March 1998

All the World's a Stage for Theatrical Video Company
by Eileen Fitzpatrick

Children's theater around the world received a boost on December 15, when Frankenstein, the first title from kidvid start-up Globalstage Productions out of San Francisco, was released. The company, which seeks out the best children's theater productions in Europe and the US and then films them, plans to release six videos in 1998, priced at US $27 each.

Providing intelligent entertainment for kids is the cornerstone of Globalstage's philosophy, according to founder Lizbeth Pratt, who admits that the broad audience is not her target. "We're going for the top 10 percent of kids, education-wise. But you don't have to be a college professor to like this," she says.

"One thing that's neat about theater is that it makes you think," adds Pratt. She says she's accustomed to ignoring marketers who advise producers to "dumb down" their product to help it sell. "They say you can't use three-syllable words, that you should assume your audience has [minimal] education. I'm going against that," Pratt says early feedback indicates that a sizeable segment of her audience are not TV watchers. All the videos encompass full-length live productions of kids plays, including Cyrano, Pinocchio and Still the Drummer, accompanied by an informational introduction.

Editing of the plays is intentionally minimal. AI wanted the experience of being in the theater, not a constant assault of editing, says Pratt. This is not a 15-second, Sesame Street sound bite.

Production values were assisted by director J. Clements, a noted documentary filmmaker whose Carved from the Heart feature was selected for this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Productions will be filmed this year in the US, Belgium, Scotland, and The Netherlands--all privately financed by Pratt. "We found that the most innovative theater for kids is in Europe," she adds.

Videos will be sold to subscribers via a mail order, Book of the Month Club-type system, as well as at retail outlets such as video retailers and upscale kids boutiques.