Goethe-Institut's Transatlantic Theater Project Will Explore Privacy in a Digital Age

The Goethe-Institut has announced The Plurality of Privacy Project in Five-Minute Plays (P3M5), a transatlantic theater project initiated to explore the value of privacy.

In cooperation with the Goethe-Institut Washington, theaters across the United States and Europe have commissioned playwrights to write five minute plays themed around the question, "What does privacy mean to you in the digital age?"

Between January 2017 and June 2018, these plays will receive public performances, staged readings and community forums at many of the theaters which helped commission them, and with additional American partner theaters.

The impulse for P3M5 began with the transatlantic discord over privacy and data protection. The tensions surrounding the so-called NSA Scandal in Europe, and the amazement in the US about the European Union's Court of Justice confirmation of the Right to be Forgotten, a watershed moment in privacy protection, have revealed that: "There is no privacy - there are only privacies." Thus, P3M5 examines the plurality of privacy, through engaging with theater artists and their communities around the world.

In a speech given at the 2016 Theatre Communications Group Conference in Washington, D.C., Wilfried Eckstein, the director of the Goethe-Institut Washington, stated, "The human interest in autonomy and security is modulated by the culture that shapes each of us as individuals in a distinct society. Art is the medium in which cultural identity is expressed best. Theater creates a space in which existential questions can be asked, where we can challenge whether something makes sense and modify societal relationships. That's why we're attempting our approach on the stage. It's there that we can develop diverse ideas and challenge a calm, reflective audience. It's on the stage that our authors' varying views find space for elaboration and exchange."

Commissioned playwrights for P3M5 include Clemens J. Setz (Schauspielhaus Graz, Austria), Rachida Lamrabet (KVS, Belgium-Flanders), Alex Lorette (Théâtre de Liège, Belgium-Wallonia), Felicia Zeller (Saarländisches Staatstheater, Germany), Mihaela Michailov (National Theatre "Marin Sorescu," Romania), Simona Hamer (National Theatre Nova Gorica, Slovenia), Paco Bezerra (Spain Arts and Culture), Marioan Hosseini (Unga Klara, Sweden), David Greig (Birmingham Repertory Theatre, United Kingdom), Sarah Gubbins (ALLIANCE THEATRE, Atlanta, GA), Kenneth Lin (Center Stage, Baltimore, MD), Philip Kan Gotanda (American Conservatory Theater, San Francisco, CA), Rebecca Gilman (Seattle Repertory Theater, Seattle, WA) and Martha Redbone and Aaron Whitby (New York Theatre Workshop, New York, NY).

P3M5 tests the assumption that privacy is a value shared among many western countries. This supposed shared ideal becomes divisive between cultures that seem to share many common values. P3M5 examines the idea of privacy through the cultural landscape of different countries, exploring the history, politics, economy and art of each country that shapes how privacy is perceived. On both sides of the Atlantic, the project addresses a politically and culturally engaged public. P3M5 aims to illuminate and improve the transatlantic dialogue.

Additional American partners for P3M5, who will engage with the commissioned plays through performances, staged readings, and other events, include Silk Road Rising (Chicago, IL), Syracuse Stage (New York), B Street Theatre (Sacramento, CA), People's Light (Malvern, PA), The VORTEX (Austin, TX), City Lights Theater Company (San Jose, CA), The Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts (University of Maryland), University of Virginia, College of William and Mary (Virginia), Middlebury College (Vermont), Cincinnati Conservatory of Music (Ohio), the University of South Carolina, California Institute of the Arts, and the University of Southern California.

The concept for P3M5 was originally developed by Russell Miller, Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University (Lexington, VA), Gillian Drake, Theater Curator for the Goethe-Institut Washington and the Zeitgeist Project, John Feffer, Director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies (Washington, D.C.), and Wilfried Eckstein, Director, Goethe-Institut Washington. The theatrical curators of the project on the American side include James C. Nicola (New York Theatre Workshop), Kwame Kwei-Armah (Center Stage, Baltimore), and Gillian Drake.

P3M5 is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany and with funds from the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.

P3M5 is produced in association with the embassies of Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Sweden, the Austrian Cultural Forum, the British Council, Flanders House, SPAIN arts & culture and Wallonie-Bruxelles International.

The Goethe-Institut Washington organizes and supports cultural events that present German culture abroad and that further the transatlantic dialogue regarding today's challenging questions. Its worldwide focuses are on topics such as the role of arts in urban development and the question of how we forge our future within the context of major transformations such as the crisis of democracy, climate change and the digitalization of our everyday life. Of special interest are aesthetic formats such as film and exhibition projects, panel series and theater performances.

For more information visit, www.goethe.de/p3m5.


Austria: LEITGEB by Clemens J. Setz

A young man has set up a garage sale to get rid of some extra things, including a t-shirt with identification information that his grandfather used to wear in case he got lost. A woman at the sale faces a dilemma when she wants to buy the shirt.

Belgium-Flanders: PROJECT DEBURKANISATION by Rachida Lamrabet

In the wake of anti-Burka legislation, a deeply religious woman cannot leave her home to get food or she will face a fine and jail time. In protest, she writes an email to a former lover, knowing that the security services will read it. But her simple email turns into a fiery, passionate monologue.

Belgium-Wallonia: WHITE PIG by Alex Lorette

The play's exploration of teenage privacy unfolds simultaneously onstage and on a projected screen behind the stage. In the projection, we see computer screens where a group of high school girls in a digital forum plot to humiliate their classmate Camille by altering photos, recording online conversations, and establishing fake social media accounts. Onstage, we see Camille's mother and teacher struggle to understand what is causing Camille to tailspin before it's too late.

Germany: PLANS by Felicia Zeller

It's the classic setting for a TV sitcom. Three actors enter, and talk to imaginary cameras instead of each other. One is trying to make plans for what to do, but the others strike down any new thoughts and keep getting him or her stuck in their usual routine. In the digital world, does previous behavior cause future behavior?

Romania: THE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH by Mihaela Michailov

Ana is trying to record a personal history of the Communist years and her husband's protest efforts for some local kids' project, but her daughter Cristina is deeply frightened with sharing their family's story. The wounds of that scary time are brought to the surface as Ana and Cristina debate how to remember and share the past.

Slovenia: "...what is essential is invisible to the eye." by Simona Hamer

Nejc tries to check out a book at the library, but the "hot babe" librarian is not making it that easy for him. In fact, she and her computer know much more about Nejc than he expects. Or does she? This fever dream of a play investigates the paranoia of the digital age.

Spain: @HOTMIGRANTS by Paco Bezerra

A mother and daughter argue over schoolwork and a popular new Instagram account that features photos of attractive refugees. Their debate takes a turn towards the unusual when both the mother and the daughter reveal that they know more than they previously let on.

Sweden: SURVEILLANCE STATE by Marioan Hosseini

"A" loves technology and is comfortable with surveillance if necessary for security. "B" is more skeptical, s/he is concerned with limitations put on privacy by technology and government oversight. A and B feverishly debate their opinions, ignoring a crucial piece of news that "C" tries to deliver to them.


In a world where there are few real secrets left, Gordon might just have one. Laura and her powerful organization think so, and interrogate Gordon in order to get it. But secrets beget secrets, and soon Laura and Gordon have one of their own.

USA-Atlanta: privacy by Sarah Gubbins

Paige has locked herself in the bathroom. Her girlfriend Dee is trying to get her to come out and attend her movie premiere, but Paige is scared of revealing their relationship to the public. Their argument sheds light on privacy's potential implications for same-sex couples.

USA-Baltimore: 9022131-PINK by Kenneth Lin

Henry is on the phone with customer services at a multinational online sales company. His personal and work accounts have somehow become linked, showing his home "Fun

Deals" on his office computer. The consequences of this embarrassing and seemingly- innocent mistake could, however, prove severe if Henry doesn't get the answers he wants from customer service.

USA-San Francisco: HASHTAG ROHWER ARKANSAS by Philip Kan Gotanda

A teenage girl is trapped in a Japanese internment camp during the 1940s. She addresses the audience and talks about the disgusting, cramped, and very un-private conditions of her life in the camp: the neighbors, the lack of hygiene, the oily food. Then, something shifts and 1940 collides into today.

USA-Seattle: INNER SANCTUM by Rebecca Gilman

Two friends, Casey and Amy, are having a glass of wine in Casey's backyard. Casey is telling Amy about her intrusive neighbor Dr. Pierce and his complaints against the family dog, who he claims trespasses on his yard. When some surveillance equipment appears nearby, though, a secret from Casey's "inner sanctum" is revealed.

USA-New York: STARS by Martha Redbone and Aaron Whitby

A song, STARS takes inspiration from the increasing digitalization of our everyday lives and the rise of social media, meaning that everyone is now on public display like celebrities. The "paparazzi" watch our every move and many people are unaware of how far and widespread our personal lives travel on the internet.

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