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Liminality: finding the edges

Photo: Dr Kara McKechnie

Part of the Invisible Diaries series:

Week 7 / Day 1


I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia. I wish to pay respect to their Elders, past, present, and emerging. I acknowledge the stories, traditions, and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples on this land.

On the 12th of March and 47 days after the first case of Covid-19 was identified in Australia, the World Health Organisation officially declares the coronavirus a pandemic. By the 15th of March, it is compulsory for international arrivals, with some very few exceptions, to self-isolate either in a hotel or at home. On the 19th of March, Australia closes its borders to everyone but Australian nationals, and Australians abroad are urged to return home. By the 22nd of March theatres, cafes, and restaurants are closed. Come the 24th of March, all international travel is banned, gatherings are limited to 10 people if outdoors (including funerals), and weddings limited to five people, including the celebrant. On the 26th of March, I officially start working from home. The 27th of March, all incoming international travellers are required to self-isolate for 14 days in a hotel. (Thankfully my partner managed to return from Europe before the 27th.) Australians are told to stay home unless it is essential to travel. Individual states begin to introduce travel restrictions within the country. The 29th of March, gatherings are limited to two people if they don’t live together.

I identify these dates and decisions as significant, as they are tangible markers that have come to define my spatial and temporal boundaries. From being someone who holds multiple passports and has bi-hemispheric life, I am confined to a single city for an indefinite future without access to live theatre, concerts, art galleries, and museums. Over the last week, my world was even smaller as I concentrated on nothing but marking assignments and assisting students in preparing performances.

Today, as I extracted my mind from its narrow confines and began to ruminate on what I might write for this diary, I contemplated Marin Blažević's comments that “dramaturgy’s complexity arises from its intermediateness, a sort of double competence in-between theory and practice, critical reflection and embodiment, knowledge exploration and production on one side, and artistic inspiration and execution on the other” [1].

Blažević’s description of dramaturgy aptly encapsulates my state of being, my current condition. The spatial boundaries might be real, albeit relaxing in small and incremental stages. Nonetheless, the complexity of my life, and by extension my dramaturgical practice, retains its inherent intermediateness. As I extract myself from my responsibilities to my students, itself a form of micro-dramaturgy, there is time for critical reflection and exploration of the macro-dramaturgies of theatrical programming and the ways in which theatre companies perform themselves for their audiences. I am confined but yet unrestricted. I am between. This liminal period provides both space and time to examine the cultural frameworks of my life that intersect, and thus shape, both me and my dramaturgical competencies. Indeterminacy, personal or dramaturgical, is oddly exciting.



[1] Blažević, Marin. “Dramaturgy’s Complexity.” Dramaturgies: New Theatres for the 21st Century. Eds. Peter Eckersall, Melanie Beddie, and Paul Monaghan. Melbourne: Carl Nilsson-Polias on behalf of The Dramaturgies Project, 2011. 51-2 (51).


Bernadette Cochrane is dramaturg and theatre academic at the University of Queensland. She focuses on institutional dramaturgies and cultural production. Bernadette writes extensively on the dramaturgies of the screening and streaming of live performances.

She is a board member of Migrant Dramaturgies Network, developed in partnership with New Tides Platform (UK) and the Centre for Theatre Research at the University of Lisbon, Portugal.


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