We all want to focus on the silver linings of the pandemic—and of course, when was it a negative thing to do so? But I am worried; in this hunt for the silver lining, we are losing what makes us human—especially in terms of theatre and its role as community and therapy. I have been in this course since we were all bouncing in our chairs, already packing our suitcases. We all sipped red wine as we watched and became part of the performances we saw. We played games, and I met one of my best friends to this day. At that time, theatre was all about performativity, inclusivity, and community—more so than it had ever been before especially with the new inclusion and space on-stage for minorities. Although, we all want to find the silver lining, I think it is my responsibility to bring up the concerns I have with post-pandemic theatre culture. We were already a struggling art—although more endangered than extinct.
Using my introduction to Destination Theatre as a reference to a pre-pandemic time, the theatre, meaning the artistic space and the physical one, and the concepts around what made theatre, well, theatre, were on the basis of humanity, connection and emotion; “Theatre can illuminate and stimulate mental and emotional activity, those primary targets of therapeutic intervention. In the arousal of emotion, theatre can coax us to empathically identify with others,” (Walsh 1). although the lack of an audience in Zoom/recorded performances removes the connection with the other human experiences. In many strides, as seen in Every Brilliant Thing, where we were expected to act as a community by behaving as individuals, and as Fişek writes, “this connection between transient feeling and communal belonging […] is interested in the progressive potential of theatre-making and theatregoing.” (Fişek 21) Theatregoing—may be a lost term, as it seems now it is more ‘theatreattending’. The pre-pandemic world understood that community is allowing for individuality, allowing a space for minorities, allowing for humanity. Although even in writing this, I can recognize that “often connected to the idea of public sphere, as well as the seeming unity of public opinion”, (Fişek 28) However, I believe this is the issue. Individuality has been removed from the concept of community, as if it has forgotten its core, and theatre will always remind us of what it means to be a true community—everyone coming togetherfrom different walks of life to perform and build further communities within the messages of their art. Upon my viewing of in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House performed by the Young Vic Theatre company, although I enjoyed the production, I missed the sounds of the audience—knowing everyone in the room felt the same, or differently than I did, “others invoke community as a moral imperative, a necessary strategy for enduring the alienating effects of modern life;” (Fişek 11) it began to feel like a movie, but all done in one take. “Theatre, like therapy, can prompt us to reflect upon our own thoughts, feelings and behaviours in the presence of others,” (Walsh, 1) and without this other presence, I am worried that the essence of temporary community within the theatre sphere will be extinct—the aspect of theatre that sits at its core.
The pandemic limits the bounds of theatre, removing the theatre completely, and removes the voice of the individual therefore creating a lack in personal artistic opinion and expression. “Following this current pandemic, the world will certainly encounter systematic change and new technologies–what the political economist Joseph Schumpeter might have described as “creative destruction,” when new innovation disturbs the economic system and elicits deep-rooted” (Urkevich 1) For anyone to go against the mainstream ideologies is seen more as an act of rebellion, dividing our communities politically, than it would be an artistic statement. Lessening the voice of artistic expression, while taking away the actors’ medium—a live audience and a stage.