When the Virtual Meets the Viral: Theater Professors and Students Adapt to a (Post) Pandemic World
“When the first lockdown in the pandemic hit, I was trying to figure out how to capture this moment because it seemed so strange that theaters were closing all over the world suddenly and it was such a state of exception,” says Mosse, a professor at Bard College Berlin. “I came across a special funding call by the Volkswagen Foundation called the ‘Corona Crisis and Beyond,’ which was trying to track the broader social changes that the pandemic would bring,” she adds.
With Bard College Berlin Professor of Theater and Performance Nina Tecklenburg, as well as Christian Stein from Humboldt University, and theater artist Janina Janke, Mosse submitted a proposal titled “Viral Theaters” that would explore the ways in which the pandemic has changed how theater works and how audiences and artists alike gather in it as a public space. Their goal was to create a living archive through interviews, rehearsal shadowing, video documentation, and digital interactions, as well as an OSUN course on these issues.
Part of this living archive was created through a seminar-style course at Bard College Berlin called “(Post)Pandemic Theater in Berlin and New York,” co-taught at Bard Annandale by Theater Studies Director Miriam Felton-Dansky. The OSUN network collaborative course the team created involved recording “flipped” class videos by each professor to share key points. “The flipped class videos really allowed our students to get to know our different faculty members, and served to introduce key theoretical issues,” explains Mosse, who co-instructed the course.
The course also commissioned a team of student and professional filmmakers to make video case studies that would document how leading theater groups in Berlin and New York were adapting to the challenges of the pandemic. In all, three video documentaries were produced, exploring how theater groups used digital tools to create new forms of performance art.
“The video case studies served as living evidence of this unique time,” explains Mosse, “And allowed OSUN students around the world to grapple with these issues.”
Video case studies were filmed in New York and Berlin with the guidance of OSUN and Columbia University partner the Picker Center Digital Education Group, covering the work of the Junges DT at Deutsches Theater Berlin, the Berliner Ensemble, the HAU Hebbel-am-Ufer, and the Soho Rep in New York. They will be used in the fall 2022 OSUN network collaborative class, and also shown in exhibitions and screenings in Germany and the United States.
Simultaneously, Mosse and Tecklenburg co-authored a paper called “Viral Theatres’ Pandemic Playbook: Documenting German Theatre during COVID-19,” that was published in the February 2022 issue of the International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media.
An exhibition on the partners’ collaborative artistic research project, using the OSUN video cases, was held at the Tieranatomisches Theater in Berlin from April until June 2022, accompanied by a symposium that included three days of workshops, roundtable discussions and a virtual reality performance.
The exhibition offered a look into the Living Archive, documenting new forms of pandemic theater-making and audience experiences. "The exhibition displays students’ Living Archive of post/pandemic theater, which will live on and grow with further iterations of the course, investigating how the pandemic has drastically altered the aesthetics, infrastructure, and working conditions of theater-making worldwide," says Tecklenburg.
Initially an artistic exchange between Bard Berlin and Bard Annandale, the course is now on its way to becoming a global collaboration, expanding to include the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, the Central European University in Vienna, and Birkbeck in London, in Fall 2022. The goal is to use flipped classroom videos that will enable students from an array of campuses across the globe to experience teaching from a wide range of faculty so they can draw on each instructor’s individual expertise.
“It becomes a lot more graspable for students if they can see real filmed interactions and rehearsals,” explains Mosse. “They get a much better sense of it. We're hoping to expand these video cases so that other campuses can do them also and students can compare global developments in theater.”
Post Date: 05-31-2022