A message from Professor Monika Grütters, Minister of State and Member of the German Bundestag

Oscar Wilde once described the theatre as “the return of art to life”. Since our theatres fell silent due to the pandemic, there has been increasing awareness of the theatre’s crucial role as a reflection of life and gauge of societal development. This explains the positive reception of the online productions which many theatres are now offering. Beyond the regular theatre-going public, such offerings will have reached a new online audience, who may now have developed a taste for the theatre.

A green colour field shows slight abstract contours.

Although born of necessity, “virtual theatre” has provided many companies with inspiration and new ideas. It has raised questions: Which aesthetic and narrative styles work best in the digital domain? How can online theatregoers be encouraged to communicate with each other? How to reach the widest possible online audience? In response to these questions, digital technologies have brought forth some interesting artistic developments. The ten productions selected for the Theatertreffen reveal how impressively multifaceted virtual theatre can be.

And yet, theatre on a computer screen cannot replace theatre as a collective experience. People respond differently in a shared public space. Audiences listen more intently when physically present. And, comfortable though our living room sofa may be, it is more rewarding to share our emotions, impressions and insights with others. Many (including myself!) can hardly wait to return to the closely packed seats of the theatre – even if it sometimes means having our view blocked by the head of the person in front, or hearing the crackle of sweet paper from the person behind.

Cultural institutions were the first to have to close during lockdown. They should not be the last to reopen. A key use of federal funding from the programme NEUSTART KULTUR is to help theatres do all they can to comply with infection control measures before reopening – so that once again they will provide a physical stage for the “return of art to life”. The online 2021 Theatertreffen will surely intensify our anticipation of that.

I would like to wish the cast and contributors every success, and I am sure the audience will enjoy thought-provoking and unforgettable experiences.

Prof. Monika Grütters
Member of the German Bundestag
Minister of State for Culture and the Media