Watch Parties (even if we fell asleep together)

Watch Parties (even if we fell asleep together)

(Guest post by Jin Chen)

We are living in strange times. Since I came back home to China on 21 January, I have been surprised by the seemingly unending series of pandemic-related aftershocksthat have taken place. First of all Wuhan was locked down; countries evacuated their citizens from Wuhan; the Covid-19 outbreak happened in so many countries; conspiracy theories are in the air; the number of deaths is sharply increasing in some countries; even the price of oil fell below 0…

As countries went into lockdown, I have been effectively quarantined at home since the end of January.

I don’t have to describe the frustration and isolation people are experiencing due to social distancing. There are now so many voices from frustrated people that my original fear and anxiety back in February seems outdated. After all, I am one of those who finished lockdown before many others did.

But still I can’t easily travel or meet my friends, especially at the cinema or theatre as I used to. 

Fortunately, many arts & culture organisations made available their archives to the public, for everyone to enjoy literature, concerts, and theatre performances. online, which is great news to those who are cooped up at home. 

Therefore, watching theatre online together would be a great idea for friends from near and far, I thought. Even if we are at home individually, we can still feel our friends “next to us” while watching shows online and chatting with each other through virtual meeting technology.

00:30 26 April. That was when my first watch party happened. We were watching LENIN by Milo Rau, whose work I have always wanted to catch but never had the chance to. Thanks to the online streaming program from Schaubühne Berlin, I finally had the opportunity to catch Rau’s work online, with my dear friends from Singapore, Germany, India and Switzerland.

Updated in Jan 2021: Watch parties have become more commonplace, and I can now travel freely within China, but still, millions around the world are battling the pressures brought on by Covid-19.


Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin “LENIN” von Milo Rau & Ensemble
Copyright (C) Thomas Aurin

As if we were watching theatre physically together, we chatted before the streaming started and typed our responses and reactions throughout the viewing using Zoom chat. Some of us arrived late, some of us left early to head to bed — it was midnight for Asian audiences. It was as if we were having a little pyjama party at someone’s home. It was casual yet memorable — in the sense that we are still together while being thousands of miles away, with some crazy things happening just outside our doors.

On 3 May, I watched Rau’s Die Wiederholung(The Repetition) online with my friends again.

Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin “DIE WIEDERHOLUNG(The Repetition)” von Milo Rau & Ensemble
Copyright (C) Hubert Amiel

Thanks to the generosity of arts & cultural organisations worldwide, there was some comfort–soulfood if you will. 

At this time, cinemas and theatres remain closed, and many have turned to streaming online programmes. Here are some performances that I am looking forward to:

Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin “HEDDA GABLER” von Thomas Ostermeier 
Copyright (C) Gianmarco Bresadola

Hedda Gabler

By Henrik Ibsen
Director Thomas Ostermeier
7 May 6:30pm Berlin time till midnight

Ibsen’s classic story from the famous artistic director of Schaubuhne Berlin. Streaming entry is on Schaubuhne’s homepage.

Schauspiel Leipzig “Susser Vogel Jugend” von Claudia Bauer
Copyright (C) Rolf Arnold

Susser Vogel Jugend (Sweet Bird of Youth) 

By Tennessee Williams
Director Claudia Bauer
5 May, 20:00 – 6 May, 19:59 Berlin time

The 57th Berliner Festspiele has been cancelled due to the virus outbreak. However 6 selected productions will still be streamed online. I directed a play by Tennessee Williams when I was doing my masters degree. The lyrical and dream-like vibe in his plays is fascinating. and I’m definitely looking forward to this production.

Hamburg State Opera “La Passione” von Romeo Castellucci
Copyright (C) Bernd Uhlig

La Passione 

Composition Johann Sebastian Bach
Director Romeo Castellucci

I watched Democracy in America by Romeo Castellucci at the Holland Festival 2017 and was amazed by the visuals that Castellucci created. It was also the first time I felt goose bumps sitting in the auditorium–I was struck by the intensity of the actor’s simple action – she just whipped her long hair onto a stick hanging in front of her. is the European Culture Channel. They also offer a variety of programmes during this time. There are a lot of programmes from organisations around the world. I have selected a few to watch each week. 

This has made me think that watching paid theatre online will become a trend. It definitely cannot replace the experience of watching live performances, but this allows a bigger, wider audience to (re)experience performances, even with friends and family who are far away. I hope that watch parties will become part of CXC’s regular events, and these watch parties will help us to connect, ponder, grieve and celebrate together, especially during these extraordinary times.