In Summer 2020, the new student representative from Milan, Massimo Marani, came up with an idea. He presented a draft for a project which was to be called “For A NEW BIRTH” to us. Its basic thought was that the pandemic is immensely challenging the art forms of theater and performance since their presentations and their experience are particularly linked to physical presence – The rehearsal process, the joint artistic development, reaching out to the public. One could literally say that the months of empty theaters, rehearsal sites, and, of course, universities marked a temporary “death of the theatre”. Following this idea, one should start a project that reflects on the origins of theater and its various forms in different countries, thus marking a rebirth of theatre. Therefore, he wrote: “Please note: it is a New Birth, not a Rebirth: nothing has to be brought back to life, but something has to evolve to find new energy and new ways to reach the public.”. Max suggested presenting the project at the General Assembly as it would be the best possibility to present it to as many people from the different cities and universities as possible. As a board member, Lea Mergell from Hanover was willing to take over the organization of the project. Thereupon, the E:UTSA students group started an Open Call for the project via email and Instagram. At a board meeting in September, Lea and Max presented the project and the idea to invite also people who are not student representatives to the GA. The board agreed on 2 persons (one representative and one extern per university). we met via Zoom for the first time with students from Glasgow, Milan, Munich, Rome, Verscio, St.Petersburg, Brno and Salzburg. We talked about what we wanted to narrate and which artistic forms we want to use. In the beginning, there was a big ragbag of thoughts and loose ideas and above all, questions: Who could ask whom to join the project? People offered their connections to students with different professions from their universities and everyone loved the idea of meeting in person at the end. The final decision for a narrative frame and the artistic form kept difficult. It seemed as if everyone was highly motivated and there were many ideas of a common project but a lack of a framework that brings it all together. The most affordable and combinable artistic form for everyone appeared to be a video format and the idea came up to form smaller groups in the schools in order to be able to involve even more people and to work in a more concentrated manner. The group of St.Petersburg* offered a draft of figurative processing of what we were actually exposed to the whole time. The Video should start with Laptops and a Zoom meeting, show the normal state of teaching before the pandemic, empty universities and buildings in the meanwhile, and the attempt to redefine theater in the end. The Salzburg group suggested to build a chain of videos from the different university groups. After a lot of back and forth, we ended up with a video chain with the basic plot ‘A state of normality is destroyed and something new comes out of it which we could finally incorporate into the idea of St. Petersburg. In January, Margarita and Lea had a really constructive brainstorm on the phone, thinking of the two sentences “What is left?” and “What is born” as maybe the two most central thoughts in this whole thing. What can we rely on in a time of a pandemic when theatres and universities are empty and all the things are gone, the audience, the contact, the sensual experience – that defines us as artists? Is there something left? Can’t we at least keep some? The contact for example? And what comes out of this Search? What is born in the end – isn’t it something with open edges? We really loved the losing question mark.
In the end, the A NEW BIRTH participants had the possibility to meet three gorgeous days live in Hanover (after 2 years of the pandemic, this was crazy).
The message, we can take with us from this journey is to always try new to break bubbles, hold on to ideas and projects, and stay connected!
*St. Petersburg did not participate in our project in the end. We had to realize that in this situation there is no longer a political “free zone” anywhere. The situation remains a challenge for everyone involved.