February! Will we see you soon?

Vi tar smittevern på største mulige alvor.
Photo: Anna Penkova

The second month of the year is underway, and at Black Box teater we are yet again waiting for the next corona-related press conference here in Oslo.

When will we get the go-ahead to reopen the theater? How many will we be able to show performances for? So far, no one has yet given us any indication about this.

During recent press conferences, cultural life has hardly been mentioned. "Why do health bureaucrats and politicians not pay more attention to the closure of cultural life, and exactly what is the reason for the long-term closure?" Julie Rongved Amundsen asks in an article published on Scenekunst.no. Furthermore, she asks several sharp and timely questions: “So far I have not seen good arguments for performing arts being a contagious activity. (...) Is there infection on the venue? If not, in what way is the activity contagious, and if so, is it so contagious that it legitimizes many months of total closure? And does it matter at all for the infection whether the chairs are stuck in the floor or not?" *

We who work in the cultural field take infection control as the greatest possible seriousness, especially in light of the unexpected development of the coronavirus recently. We understand that closure is necessary – but when society gradually reopens, why are cultural institutions not among the priorities?

In Oslo, the theaters have been closed to the public since 9 November. We miss a solid justification from the health authorities for why cultural life is shut down. We miss a political vision that places art and culture as necessary experiences in a time where our lives are particularly challenging. We miss hearing our political leaders say that museums should open at the same time as shops. That going to a museum is as safe as going to the grocery store, and even more essential to us. That theaters may open shortly after, with limited capacity and strict safety guidelines, as we did this fall.

We get messages of support and hear people say that they are longing to be back at the theater – and we see how artists are ready to perform as soon as they get the go-ahead. It is difficult to understand the rationals behind why theaters, where physical distance is secured, must remain closed, while shopping malls, cafes and hairdressers are open. In the time to come, we expect the authorities to include culture in the professional and political discussions on infection control and reopening. We hope for a new assessment of the requirement for fixed seats and that the authorities treat the cultural organizers as the serious business actors they actually are.

Although the theater is closed to the public and most of our staff are at home office, many of the day-to-day operations go almost as normal – at least when it comes to the activity on our largest stage. There, stage rehearsals and residencies go on as usual.

A couple of weeks ago, Ludvig Uhlbors and his team documented the performance SPOR here on stage. The premiere should have taken place in Bergen in November, and then here at Black Box teater in January. So far, it has been postponed twice.

Last week, Ernestyna Orlowska and Daniel Klingen Borg had rehearsals for their new production with the working title 23 cm, which is scheduled to premiere in 2022 – Orlowska is in Switzerland and participated via Zoom.

During the past week, Verk Produksjoner have entered over the theater and begun their very last stage rehearsals before the premiere of Opening Night – a brand new production we still hope to ble able to invite you to at the end of February. The corona restrictions regarding cultural events in Oslo have been extended to 17 February in the first instance, and thus the very first showing on 17 February is cancelled.

On the upcoming Saturday, 13 February, the very last round of Marie Bergby Handeland's Kirkedanseren was meant to take place. Unfortunately, this, too, had to be canceled after the latest press conference.

In the administration, we are preparing for Oslo Internasjonale Teaterfestival 2021, which takes place between 11 and 21 March. We find ourselves in an uncertain time where it is hard to predict what restrictions await around the next corner, but one thing is for sure: the festival will happen! This year's festival will be a "special edition", with other types of formats and on a smaller scale than before. The program will be released gradually from the end of February.

For you at home, there is more to come – more podcast episodes, digital children's workshops and publications are underway. Soon there will also be a new selection in our bookstore, curated by the artist group Carrie, who are associated artists at the theater.

Take care of yourself and each other! We keep our fingers crossed that we can suddenly may invite you into our theater again!

* In Norway, the national measures for events are as follows: A maximum of ten people may attend indoor events if the seating is not fixed, while the limit is 200 people for events at which all members of the audience are seated in fixed seating. The health authorities' definition of fixed seating entitles bolted seats, such as a proper amphi that is mounted in the floor. If you have chairs that are attached together, whether they are screwed in the floor or not, these are not considered as fixed seats. Up to 50 individuals are permitted to attend funerals, even if the seating is not fixed. A maximum of 200 people may attend outdoor events, while the limit is 600 people for events at which all members of the audience are seated in fixed seating.