Works (LATW) has produced a unique and growing library of 500+ plays recorded by top actors specifically for the audio format (radio, downloads, podcasts, streaming, apps, etc.), encompassing world classics, modern masterpieces, contemporary and original works. We record 8 – 10 new plays each year, recorded live at UCLA’s James Bridges Theater and in-studio, employing 100 – 150 theatre professionals annually. We disseminate these recordings to a global audience of 7+ million through a weekly public radio show in 50+ U.S. markets (KPFK in Los Angeles); download and streaming on-demand at our website and retail partners; and free distributions of over 27,000 to the public, schools and libraries nationwide - including 30-40 public libraries and over 100 public schools in LA County, which serve an estimated 1,000-2,000 library patrons and 6,000 students per year.

An essential part of expanding worldwide public, educator and student access to our plays and educational resources is building a 21st century infrastructure to support them. We are pursuing a major technological capacity building project that will encompass a total rebuild of our website, new constituent and asset management systems, and a re-tooling of our educational resources.

Since 2012, we have developed innovative mobile apps that use theatre as an interdisciplinary teaching and learning tool for high school students. Our current apps enable users to experience plays as an enhanced form of literature by bringing the text to life through synchronized audio. As part of our Audio Theatre 2.0 project, we are developing an expanded online educational platform featuring advanced apps that will integrate text and audio with standards-aligned lessons, exercises and activities designed for use in English, history, drama and science classes, a community space for educators and students to share ideas, and models for student-driven projects based. An example of this is the iBook created by students at Canyon Crest Academy, a public high school in San Diego, who used our app to build their own interactive learning app (see video link). The new website platform will be a universally accessible and welcoming one-stop storefront featuring our educational tools and resources which will be accessible by any device.

The project will achieve progress toward the LA2050 goals by: a) Enhancing the sustainability of LATW as an “arts establishment” as well as the dozens of local arts organizations we support through PSAs on our radio show; b) Increase employment in creative industries by enabling LATW to pursue new artistic ventures such as podcasts, video, social media and interactive content; and, c) Expand LA’s cultural influence by building on LATW’s global reach, which has included live productions in Europe and China, and radio co-productions with the BBC, Voice of America, Radio Beijing, NHK (Japan), CBC (Canada), ABC (Australia), Radio New Zealand & others.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

The investment in the online platform will yield a more robust and sustainable LATW able to expand our cultural outreach to underserved communities (i.e., rural and urban low-income) and deepen our impact on public education. For Los Angeles, the impact will be seen in the number of local productions we are able to mount; number of recordings we are able to produce; number of artists we are able to employ; number of high schools and students we are able to engage in developing interactive theatre-based apps; and the dissemination of this work locally, nationally and internationally, as measured by distribution numbers, i.e., downloads, online streams, purchases; website, social media and other online analytics; general marketing analytics; and feedback from educators, consumers and program partners.

The Audio Theatre 2.0 platform will be the infrastructure that enables a vital, self-sustaining lifecycle of Los Angeles theatre that spans play development > live performance > radio broadcast > online distribution > audience engagement > app development > educational outreach… a Los Angeles-based ecosystem that will have global reach.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money
  • Publicity/awareness