Theater’ evolutions as a reflection of the dynamics of the Romanian society: researches, risks and attempts during pandemic

Article by Ipazia

In Romania, since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, the pandemic was to blow up absolutely everything that means the physical dimension of the performing experience as we knew it, in a new context where virtual universe was completely unknown.

When summer 2020 came, the state of emergency was replaced by another alert. The inner courtyards and parks were filled with outdoor events and hope of coming back has kept the sector alive, in a collective effort to adapt to unpredictable conditions for which no one was prepared. As autumn 2021 approaches, a wave of passionate calls for the “reopening of the performance halls” is coming, with all the fears in the sector related to new and imminent forced closures. Pandemic has exponentially accelerated the impact of internet and digital technologies on the performing arts, adapting to the new reality in which the theater had to discover the resources to make the people in front of the screens feel part of a collective experience, even if they are isolated. There are a lot of directions that are being tried at the moment: participatory shows on Zoom, online broadcasting of archive recordings, live streaming, virtual festivals, poetic recitals at home, interactive exhibitions, shows with a single spectator, performing audio installations, etc. They are all attempts, failures, risks, searches to find out if theater can exist outside halls and theaters.In fact, just because the audience is not allowed in the theater does not mean that the theater dies.

Alternative solutions need to be found so that it no longer depends 100% on the number of spectators in the hall. Shows played indoors and streamed live can be feasible options. For this options, however, the filming team and real time editors are strategic (live streaming is a new art when what happens on stage reach, through internet, to the souls of those the home).Another new technology that can represent an important turning point in the evolution of theater is virtual reality. 360 footage and both 2D and 360 playback with VR glasses. The capture method is much more complex, but the results could be really stunning.

More than in the formats where the scene is filmed, with this option the situation is far more interactive. When the spectator put on the VR headset, she/he is projected to the stage, with the actors, and they interact all together. This unique and spectacular experience will certainly arouse the interest of the public and will generate substantial income that will help continue the production of shows, even if not for their performance in the theater, with the audience in the hall.

Probably, a hybrid stage of coexistence between “classic” theaters with new experimental formats will come: maybe the essence of the theater may not be the physical presence of the body on a stage in front of you, but could be the quality of delivering feeling of familiarity, belonging and distribution in various characters that address you, directly or indirectly.

In Romania, it seems important to accept that the accelerated spread of the community and the increase in the number of Sars-CoV2 infections do not, in fact, allow firm decisions to be made indefinitely on the performance of indoor performances. And that, now more than ever, we should have an open mind to alternative solutions, because it is necessary that the means we use to tell stories should be updated to new realities. This could also train new professional profiles in the theatre sector, as well as in cultural industries in general.

This does not mean moving the theater to “online”, but only being willing to explore the digital area or hybrid projects, which could allow more flexibility.

It is clear that in the next period (still uncertain, considering that virus is expanding again this fall) it is necessary to explore new areas of artistic “risk” of representation, to engage independent artists (who, having no public financing, can hardly think of alternative methods of representation. State theaters can also afford to play at a distance, but for independent theaters the solution often is to remain closed) in conversation, to support unconventional cultural spaces, to find new formats and solutions for all types of staff employed in entertainment institutions, possibly redefining some roles in the organizational chart (through new forms of employability and specialization) that now are relevant. Referring strictly to the aesthetic formulas and new languages ​​we can learn, theater and its evolutions will reflect the dynamics of society, with all its transformations and anxieties. Theater should be present in the reality of these new connections, as an essential art, as a radical way of interacting with what (is still) happening to all of us.

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