This month, the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin is launching the Theatre 2020 Project to invite theater artists and organizations to register and submit stories about how the events of 2020 have affected them, from the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent closures and furloughs, to national politics and protests and the experiences of those reckoning with longstanding racial injustices in the industry. This digital collecting initiative will aggregate national and international stories, photographs and videos documenting the experiences of those working in the theater.
“The theater industry is already radically different than it was at the beginning of 2020,” said Ransom Center Curator of Theatre and Performing Arts Dr. Eric Colleary. “While theater companies are struggling to stay afloat, artists are also developing new methods of creating work. The Theatre 2020 Project will help document these changes as they happen.”
The Center will collect stories and files throughout the duration of the pandemic. As part of this program, the Center requests digital files—journals, emails, performance recordings, interviews, zoom meetings, press releases, photographs, written reflections, canceled contracts, revised mission statements, original works, etc.—that might reflect an artist’s or organization’s experiences.
With everything happening so quickly, and digitally, the enormous changes underway are not going to be easily captured by archives. This is a moment that students, scholars, and artists will look back on and wonder how we responded and how we changed.
The Harry Ransom Center is an important research center for the study of the history of theater and performance. A library, archive, and museum with international collections, it houses the papers of a number of well-known theater artists and organizations, including Stella Adler, David Hare, Lillian Hellman, Adrienne Kennedy, Terrence McNally, Tom Stoppard, Tennessee Williams and many others.
Photo: Matthew Murphy