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EASTAP 2021: NEW SPECTATORSHIP IN POST-COVID TIMES: THEATRE AND THE DIGITAL

Online Conference

Vilnius, Lithuania, September 23-24, 2021

 

It would be an understatement to suggest that the world has changed since early 2020. The pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus has transformed so many realities, that the true extent is yet to be estimated. It is especially true in the case of theatre, the making and spectating of which have been confronted with an altogether unprecedented set of challenges, issues and – ultimately – solutions. Restrictions and risks caused by the pandemic have revealed the multiple vulnerabilities of theatre: the physicality (famously known as the ‘liveness’) of its making and spectating became the key reason why the show simply could not go on, to quote Peter Gelb of the Metropolitan Opera. Part of the theatre world indeed stood still as if at Aulis, waiting for the wind to change; another part, however, carried on embracing new, safer and in most cases digital formats. The mediatization of existing forms of theatre, as well as the proliferation of new forms of performing, resulted in the unprecedented availability of theatre online in 2020 and early 2021.

The theatre, now more frequently accessible without leaving ones’ home and screen, in its turn has produced a particular kind of experience, which has triggered extensive debate and discussion. For some, watching theatre online does not deserve the name. For others, this change is a thrilling opportunity to make and to enjoy the art of performance (sometimes for the first time). Ranging from streamed live or pre-recorded full-scale productions to micro-acts on the TikTok, theatre has undoubtedly found a way to attract new audiences.

One of the major questions for many theatre-makers during the pandemic is how the theatre will look after social gatherings are permitted again. How will this affect the ways in which theatre is made and indeed engaged with? As Peter Kümmel asks in Die Zeit (12.11.2020), does the pandemic indicate an eternal change in the way we perceive theatre? One change could be related to a post-digital situation in theatre, which can be defined by the interaction between digital and analogue ways of performance, in the sense that real-time action or performative readings in physical space can be combined with electronic transmissions in multidimensional spaces. This was very much the case in the festival Oktoberdans organized by BIT Teatergarasjen in the autumn of 2020. Post-digital theatre can also refer to analogue technology used in performance lectures or memory presentations, which were already present in pre-pandemic times: the small performative staging by the co-founder of Baktruppen, Tone Avenstroup, living and working in Berlin. Examples of post-digital productions were part of the EASTAP conference programme in Lisbon. These performances use “oldfashioned” sound recording systems or non-digitalized film recordings. Exploring post-digital theatre should be connected with the question of new authenticity and memory readings, which could even be defined as predigital. However, it is post-digital in the sense that it may turn into a reaction to the digital. In a post-pandemic context, a consequence of the crisis may lay in expressions marked by the analogue as a re-action to the massive streaming.

Founded in Paris in October 2017, European Association for the Studies of Theatre and Performance (EASTAP) seeks to bring together researchers and artists, to promote the multiple methods, approaches and languages employed by theatre and performance scholars and makers.

The aim of the 2021 EASTAP conference in its digital iteration is to register, discuss and reflect on the most recent developments in global theatre culture(s). Focusing on the (forced) mediatization of theatre, the conference will address questions of digital theatre-making and (new) spectating, with the intention to articulate and conceptualize the experiences learned as the world found new ways of making and engaging with theatre during a pandemic.

You are invited to send a 250-word abstract of your proposed paper in English or French, indicating the sub-theme of the conference with a brief biography using link: https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=eastap2021

Proposals for curated panels are also welcome. Please, send a description of your idea and a list of presenters using link:

https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=eastap2021

The sub-themes of the conference include, but are not limited to, issues of:

  • digital spectatorship and the digital theatre experience
  • digitally immersive theatre
  • the mediatization of theatre
  • the development of digital audiences
  • the digital divide in theatre
  • the labour conditions of (digital) theatre makers
  • post-digital theatre 
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