Working Sessions: Going to the Theatre

Going to the Theatre – About Everything That Happens Before, After and In-Between

From Anecdote to Theory: Working Sessions 2020

Concept and Facilitation: Sascha Förster (Theaterwissenschaftliche Sammlung, University of Cologne) and Ann-Christine Simke (Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh/University of Glasgow)

For most of the year 2020, many theatre goers, theatre lovers, practitioners, scholars and critics have been forced to celebrate their love of this art form physically and often also socially distanced and online. They might have stayed up all night with Gob Squad (Show Me A Good Time), revelled in the opportunity to see acclaimed productions by National Theatre London streamed on YouTube (National Theatre at Home) and were excited to see numerous theatre festivals making their curated programmes available online.

All over the world, theatres, performers and festivals stepped up to the challenge of revisiting their repertoire and making shows available, free of charge, to a wider and broader audience. And it seems like this distanced, often asynchronous and individualised mode of theatre experience will last longer than everyone expected. Despite many efforts to replace and substitute the experience of actually going to the theatre, and physically sharing space with other audience members and performers, we cannot deny that something is missing. 

With new pandemic waves already announcing themselves, when will theatre eventually return to being the “art of assembly” (Nicholas Berger)? And once we return to foyers and auditoriums, arenas, circles and black boxes and actually share a space with other people, will it feel the same? 

As answers to these questions seem to be elusive as of yet, we are determined to take stock and make an effort to remember what our rituals, habits and cherished routines – personal as much as culturally determined – of going to the theatre looked like before the pandemic required us to experience theatre in front of a screen.