The Show Must Go On/OFFline series of international discussions continues with the topic “Festivals in lockdown”

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Festivals in lockdown – at first glance this phrase may sound nearly oxymoronic as if it contained an inherent contradiction. This is because we all rather associate the word 'festival' with a vibrant social event to which spontaneous reactions, corporeal simultaneity, and vivid exchange (both of energy and of impressions) are essential. The pandemic sternly arrested the opportunity to experience performing arts together and forced the organizers to face an ultimate dilemma: whether to postpone or cancel the event or to transpose it into an online, virtual form. This situation appears even more difficult the moment we realize that what is at stake here is not only to survive as an event but to protect all the social and community qualities that are harnessed to the phenomenon of the festival. During the panel, we are going to discuss the strategies that may be effective in securing those qualities. The guests will also attempt to answer the crucial questions: how did the pandemic shape the role of festivals? And how to plan an extensive performing arts event when the future is uncertain and the ghost of another wave of the virus and probable lockdown is hovering above our heads?

The moderator of the discussion is Marcelina Obarska, a Polish theatre critic and artist. The Czech festival Palm Off Fest will be introduced by its dramaturge Jan Jiřík. The guest from Slovakia is Katarina Figula, executive director of the Bratislava in movement festival who is also part of the Divadelná Nitra team. A representative from Poland is Bartosz Szydlowski, artistic director of Boska komedia festival in Krakow. BITEF festival in Belgrade will be represented by its artistic director Ivan Medenica.

The Show Must Go On/OFFline online discussion series, featuring guests drawn from the ranks of theatre and dance artists, curators, cultural managers and theorists from the Czech Republic and abroad, addresses the performing arts’ sensitivity and responsiveness to contemporary social issues. Key themes include the adaptation of theatre, dance and contemporary circus to the virtual environment as a result of the anti-pandemic measures and questions related to the sustainability of our current quality of life and of the performing arts themselves. While it seems that the critical need for social change discussed in the fields of ecology, economics, politics and culture has been overshadowed in recent months by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, concerns about the sustainability of the field itself are gaining ground in the performing arts. Does a hybrid existence in real and virtual space amount to a dead-end for disciplines that rely on audience contact, or might it open up new worlds and possibilities? Will spectators stay at home forever? How are artists, organisers of cultural events, public funding bodies and arts education institutions responding to this crisis? How are they orientating themselves? What do they believe in and where are they headed? How do they communicate? In dialogue with our guests, we will try to map the performing arts’ emerging strategies and first responses to this global paradigm shift.

This series is produced by ATI’s International Cooperation Department as part of the Promotion of Czech Performing Arts Abroad program and in collaboration with the European project Create to Connect -> Create to Impact and the Performing Arts Central Europe (PACE.V4) network, with support from the International Visegrad Fund. Webinars take place on the Zoom platform every month and are held in English. Viewers have the chance to ask guests questions during the discussions and recordings of the webinars are made available on the jsmeIDU Youtube channel.


  • Marcelina Obarska (PL) / theatre critic, graduate from Theatre Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, participates in theatre and performance projects in Poland and abroad


  • Jan Jiřík (CZ) / theatre theoretician, head of the Department of Theory and Criticism at DAMU (Prague), dramaturge of the Palm Off Fest festival
  • Katarina Figula (SK) / cultural manager, producer, executive director of the Bratislava in Movement festival, producer of the Divadelná Nitra festival
  • Bartosz Szydlowski (PL) / theatre director, founder and artistic director of theatre Teatr Łaźnia Nowa, artistic director of Boska komedia festial
  • Ivan Medenica (RS) / theatre critic, professor at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade, artistic director of BITEF festival

Practical information

  • The meeting will take place on ZOOM; it is not necessary to download the application in advance.
  • After filling out the registration form, you will receive an e-mail with a link to access the webinar.
  • If possible, please register 15 minutes before the start of the event to allow time to complete the registration process.
  • The webinar will be held in English.