POSTWEST \\ guess where

Transcultural festival

Originally planned for May 2020, the transcultural theater festival POSTWEST sought to bring together artists from ten countries who had developed twelve new plays especially for the festival. With its dramatic history between East and West, the Volksbühne is the perfect venue for this gathering of invited theater makers from Eastern Europe. Now all our partner theaters find themselves in a new reality. For us, as artistic teams, not only did the COVID-19 pandemic mean the cancellation of the festival week in May, but also the abrupt end of the preparation phase: rehearsals for our productions were just about to begin, the shared set for the stage in the Großes Haus had already been created in the Volksbühne workshops, and the schedule for each day of the festival had been finalized.

How, after a year of preparation, could this transcultural theater festival take place at such short notice without any completed productions or a real stage? By returning to the basic concept of the festival, collective artistic exchange. Over the last few weeks, we have intensified this collaboration that has brought our partner theaters to Berlin for three workshops since June 2019. Instead of the Volksbühne, we are using the digital realm to share ideas across borders—and thus also as a venue for the virtual edition of POSTWEST.

The twelve planned productions will now be replaced by digital contributions reflecting the nature of our international network, which will be made accessible to a global audience for the first time over a period of three days: online live performances, videos on demand, audio tracks, and discussions with the theater makers about their experiences with POSTWEST. This will be complemented by additional formats in our supporting program, which began a thematic countdown to the festival back in November 2019, including discursive events such as the series Plattform East, meetings with the artists, and DJ sets—all digital, of course.

POSTWEST has thus outgrown its original iteration as a stage event and is responding to this new reality. The Coronavirus crisis has allowed us to observe how many countries are turning in on themselves once more, and information about the situation in other countries seems like mere statistics. Against this background, reflecting on historical categories and the possibilities of their dissolution becomes more important than ever. East or West? Post-West, post-East, post-EastWest? Does a shared cultural heritage lead to a similar historical awareness? With such a wide variety of countries and identities, is it even possible to think about and shape the future together? What do a strong civil society, solidarity, values relevant to the future, and democratic systems look like to us? How can we, as theater makers—even during a global lockdown and without any public gatherings—continue to establish networks and long-term transcultural initiatives in order to respond artistically to these current social debates?

While the virtual edition of the festival addresses these questions, it also forms the foundation of an international network. The planned productions will premiere at our partner theaters once they have reopened and will be integrated into their repertoires. In this way, and through future collaborations, POSTWEST lives on as a space where artistic disciplines are not only considered from an individual or national perspective, but also create a transcultural context.

Curator: Alina Aleshchenko
Co-Curator: Wiebke Jahns
Dramaturgy: Degna Martens
Technical Production Manager: Karina Zotz, Michael Ladner
Main Stage Design: Julian Marbach
Head of stage department: Ann-Christine Müller
Stage Design Assistant: Julius Florin
Artistic and Dramaturgical Support: Lucia Bihler, Hannah Schünemann, Elif Sözer

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Animated teaser: Yuliia Kantsedal
Music: © 2020