In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Theatre Essentials in Three Acts: Collaboration, Care, Time
  • Shawn Chua (bio), Sozita Goudouna (bio), Adham Hafez (bio), Eero Laine (bio), Sarah Lucie (bio), Juliana Moraes (bio), Malin Palani (bio), Rumen Rachev (bio), and Leah Sidi (bio)

The following is not an article. Nor is it a play, despite its structure. To some extent, it is a performance and an experiment. It was written collaboratively by a group of performance-makers and performance scholars in response to the difficulties of writing and studying during the pandemic. Following a cancelled international conference, we wrote from five different continents in moments of crisis shaped by personal, political, and geographical particularities. Meeting over Zoom, we shared our fears for our industries, our communities, and our personal griefs. We also sought to think together in response to Theatre Topics’ call for articles on “Theatre Essentials.” Prior to this work, many of us did not know one another, although some had worked together through other projects and academic gatherings. The call to consider the essentials of theatre has opened possibilities for us to examine what remains of theatre and our own work, as well as how a discipline and field might coalesce when gathering in person is considered a dangerous act.

Urgent times call for urgent forms. In this article, we write simultaneously for and about and in our present. In a search for a means of structuring and containing the work, we landed on the conventions of the three-act play. Theatre has always provided a container for monumental and immediate emotions and complex, contradictory thought. We have selectively borrowed its conventions here, using “acts” to delineate the work of collective thinking without attempting narrative progress. Within the act of “play,” we create together, and we transform. Each scene below is a dialogue of many voices. The acts have no climax because even as we return to review this writing, the pandemic continues, and the griefs, vulnerabilities, and uncertainties explored below are unresolved.

Because theatres are closed, we turn from stage to page. The small video boxes and flashing cursors bring us together. Like rehearsing a play, we gather through structured time to work and think. We hear about the COVID-19 situation in Auckland, Buffalo, London, New York City, São Paulo, Singapore, and Waterloo. We strive to accommodate multidisciplinary perspectives and voices in the collective and shared act of writing as a performance of care. We are cautious not to romanticize collaboration or care into a vision of working together without dissonance. And through the work we care for one another, even though we barely know one another. Our conversations have exciting moments and long silences as we develop processes of navigating our shared thoughts through screens and web pages. Google Docs becomes our rehearsal room, our studio, our stage, the place where our words meet, where our characters play the complex game of exposing themselves, telling personal stories amid theoretical speculations, and editing one another:

In moments of dissent, I think differently about time and I also resist the three-act structure, because I think the pain, sorrows, and losses of the moment (which require the essentials we’ve put forward, and really even before this moment) need a different container in which to hold the cacophony of voices that are crying out. A container that doesn’t align these voices and bodies, which are at stake, along a familiar and historically oppressive timeline. A container that is as urgent as what it contains. [End Page 99]

The various scenes are collectively written, even as they sometimes highlight one voice or experience. We hold this conversation open, not ongoing but also without resolution or finale. And we invite you, reader, to speak back to us and with us.

Connected by shared understandings of collaboration, care, and time, we meet across time zones simultaneously before breakfast, during lunch breaks, mid-afternoon, and deep into the night.

[Start Video]

Act I: Collaboration

Scene 1: Collective “I”s

In the absence of theatre, collective writing becomes a form of digital and embodied play. Sounds of North American birds enter rooms around the planet through computer audio, just as Brazilian morning...


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pp. 99-111
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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