This talk was part of the AN seminar 2021 by TEAK Helsinki on “Time temporality and Eternity in the art of theatre directing”.

In a mixture of lecture and also more interactive parts, we will focus on time as a very precious and influential production ressource that shapes every process of creating a new theatre work: the form in which we’re working together and the kind of ‚product’ itself. The amount of time given is surspringly often unregarded as an important factor for creating theatre works – while it decides on how directors/theatre makers can organise the mode of practise, on how the relationships of the people involved can be formed or can develope and on the hierarchies that will emerge among them. So who found out or decided that 4 to 8 weeks (the usual time frame for rehearsals in German city theatres) for each theatre production should be enough? Why is this crucial factor ‚production time’ not negotiable for most theatre makers? (And which processes are included in ‚production time’?)

There’s for sure a strong interrelationship between (short) time given and the pressure that is felt and acted out (often by the responsible director) during the production and especially the rehearsal process.

But there’s an institutional production logic: A fixed time frame (as in most theatre institutions) asks for „efficient“ ways of production – and „efficiency“ will be achieved most likely through bureaucratic forms of organisation with i.a. split of labour, authority given to special positions and defined rules. On the other hand, collectivist forms of working together with the ideal of egality of each individual involved in the working process need lots of time. Collective work and time pressure are contradicting. Also a collective can’t be established quickly, it needs shared experiences, its own (hi)stories.

The idea is to reflect on the expert knowledge and thoughts of the participants with time given and needed in production and rehearsing processes and for developing good working relationships. We could ask: Is there anything good about having „too little time“? Is there such a thing as having „too much time“ in theatre work?

The background for these ‚explorations’ and discussions will be a brief introduction to models of working collectively (also in directing) and the younger theatre history, especially the so called „Mitbestimmung“ (co-determination or worker participation) in public German theatres in (former) FRG and GDR. These former attempts to work together differently, in a sense of democracy and with strong personal, but shared commitment were often evaluated as „failed“ – because theatre „as art“ would not work out with „average commonsense decisions“ made by a group, but rather it would need the strong, visionary and uncomprising authorship of one artist (namely the director). Another ‚truth’ is that „strong“ directors can rehearse faster. I’d like to offer a frame to discuss the meanings of slowness for alternative ways of creating theatre work together – and how to demand the time needed.

Designed for all theatre makers who are interested in questioning working practices and institutional structures.


Anna Volkland - Photo by Martin Rottenkolber

Anna Volkland studied Dramaturgy (diploma 2009, with a thesis about „theatre without stage“) and Dance Studies and worked as a dramaturg for dance, theatre and interdisciplinary experimental theatrical forms. Since 2014 she’s also a theatre scholar with research focus on Institutional Critique in German state theatres since the late 1960ies and was research associate at Berlin UdK until 2020. There she was also co-initiator of the biennial symposium „Performances of [femininity] in the Performing Arts“ (2016, 2018, 2020, tbc.) or since 2017 co-host of the qualification programme Artisit Training for professional theatre makers in (Berlin) exile. She teached at Berlin University at the Arts (acting theory, theatre history, extended critical performance analysis or interdisciplinary artistic practise) or for example at the directing department at Hochschule für Schauspielkunst „Ernst Busch“ Berlin.

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