Crossing the Aether-Net: Community and the Theatre of Team StarKid

by Sarah Marie Coon

Institution: Bowling Green State University
Department: Theatre and Film
Degree: MA
Year: 2015
Keywords: Theater; Theater Studies; Performing Arts; Digital Theatre; Internet; Community; Team StarKid; Fandom; Internet Performance; Community Theatre;
Record ID: 2058197
Full text PDF: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=bgsu1429204552


Communication technologies have changed the way human beings interact. Notably, our understanding of what constitutes a community has shifted from a geographic one to a spiritual one. This shift begins to question the liveness and presence that are believed to be at the heart of performance’s ontology. If we no longer need to share a physical space with our community, does our performance need to share a space with its audience? The group Team StarKid is creating work that is designed and distributed with an Internet audience in mind, and its success speaks to the growing demand for work integrated with technology.In this study I examine the work of Team StarKid through the lens of community theatre, looking at the ways features of community theatre such as audience engagement and a connection to the community have been filtered through the Internet age. This study includes looking at the work through the lenses of both media studies a la Marshall McLuhan, as well as the participatory cultures of Henry Jenkins. Data was found through StarKid’s work, performance reviews, and interviews from the cast. The group’s use of social media as a way of connecting with their fans also prompted the use of social media for data collection: fans were interviewed about the group using Twitter.Upon examination, the group seemed to maintain a relation with its fans that was not unlike those relationships formed between community and community theatre. Team StarKid reflects the Internet culture in which it was created, exposes that community to theatrical performance, encourages participation, and depends on its community for survival. Team StarKid’s works, and their willingness to post the shows online for free, have created an audience base that can be labeled as a fandom: their fans are passionately engaged with the group and attend concert tours and convention appearances that feature the group. The group’s work should be looked at as an example of the integration of performance and technology in the digital age, and potentially as a herald of things to come.