Greeting from the German Federal Cultural Federation

“Shut your eyes and listen: This is what an empty theatre sounds like!” – these are the words that Gob Squad, the independent theatre collective who have been invited to Theatertreffen several times, call into the eye of the camera at the deserted Berlin theatre Hebbel am Ufer. Silence. No clearing of throats, no breathing, no applause. The very thing that makes the theatre experience so special – the co-presence of bodies in a room – has been almost entirely removed by the quake of the Corona-pandemic over the past year.

A green colour field shows slight abstract contours.

A year ago, Theatertreffen had to deal with this pandemic shock with hardly any warning. This year’s 58th edition has taken the experiences gained during the crisis into consideration from the very beginning, making contingency plans for an entirely digital festival that does not remain suspended in helplessness but directs its radar towards both directions at the same time: the past and the future.

Of course, Theatertreffen will once again present the ten remarkable productions of the year 2020. Some of them have already responded to the locked-down life we are all leading, transforming new distancing rules into productions that show a dramatic dearth of touch – as in Schiller’s “Maria Stuart”, directed by Anne Lenk. Others muster elaborate technology for digital shooting, like “Der Zauberberg”, directed by Sebastian Hartmann.

Speaking of digital films: One insight gained from the Corona-crisis will further inspire Theatertreffen in 2021. The ad hoc streaming options of last year drove the festival’s audience range up to hitherto unknown, six-figure heights – with thousands of viewers from the US, Japan, Russia and more than one hundred other countries. That is an incredible response. It opens up prospects of a kind of festival communication that turns the participation of the many into a democratic practice.

Theatertreffen works intensively to make sure that all this will occur at the highest level of quality. This is why the festival has commissioned special recordings for the presentation of Marie Schleef’s “NAME HER. Eine Suche nach den Frauen+” and “SCORES THAT SHAPED OUR FRIENDSHIP” by and with Lucy Wilke and Paweł Duduś with music by Kim Twiddle, which will not only document the events on stage but translate them into the language of film. And there is more: In its significant series of accompanying events, the 2021 Theatertreffen will open up a veritable laboratory to explore the question of how theatre and digital art can work together in the future. It is about audience participation via chat or in digital spaces, at a cooperative theatre that will give space to non-European experiments. And not least, it is about outlines of new professions that are rapidly beginning to appear on the horizon of theatre training: from designers of digital scenography via programmers of virtual realities to the invention of a kind of “citizens’ dramaturg” who knows how to orchestrate the multitude of diverse voices from the public in the new synchronous and hybrid theatre space.

The theatres might have to remain empty this May. But all heads are buzzing and rehearsals and experiments of how we will get together in post-pandemic times are already well underway. This in-between period counts – and this year’s Theatertreffen knows how to make good use of it. That is why the German Federal Cultural Foundation would like to thank Berliner Festspiele and the entire festival team under the direction of Yvonne Büdenhölzer. We wish that all presentations and events will be successful, that their technical operations will run smoothly and that their audiences will be large, enthusiastic and ready to experiment.

Hortensia Völckers
Executive Board / Artistic Director

Kirsten Haß
Executive Board / Administrative Director