Theaters in the Pandemic

I had never studied or looked into detail about any theory on theaters and performances. Due to this, I was very nervous before watching the first video. I was only anticipating all the what ifs. The one question that haunted me was whether or not will I understand all of it? But I was also ready and excited to learn new things.

The first video gave an introduction about how theater had been affected due to the dreadful virus that we’re living with. I was happy that I understood most of it and the later discussion with my co-workers helped me grasp things better. The series was divided into three parts

In the 1st part he discussed about many foreign theaters and how authors like Shakespeare used pandemics juxtaposed by metaphors. In the Elizabethan era the plague was wide spread caused a lot trauma. People were suffering from diseases and hunger. All these things are happening even today in age of Corona. He suggested that we can see how theaters remained open during the Spanish plague and World War II but it remains shut now. We should question that and we also need to question why is it not a necessity. One needs to ush the limits of theater. Times like these should be embraced not resisted. Dr. Bharucha has very well explained how we can take lessons and inspiration from the past to survive the future. The answers to todays problems lie in the history.

It was very interesting to see contrast of how theaters remained closed during the Elizabethan era while they were open during the Spanish flu.

The reading that was the most interesting one for me was the fourth one where he talked about Artaud’s essay, ‘Theater and the Plague’. The reading had many new and fascinating points. He talks about how times like a plague should be embraced and not resisted. Many people have tried doing that during the Covid pandemic. But huge amount of premonition is also seen during such times. It is sad how people are so scared about something they have only heard of and never seen/experienced. It is not even like the bubonic plague where we could see people suffering, its is all asymptomatic and in isolation.

Artaud also talks about the theater of cruelty in the essay focusing on points like; how theater unleashes the dark forces or theater transmits viruses like corona. I believe we can all resonate with this as these days people do think that they could contract virus by being in a box like the theaters.

Is being in enclosed spaces the only concern? It certainly is not. One can contract the disease even in gathering in open spaces like rallies and protests. Dr. Bharucha rightly discussed in one of his speech acts, where he talked about the assemblies for Black lives matter and the Shaheen Bagh protest. He also talks about the different forms of social distancing that exist because of epidemics like these. Many of us have listened to this term only after we were in the covid pandemic but this has been in practice since a very long time. It is very enthralling to see the existence of the covid pandemic with instances of civil disobedience from the past.

In the later part he draws attention to the lives of artists. Artists have had to adapt to new platforms of performances. To some the online platform has worked wonders while to some it has been a constraint. Online platforms make it easy for everyone try their hands on it. although many people also believe that it has taken away the essence of being a theater/ creative space. Thus there have been many discussions arguing about terms like ‘live’ and ‘mediatized’. This then creates a room for new theater architecture to come in place while we learn to live with ourselves in isolation as long as the pandemic stays.