This is really a strange time. Since I came back home in China on 21 January, I have been shocked by the theatricality when hearing of all the news around the world. First of all Wuhan was locked down; countries evacuated their citizens from Wuhan; covid-19 outbreak happened in so many countries; conspiracy theories are in the air; the number of death is sharply increasing in some countries; even the price of oil fell below 0…
Countries practiced lockdown policies one by one. And I have been at home since end of January.
I don’t have to describe too much of the solitude and loneliness people are experiencing due to social distance. There are too many voices from frustrated people that my original fear and anxiety back in February seem outdated. After all I am one of those who finished lockdown before others.
But still I can’t easily travel or meet my friends especially in cinema or theatre as I used to.
What can we do?
Luckily many arts & culture organisations open their archives to the public to enjoy literature, concerts, theatres etc. online, which is great news to distant audience.
Therefore watching theatre online together would be a great idea for distant friends, I thought. Even if we are at home individually, we can still feel our friends next to us while watching shows online and chat 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 watch but never caught the chance. 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.
Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin “LENIN” von Milo Rau & Ensemble
Copyright (C) Thomas Aurin
As if we were watching theatre physically together, we were catching up before the streaming started and discussing about it through typing in Zoom chat while watching. Some of us came late, some of us left early to sleep — it was midnight for Asian audience, some of us fell asleep and woken up by others. As if we were having this little party at one’s home. It was casual yet memorable — in the sense that we are still together in this time, when we are miles away with some crazy things happening 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 the arts & culture organisations worldwide, our souls got to get some comfort.
Though countries start to lift lockdown policies step by step, cinemas and theatre still remain closed. Online streaming programs are still active. Here are some schedules that I am looking forward to (click titles to visit the streaming page):
Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin “HEDDA GABLER” von Thomas Ostermeier
Copyright (C) Gianmarco Bresadola
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
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 and moved online. They are streaming 6 out of 10 selected productions. In a way it is good for those who were not able to watch live. I directed a play by Tennessee Williams when I was doing my master degree. The lyrical and dream-like vibe in his plays is fascinating. I look forward to this production.
Hamburg State Opera “La Passione” von Romeo Castellucci
Copyright (C) Bernd Uhlig
Composition Johann Sebastian Bach
Director Romeo Castellucci
I have watched Democracy in America by Romeo Castellucci in Holland Festival 2017 and amazed by the visual that Castellucci created. It was also the first time I felt scared and goose bumped sitting in the auditorium by the intensity of the actor’s simple action – she just whipped her long hair onto a stick hanging in front of her. I am looking forward to this concert.
arte.tv is the European Culture Channel. They also offer a variety of programs during this time.
There are a lot of programs from organizations worldwide. I selected some to watch weekly.
This has made me think that watching theatre online with payment will be a trend. It definitely can’t replace the experience watching live, but somehow offers the chance for distant audience and for those who have watched live to watch again. It also opens the door for those who have distant friends to enjoy theatre together virtually, to connect with each other. Technology has extended human beings senses and we should make use of that, in stead of having our sensitivity degenerated. Watch parties should be part of CXC’s regular events. We need connections and to feel each other, especially during this time.