There is so much work that goes into theatre-making… especially into the art of making it look like it’s not work at all. But audiences are often fascinated by the magic of stage work and intrigued to find out what makes it all happen. In a way it’s similar to our attraction to the “how and why” we usually find explained in DVD-extras – everything from outtakes to director commentary running over the film.

The trick for my company Backstage Forward is making that same experience occur for a live event.

Due to the ever-changing status and continuous creative development of a theatre production, if you’re going to show audiences what’s going on behind the scenes, it has to happen in real time. This opens up the rehearsal and creative process for the audience to not only engage, but also participate in the goings on in the rehearsal room and design studio. We invite them to come in person, but the easiest way to create access is by bringing the process to them online. It allows them to conveniently drop in and see what we’re doing, respond to it, and then join us to experience the final product… ideally one they’ve helped to create through their interactions.

The inherently live nature of social media has been invaluable for us on our current production The Adding, a piece of new writing by Ciarán Myers. In addition to the show itself, we have created a curated online experience called Into the Underworld, a title that is a nod to the themes of the play, but also to the depths of what lies beneath the surface of the performances audiences will see this week.

We’ve found in the creation of content that it’s best to present it across multiple platforms and in various formats to make it accessible to anyone and everyone because that’s what Backstage Forward is about – access to the process and recognition of the creative individuals that fuel it. The ability to post immediate updates to audiences and respond to feedback make social media and the online world a powerful tool in opening up this process.

We primarily use social media to interact with audiences, including the usual culprits of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Twitter has been most useful for starting conversations, both for audiences to reach us, but also to reach our creative team members directly. Facebook is the most popular for sharing specific posts, particularly our videos, which are hosted and collected into playlists on YouTube. The development of a community on Facebook allows our reach to spread within different groups of friends and interested groups, not just the industry.

However, the hub of Into the Underworld is our Tumblr. As a platform Tumblr has allowed us to create a living archive and allows the audience to interact in a more creative and immediate way than a traditional website – although we have one of those as well. It is an exciting addition to our arsenal because it can be organised to direct the audience’s attention to their specific interests or they can browse the content as a whole, both of which are important considering all of the different aspects of backstage work.

Tumblr is a tool mainly aimed at our younger audience members who are likely more tech and social media savvy. Our traditional website gives a broader overview of the company, and a more structured organisation of the content. Through creating multiple access points we hope that people will be able to find the best way to interact for them, and will encourage more people to get involved.

Creating our online presence is about access and visibility, which will mean something different to each production we do. It’s been a great journey for Into the Underworld as well as an additional learning experience for the next project.

Check out Into the Underworld and then join Backstage Forward for The Adding at The Cockpit at 7 PM on 23 September and 3 PM & 7 PM on 24 September. For tickets, visit The Cockpit’s website.