Two-Day Workshop Report August 11, 2020

On 25-26 May, 2020, during the European lockdown due to the COVID19 pandemic the second event of our international research project "Shakespeare in Central Europe after 1989" supported by the Visegrad Fund took place – certainly, online.

The workshop was to be hosted by Jana Bžochová-Wild on behalf of the Bratislava Academy of Performing Arts and financed, through PPCU, by the Visegrad Fund (project ID 21920060) but as the lethal virus conquered the Continent just like the waves of plague in Shakespeare’s time, it was clear that we had to abandon the idea of gathering physically, even at a later point in time. In close negotiation with the secretariat of the Visegrad Fund and considering the tight deadlines, the project co-ordinator and the organizing committee (Zsolt Almási, Kinga Földváry, and Gabriella Reuss) were left to make a rather difficult decision between two choices: one was to cancel the workshop and renounce the entire project, the other – and the harder – was to press ahead amidst the difficulties and increased workload the online/remote teaching triggered. It signals the merit and the dedication of all the participants that they, rather than giving up on the project, generously agreed to continue with the work, because they believed that providing a credible insider’s view on Shakespeare in the post-Socialist block is a cultural issue of utmost importance.

The online workshop was thus organized in a way that it catered for small group work, to enable the two main goals: thematic co-operation, i.e. commenting upon each other’s in-progress papers, shared in Google Docs, and regular general meetings for operative and motivational purposes (see the program here). The small groups were formed following the ideas and the settlement agreed on Day 2 of the December 2020 Kick-off Conference (see the report here); they were designed to secure the tightest interconnectedness possible to exhibit a reliable image of our common heritage and regional identity in the Central European region through the reception of Shakespeare in the theatre.

Although probably everyone had doubts about the outcome of this virtual workshop, the precision with which the tight schedule was kept, the self-discipline with which the commenting took place by the participants was admirable and this made the work in all the three groups extremely efficient (and also extremely tiring). The general meetings when our Zoom screens were lively with all fourteen faces (with/without masks and coffee mugs) kept up the friendly inspiring atmosphere throughout. Apparently the general meeting time slots that literally framed each morning and afternoon group session played a vital role: they replaced the half-informal, half-formal chatter of the coffee and lunch breaks, where professional information circulates, indeed, accumulates.

Professionally, the interactive small group sessions not only achieved a significant degree of interrelatedness (be it common sources, methods or themes) amongst a given group’s papers but effectively produced several passages for the future General Introduction. By sharing the fruit of the group sessions with those of the other groups we trust that the frame of the entire volume is thus tightened, and that individual studies, embedded within a group’s chapter, will be reliably and precisely positioned within the entire volume, too.

As the pandemic prevented us from travelling to Bratislava, the costs of the physical gathering are, in accordance with the Visegrad Fund, to be allocated to other aspects of the project. A major part is to be transferred to the two peer reviewers of the forthcoming volume in appreciation of their work and useful advice on finalizing the job within an unusually tight deadline. In this situation several papers are delayed and are to be finished during the weeks of the summer, instead of the end of May. The rest of the unexpended balance is to be divided between the printing costs of the thematic issue of Theatralia and the International Symposium to be organized in February 2021.

Conference badge replaced by artificial conference background

General Meeting 1 with artificial background

Group photo with masks

The (E)merging Practices group session

General meeting 2 (all 14 participants)