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Theatre and Performance Go Massively Online During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Implications and Side Effects


Published: Dec 2, 2020
Keywords:
theatre performance COVID-19 pandemic online content intermediality
Eleni Timplalexi
https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8120-8759
Abstract

During the COVID-19 pandemic, theatre groups and companies started massively providing online (filmed) versions of their productions. Theatre performances, live-streamed or recorded, have been shown online before, but mostly as a supplementary strategy, assisting the promotion of a live performance, not as a cultural trend per se, nor to the massive extend it has been happening during the pandemic. However, the consumption of this sort of online content, as this is literally what becomes anything posted on the web’s hypertextual multimedial selves, cannot occur without consideration of the potential implications and side effects. What exactly is it we are watching on our screens, why is it marketed as theatre and performance, and why do we consume it as such? In the paper, the Phelan/Auslander debate is revisited, as this eradication of the distinction between the live and the mediatized may indicate performance’s crucial shift away from independence towards technological, economical and linguistic dependence from mass reproduction. However, before lightheartedly welcoming this hybridity of massively experiencing online performances, which springs out from the collision between live performance (art) and web content (creativity), it is worth considering welcoming first digital performance hybrids emerging within and in between the medial restrictions imposed by the pandemic. These bold, experimental, participatory, ‘transparent’ intermedial forms of expression may prove out to be a source of strength in times of crisis.

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