“The Living Theatre wants nothing less than to rewrite the theatrical contract,” wrote the New York Times about the group that has been combining post-dramatic stage practices with pacifist-anarchist commitment for 70 years now in America and Europe. Anyone who studies the eventful history of Living Theatre will notice that fashionable terms of our day such as ‘interdisciplinary’, ‘participatory’ and ‘site-specific’ are experiencing a discursive renaissance at best. In the work of the Living Theatre, the activation of the audience, the intensive engagement with the respective stage location, and an understanding of theater that encompasses the arts were never aimed solely at form, but were linked with the concern to bring about revolutionary social change. “I don’t make a difference between poetry and anarchism,” Judith Malina, one of the two founders of Living Theatre, said shortly before her death in 2015.
Beginning with an exploration of the improvisational piece Paradise Now (1968), the students of the Cheers for Fears community explored the role that Living Theatre can play in contemporary artistic and/or activist practice today. How do I let the audience become part of a performative situation that has an impact beyond the evening? How do I succeed in influencing social discourses with my action and not rather confirming or stabilizing the existing one? Can the theatre be a machinery for the construction of the future? Thus Paradise Now was analyzed, questioned, dissected, smashed, artistically re-enacted, reconstructed, re-performed.
The performance was created as part of the Cheers for Fears Summer Academy, a project of interdisciplinary artistic exploration. Part of the Academy was a cross-university seminar on Living Theatre organized by Prof. Sven Lindholm (Scenic Research Ruhr-Universität Bochum) in the summer semester 2016. An intensive week with lectures, workshops and first rehearsals took place at the end of July at the Center for Art Transfer/IDfactory of the TU Dortmund University and the Dortmunder U, in cooperation with the Institute for Art and Material Culture, PIA, Sculpture and Interdisciplinary Work of Prof. Ursula Bertram.