At the time when we are not only encouraged but increasingly enforced to conduct most of our daily existence – working and relaxing, interacting and socialising, teaching and learning, shopping, entertaining and even protesting – from the solitary confinement of our own private worlds, theatre is one of the last truly public spaces left at our disposal. Not only in the sense of sociability, even though it is that too, but as an activity conceived of and carried out socially, in groups, through physical presence and exchange with other living, breathing, thinking, dreaming human beings.
I do not want to forget the importance of moments experienced with others, the energy of coming together, the charge of catching a glance of agreement or of disapproval, the excitement of returning a smile. A form of a secular congregation whose singularity is intrinsic to theatre, just as it is to live concerts, nightclubs, street demonstrations – the knowledge that never again will these same people find themselves together, sharing time, space and a lot of emotions.
I do not want to think that theatres will start to get torn down, turn into instruments of national populist culture wars or continue to toil under the market-driven imperatives of communicative capitalism. They should be what they are always supposed to be, beacons of community in which we gather to collectively think about who we are, what are we doing, where are we headed.
I do not want to become an online content provider, with endless streams, Zooms, virtual auditoriums and digital stages, which appeal to the sense of connection and ‘togetherness’ but in fact do little more than advance the expropriative logic of the neoliberal culture industry, leaving us remote, separated and alone in front of our screens.
I want to believe that solidarities will endure and grow stronger; solidarities in small acts of everyday kindness, comradeship and compassion, not empty gestures of bombastic proclamations and meaningless heroics. And I wish they would translate to theatre too. To how we work with each other, to how we gather and what we talk about, to who we listen to – not only those in the position of privilege and power, but also those disregarded, left behind, uncool, or simply uninterested in sticking by the rules of ‘worthy’ and acceptable as sanctioned by corporate-sponsored institutions and media.