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20 February 2024

The Theatre Times: Towards a New Model of Intercultural Exchange

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Since 2019, The Theatre Times and Digital Theatre+ have collaborated on the innovative 'International Online Theatre Festival', bringing live performance to viewers around the world. Friends of Digital Theatre+ and a member of our HE Advisory Board, Magda Romanska, and Kasia Lech (executive directors of TheTheatreTimes), write about what it takes to launch and maintain a global performing arts digital platform and how the internet can bring theatre artists and theatre goers together! 


All theatre is local. All theatre is global. Both statements are true: theatre has always been and continues to be a vehicle for national identity formation, self-representation, and self-understanding, but increasingly it is also becoming a place for international dialogue, where disparate cultures, values, and national interests can find, if not mutual understanding, at least mutual coexistence. Yet making and writing about theatre in a global context is not that easy. That is why we founded is an all-volunteer international digital platform that seeks to globalize theatre criticism by challenging unequal modes of sharing and accessing knowledge. We showcase theatre, theatre artists, and theatre organizations in less visible places through local voices that know and understand local cultures and theatre ecosystems. publishes reviews, interviews, essays, and news stories each day from a variety of sources, searchable by country, region, professional field, and topic. In addition to original content, we have agreements with many regional publications that allow us to repost their stories, reviews, interviews, and articles.

Since its launch in November 2016, has published over 5,000 articles, interviews, and theatre reviews covering theatre in 90 countries and regions. With 32 thematic sections, more than 150 Regional Managing Editors, and over 60 media partners around the world, we have grown to be the most far-reaching and comprehensive global theatre portal today. is envisioned as a transnational discursive space that brings together theatre scholars, theatre-makers, and theatre lovers, generating opportunities for interaction and creative development amongst a wide network. Our collaborative, decentralized model runs counter to so-called helicopter research, an approach in which less wealthy nations provide research source material but don’t always share the benefits of the research: “Most scientific-journal articles come from wealthy countries in the global north. Often, well-funded researchers initiate short-term projects in southern countries — which are typically poorer and often have a history of colonial occupation — frequently without seeking substantive local input or expertise. Dubbed parachute or helicopter research, this is a long-standing tradition steeped in colonialism.” By giving a platform to local, regional editors, native language speakers, and cultural insiders, seeks a new model of intercultural exchange. All of our writers have direct access to our platform; they are interpreters of their own cultures and represent their theatre as it is, without filters.

In addition to generating original content, we have also acted as an archival depository of local theatre research that would otherwise disappear. Since our founding, we have saved many archives of online theatre publications that went defunct for lack of resources. These include theatre criticism covered by the Central and Eastern European London Review, the Buenos Aires Herald,, the British Ukrainian Society, AltTheatre Canada, The Blurb Australia, and Niquash (documenting Iraqi culture), to name a few. We consider preserving the legacies of these local online outlets essential to maintaining local theatre ecosystems and theatre research. The Story

Since 2018, has been under the leadership of Magda Romanska and Kasia Lech. Romanska is a scholar, dramaturg, and writer; Professor of Theatre at Emerson College in Boston, MA; Principal Researcher at metaLAB (at) Harvard; and a Faculty Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard. Kasia Lech is a theatre artist, scholar, and Associate Professor of Global Performance History at the University of Amsterdam. She is also an Affiliate at metaLAB (at) Harvard.

Since its inception, has launched several special features, including and the International Online Theatre Festival. Funded through the Yale Digital Humanities Lab and an LMDA Innovation Grant, Performap is an Interactive Digital Map of Global Theatre Festivals. The map allows users to find and track all international theatre festivals happening around the world in real-time. The map is searchable by location, type of festival and date. Performap is an invaluable resource for scholastic, journalistic, and management research on theatre and performance festivals worldwide. 

Another of TheTheatreTimes’s initiatives is the International Online Theatre Festival (IOTF), which showcases a range of work from global artists and companies in one month. It is free to participate and free to watch, aiming to create an online space that blurs geographical boundaries and brings us together as a community. IOFT is underpinned by’s aims to decolonize theatre criticism and provide more accessible modes for theatre encounter.

IOFT also gives opportunities for close meetings between artists, spectators, and scholars through its online discussion panels and through the theme of the festival that every year responds to an urgent social issue. In 2019, the focus was on transformation and resistance. In 2020 and 2021, the themes were contextualized by the global Covid-19 pandemic. IOTF 2020, which launched during the COVID-19 lockdowns served as a global space for isolated theatre community, streaming shows from many countries and regions.  IOFT 2021 spotlighted works made and/or captured during the lockdown as artists, theatres, and audiences adapted to the challenges of making work during the pandemic. The 2023 theme, Theatre and Its Others, honoured the human, animal, and machine interdependencies of theatre practices and tested cultural, social, political, and economic acts of “Othering.”

IOFT 2023 presented 39 shows from 23 countries, across all six continents; IOTF 2021 showcased 33 shows from 24 countries; IOTF 2020 featured 42 shows from 16 countries; and IOTF 2019 featured 26 shows from 10 countries. In total, all four editions of the festival showcased over one hundred global theatre shows, with over a million people participating in the four editions. We also have been collaborating with partners such as the European Theatre Convention, Digital Theatre+, Ninateka, Polish Cultural Institute in London, Schaubühne Berlin, and metaLAB (at) Harvard, ensuring the engagement of new artists and audiences. Following’s pluralistic approach to cultural sharing, the 

In 2017, OnTap did a podcast about us, and called us a ‘heroic project.’ In 2018, we won the Elliott Hayes Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dramaturgy from the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas ( In 2021, our International Online Theatre Festival was the second-place winner of the Culture Online International Award for “Best Online Project.” A total of 452 projects were submitted for the competition from more than 20 countries.


This has not been easy. In fact, it has been exhausting, and at times impossible, with challenges related to economic and political realities, resources, sustainability, and invisible labor.  Global conflicts often ask of us to negotiate between competing transnational interests; disparities in support of local cultures demand that we stretch our resources beyond our capacities; the issues we cover, from refugee crises, genocides, and the COVID-19 pandemic, to international women, and disability and LGBTQ+ rights — or their lack — leave us hopeless. And yet, out of the wreckage of human lives left behind by the daily global calamities, we also see the indomitable human spirit sprouting through. We see theatre artists rising up to reclaim their voices, their rights, their stories, and their dignity. We see theatre that connects and communicates, that faces, with perseverance and the quiet heroism of everyday life and everyday art making, the trauma and misery of human existence.

We rely on volunteers (ranging from university students to world-renowned scholars), media partners, artists (who share their work), and our own free labor. Occasionally, we have a sponsor helping us fund our student editors. Higher education institutions, including the Center for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto; the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama at the University of London; and Emerson College in Boston, MA, which funded the work of their graduate students who help us to run TheTheatreTimes. Other organizations, such as the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, the Yale Digital Humanities, Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of Americas (LMDA), and the Amsterdam School of Historical Studies supported individual projects or events that spoke to their respective aims. wants to champion theatre globally. However, public funding bodies aim at promoting specific cultures in the interests of governments — whether local, national, or wider, such as the European Union — that finance them (see for example, Meerzon et al.). For these organizations — for very valid reasons — international is important as ‘evidence’ of the ‘success’ of the culture they promote rather than a value in itself. At the same time, we are two female academics with heavy workloads, scholarly projects and commitments, and personal lives that need time and care. All these have been also resources on which has grown and been cultivated. While we are committed to widening our circles and reaching voices across cultures, especially voices with less agency in global theatre discourse, we are also very aware that the English language — its ‘standards’ of grammar, writing, argumentation — plays a significant role as a cultural intermediary. 

The Theatre Times is a pioneering project in its mission, vision, and execution. It provides a collective and pluralistic model of theatre criticism and engagement never previously seen or implemented by any international theatre organization at that scale. It attempts to create a transnational infrastructure in which theatre, the oldest art form that evolved independently across all cultures, can become a driving force to address glocal debates and political and ethical dilemmas. Between decolonization, globalization, the technological progress of artificial intelligence, the posthuman turn of data-driven digital reality, political and military conflicts, and the increasing impact of climactic change, theatre has a role and responsibility to engage with our civilizational challenges, and The Theatre Times aims to serve as a starting point for the development of cross-cultural understandings and critical vocabularies.

Works Cited

Gewin, Virginia. “Pack Up the Parachute: Why Global North-South Collaborations Need to Change.” Nature, 24 July 2023.

Meerzon, Yana, Katharina Pewny, and Tessa Vannieuwenhuyze. “Introduction: Migration and Multilingualism.” Modern Drama, vol. 61, no. 3, Sept. 2018, pp. 257–70.

Romanska, Magda. “The Theatre Times: Why? Why Now?”, 9 Dec. 2016.

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