On Oct. 8, poolboy00 began his Twitch livestream from his toilet. For 10 minutes and 17 seconds, nothing appeared on the screen but his username and a drawn illustration of a boy taking a pee break.
“poolboy is pooping, give him a minute,” poolboy00 said in the chat.
His fans on the video livestreaming platform were patient. When he returned to finish the rest of the 56-minute livestream, poolboy00 discussed his hair, COVID-19 and his relationship history with the livestream guest.
Sam Mayer, the person behind poolboy00, is a playwriting graduate student. Although Twitch is widely used for video game streaming, Mayer uses the platform to go live three to four times a week to chat with guests and viewers. Mayer often brings his friends on as guests, and they’ll discuss anything from how they met to their current relationships.
Since starting the channel in May, Mayer has garnered over 1,000 views and 100 favorites.
For their final thesis projects, students in the Master of Fine Arts in Playwriting program must write and produce a play. Instead of adapting his own play to a virtual format, Mayer said he decided to create a reality-TV-inspired livestream called “poolboy00.”
Earlier this month, the team brought on Jackson Cobb, an integrated media design and technology graduate student, as an editor. Cobb had seen clips of the show before he began working on it.
“It was really interesting, diving in and seeing this wild, drama-filled, gross but really interesting livestream,” Cobb said. “I thought it was just wild.”
Cobb makes mid-season trailers and weekly recaps, crafting storylines from the livestream footage to highlight the drama.
“I take the footage after the livestreams and edit it into reality-TV-show-style recaps and teaser trailers that decontextualize the content from the original stream and make it kind of wacky and more dramatic than it actually is,” Cobb said.
Mayer livestreams weekly, then shares a recap video called “the poolboy digest” through his newsletter “the poolboy weekly” on Sundays. The recap video features clips from the livestreams edited together to create a storyline.
“I’m living my life in the stream, the day-to-day boring part, and the stakes feel very high, even though I know it’s boring,” Mayer said.
Mayer said trying to balance real-life relationships while streaming with friends on Twitch for hours a week can be stressful. According to Mike Steele, directing graduate student and producer for poolboy00, the balance of Mayer’s public and private life is a unique performance.
“(Mayer) is able to be very personal in a very private way because he’s in his own space in his own apartment, but he’s also with people,” Steele said.
Steele said the livestream expands the boundaries of theater as an artistic medium.
“(poolboy00) has changed my perspective on making art and theater,” Steele said. “The mindset of theater is a lot about presence and communion with each other as human beings. (Mayer) has figured out (how) to do that differently through (a) Twitch stream that wouldn’t be possible in theater.”