Bootlegs: A Necessary Evil
By Pilar Lu-Heda
I was inspired by a joke that Lin-Manuel Miranda made on Twitter, and I wanted to look more into the subject and other people’s opinions.
Do you watch bootlegs?
Do you support the process of bootlegging?
Do you feel that your interest in a show increases after you watch the boot?
Almost every Broadway show has a combination of signs, pamphlets, and announcements to prevent their audience from taking “their essence”. With social media on a steady rise, illegal videos of full shows often make their way onto YouTube and Instagram.
These illegal videos have been nicknamed “bootlegs” and often end up as a subject for debate in the theater community. On one hand, they provide access to shows that some audiences can’t get to for reasons like distance, or the show closing. On the other hand, they are illegal, and producers claim that they detract from the excitement of live theater as well as success in the box office. Both sides provide valid points, but the argument has driven a wedge in the theater community.
It’s not uncommon to hear a tale of actors like Lin-Manuel Miranda calling out people filming in the audience. Their frustration is understandable. No one really wants a camera shoved in their face while they’re trying to work. However, aside from distracting the actors, bootlegs seem to be pretty much harmless.
So, I decided to ask around and see what other people think of bootlegs. According to a poll*, 86% of my followers watch bootlegs, though only 41% of them support the process of bootlegging. Even so, 88% of the poll participants say that their interest in shows increase after watching bootlegs or similar clips of shows. The results are exactly as I predicted. Not everyone would film a bootleg themselves, but most are willing to watch one, and even say that they feel an increase of interest afterwards.
Ultimately, I think bootlegs are a necessary evil. I am in no way encouraging the production of them, but they keep closed shows alive and bring theater to people who sometimes can’t get it otherwise. Besides, most people’s interest in a show increases after seeing a bootleg, so are they really doing harm to ticket sales?
*The poll referred to above was conducted across approximately 120 participants via Instagram
I got a message from a friend via Instagram, where I run an account based on a blog about theater. She wanted me to talk about bootlegs, which are a constant hot topic among the theater community. I then started a piece on it and collected data off of a poll on my Instagram story. People really wanted to know the results, so I put them up as fast as possible. I had trouble introducing and concluding my piece, but it was a fun and casual piece to write.
Meet the Pair
Mentee Pilar Lu-Heda & Mentor Catherine Santino
Pilar’s Anecdote: This is my second year at Girls Write Now and writing with my mentor. I was so scared at the beginning of last year that I wasn’t going to fit in well in the community or with my mentor. With that said, I feel so lucky to have a mentor like Catherine, who understands me and supports all of my creative choices. There’s never been a week where I don’t look forward to our meeting, which is usually over cookies and filled with laughter. She helps me feel reassured about my writing, which always feels stronger after her patient help. I’m certain my place in history will be secured by how I’ve grown within the two years I’ve been in the Girls Write Now community.
Catherine’s Anecdote: This is my second year in Girls Write Now and my second year as Pilar’s mentor. I was extremely anxious going into the program, all my insecurities at the forefront of my mind: How will I relate to a teenager? Will she like me? Will I be a good mentor? About ten minutes into meeting, Pilar revealed her love for Broadway and our relationship was born. Over the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of watching her grow and explore her incredible creativity. She’s far more mature, well-spoken, and wise than I was as a fifteen-year-old, and I know she has an incredibly bright future ahead of her. I’m proud to be her mentor, and I’m proud of all the work she’s done this year, including this print anthology piece.
Pilar Lu-Heda is a high school junior who enjoys creative writing and sculpting. She writes a range of work, including reviews and editorials for her school newspaper. Her favorite books are Anne of Green Gables and The End of Everything, and she hopes to study Gender Studies and Children’s Literature in college. She lives in Brooklyn with her family and her dog, Sadie.