Sarah Bay-Cheng // September 10, 2020

Digital Theatre & Its Discontents (or, Present Problems of Presence in Pandemic Performance)
Sarah BayCheng, York University
September 10, 2020

For more than thirty years, scholars have debated the centrality of physical and embodied presence as essential to the experience of theatre and performance. A debate that was perhaps largely academic suddenly became a shared reality when COVID-19 shuttered live venues, closed universities, and moved artists online. Suddenly, we were all acting for the (web) camera. Twenty years in the making (but finished at the last minute!), this lecture/video/performance/zoom-bomb looks at a century of mediated performance as it foreshadows the current conditions for digital performances and the distortions of embodiment and presence in media. What can we learn from the mediated shows of the past and how might our digitally enhanced contemporary moment shape the experiences and expectations of the post-pandemic performances to come?

Sarah BayCheng is the Dean of the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design and a Professor of Theatre at York University (Toronto). Her research focuses on the intersections of performance and media, including cinema, video, and digital technologies. Her current book project looks at the impact of digital methods on theatre and performance historiography, including documentation, contemporary performance, and museum and cultural heritage sites.