Theatre in Pandemic: An Experimental Syllabus

‘Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.’ — Arundhati Roy

Course Description

Learning Objectives

Approach

Skills

Class Requests

Community Agreements

Online Collaboration and Safety

Course Outline: Episodes, Briefs and Lectures

Episode 1: This is Theatre Now

‘Identification is… about seeing ourselves reflected in the world and relating to images of others, both of which are critically tied to arguments for representation that focus on media’s ability to create possible worlds.’ — Adrienne Shaw [4]

Fig. 1: Various Artists, Flux Year Box 2, 1967. Box of scores curated by George Maciunas. (via Walker Art Center)
Fig. 2: Yoko Ono, Touch Poem, 1963. (via MoMA)
Fig. 3: Mike Figgis, Timecode, 2000. An experimental feature film in which four parallel stories are followed on-screen, simultaneously and apparently with no cuts, for over 90 minutes. The film was enabled by the advent of continuously-shooting digital video. Left: Part of Figgis’s score (via Next Wave Films). Right: A screenshot from the movie (via The Wrap).

Episode 2: Building Worlds Together

‘If you introduce writers to the idea that everything that develops in a society has developed for a reason — it’s not just natural; human behaviour is learned; societies are developed; none of this stuff just happens — then that makes those writers more conscious and more capable of depicting not just a secondary world, but even our world. It makes them better at analysing human behaviour.’ — N.K. Jemisin [8]

Fig. 4: What is ritual? (Ozenc & Hagan 2016)
Fig. 5: Cover of the #Feminism nano-larp anthology (Stark et al. 2016); containing So Mom I Made This Sex Tape by Susanne Vejdemo, played in Episode 2 of the course

Episode 3: Mediums and Media

‘“Preferred mappings” have the whole social order embedded in them as a set of meanings.’ — Stuart Hall [12]

Fig. 6: MTAA, Simple Net Art Diagram, 1997 (via Rhizome)
Fig. 7: Encoding and decoding media. Diagram from Hall 2007 [1973], p. 388.

Episode 4: A Play and a Project

‘The absence of limitations is the enemy of art.’ — Orson Welles

Fig. 8: A student group tests out the affordances of a new streaming platform

Episode 5: Studio Time

‘Toys and games are the prelude to serious ideas.’ — Charles & Ray Eames

Episode 6: Final Action

‘We must make our freedom by cutting holes in the fabric of this reality, by forging new realities which will, in turn, fashion us. Putting yourself in new situations constantly is the only way to ensure that you make your decisions unencumbered by the inertia of habit, custom, law, or prejudice — and it is up to you to create these situations.’ CrimethInc [19]

Fig. 9: Screengrab from the user-navigated mixed media production Queerantine 2020
Fig. 10: Mid-game during the Green New Deal-themed online larp S.99520

Reflections

‘The opposite of play isn’t work. It’s depression.’ Jane McGonigal

Reading and Resources

Notes

Instructors/Authors

Acknowledgements

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Experiential futurist. Berggruen Fellow at University of Southern California. Fellow at World Economic Forum & The Long Now Foundation.

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Stuart Candy

Stuart Candy

Experiential futurist. Berggruen Fellow at University of Southern California. Fellow at World Economic Forum & The Long Now Foundation.

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