The Word as Body + Stage Or How Synchronous Chat Became Theatre – Juli Burk’s ATHEMOO (1995)
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With Juli Burk, Julia Glesner, Nina LeNoir, Twyla Mitchell, Rick Sacks, Stephen A. Schrum, Monika Wunderer

2022 | 100 min.

Video VoD / live

Cast / Crew

Juli Burk, Rick Sacks, Stephen A. Schrum, Monika Wunderer, Nina LeNoir, Twyla Mitchell-Shiner, Julia Glesner
Martina Leeker (Kuratorin), Esther Slevogt (Kuratorin)

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The Word as Body + Stage Or How Synchronous Chat Became Theatre – Juli Burk’s ATHEMOO (1995)

With: Juli Burk, Julia Glesner, Nina LeNoir, Twyla Mitchell, Rick Sacks, Stephen A. Schrum and Monika Wunderer.

Episode 2 of the series Performing Internet – A series on History and Present of Theater and Liveness on the Internet by Martina Leeker and Esther Slevogt.


New communication technologies such as teletext, internet relay chat, or multi-user domains (MUDs and MOOs) enabled text-based so-called real-time communication for the first time since the late 1980s. The American Standard Code for Information (ASCII), i.e., plain text characters, was used for this purpose. In the course of this, a growing sense for the performative potential of the typography used also emerged, so that attempts soon developed to use chats for theatre.

ATHEMOO, founded in 1995 by director and theatre professor Juli Burk on the servers of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, has achieved particular significance in the history of theatre. Originally intended as a virtual conference center for the annual meeting of the American Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), it very soon hosted virtual performances as well.

For this event, the key protagonists of the project have reunited after nearly thirty years, most notably Dr. Juli Burk, who founded ATHEMOO in 1995, and who will report on the project.

In addition, four performances will be presented, by those who invented them for ATHEMOO at the time:

MetaMOOphosis (1996) by Rick Sacks
Netseduction (1996) by Stephen A. Schrum
Oudeis (1997) presented by Monika Wunderer (Dramaturg and producer).
A Place for Souls (1997) by Twyla Mitchell-Shiner

We also welcome Nina LeNoir. As an observing theorist and spectator, she participated in all performances at that time.

Part of this digital event is a live performance to see how a MOO worked in the 1990s.
Since the original ATHEMOO no longer exists, Cynthia Haynes and Jan Rune Holmevik of Clemson University have generously offered to host an all new ATHEMOO in the MOO they created, LinguaMOO. Dr. Juli Burk, with the assistance of LinguaMOO “Wizard” Kevin Jepson, has both recreated and expanded ATHEMOO there. Rick Sacks reconstructed the setting for his 1996 Kafka performance "MetaMOOphosis" there.

When you click the link, enter ATHEMOO where you see the word Guest in the User ID field. Click log in and you will find yourself in ATHEMOO 2022. When there, use the bottom window to type.

· To explore the room, type "look" and hit enter.
· To speak, type "say xyz" and hit enter.
· To express an emotion or action, type "emote xyz" and hit enter.
· If you want to see who else is there, type "@who" and hit enter.

You are always welcome to wander around and explore.
If you have questions, please mail to:

Direct acces to the MOO


7 p.m. CET: Welcome
7:05 p.m. CET : Introduction by Julia Glesner, University of Applied Sciences, Potsdam

7:15 p.m. CET: Live performance: "The Way We Were" - ATHEMOO 1997"
By Juli Burk, Rick Sacks, Stephen A. Schrum, Monika Wunderer, Twyla Mitchell and Nina LeNoir.

7:25 p.m.: Juli Burk: ATHEMOO History - Working from Home in the 1990's.

7:40 p.m.: Five Presentations:
MetaMOOphosis (1996) by Rick Sacks
Netseduction (1996) by Stephen A. Schrum
Oudeis (1997), presented by Monika Wunderer
A Place for Souls (1997) by Twyla Mitchell-Shiner
Being in the Audience by Nina Lenoir

8:15 p.m. Living, Working and Performing at ATHEMOO: Martina Leeker in conversation with Nina Lenoir, Juli Burk, Rick Sacks, Stephen A. Schrum, Julia Glesner, Monika Wunderer and Twyla Mitchell-Shriner.


Dr. Juli Burk created ATHEMOO on the servers of the University of Hawai’i in 1995 where she produced 15+ online theatre productions for world-wide audiences, performing in several. Her work there shifted the paradigm of theatre performance from physical stages and the fourth wall to online spaces where audience members were welcomed as active participants. On the physical stage she is a director who focuses solely on plays written by and about women. Her production of Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls won awards and was featured in a BBC program about Churchill. Dr. Burk’s dissertation featured Ariane Mnouchkine and the Theatre du Soleil with whom she spent months of research at the Cartoucherie, their home in Paris. She has written and presented extensively in theatre and feminist theory as well as bringing theatre to incarcerated women in a halfway house in Hawai’i and the federal women’s prison in Connecticut. Past President of the Women in Theatre, a national organization in the U.S., Dr. Burk originally created ATHEMOO as a means for those who could not afford to attend the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) to participate in the yearly gathering. She and her colleagues soon discovered that ATHEMOO was a perfect environment to offer theatre performances to audiences in real time regardless of their physical locations.

Julia Glesner is a professor in the Cultural Work program at the FH Potsdam, Department of Culture & Management. Before working in management positions for the Erfurt Opera and later for the Klassik Stiftung Weimar, she received her doctorate in 2004 with a thesis on "Theater und Internet". Most recent publication: "Opera for All - The Biography of Sir Peter Jonas" in Suhrkamp/Insel-verlag.

Martina Leeker (Priv.-Doz.) is a media and theater scholar. Her research areas include digital cultures, performativity and digitality, critical media theory, theater and media, art and technology. She is the initiator of the Respectful Nettheatre Cannel and currently teaches at the University of Cologne. She is currently developing, together with Esther Slevogt, the series on the history and present of theater and liveness on the Internet "Performing Internet or: How Theater Came to the Net".

Dr. Nina LeNoir (pronounced 'lah-nor') studied theatrical presentations on the World Wide Web that were emerging in the early years of this new platform for artists (and the world!), which became the subject of her doctoral dissertation: Theatre in Cyberspace: The Contribution of the Theatrical Past to Performance of the Future, 1999. While teaching and theatre work took her away from this field of research, she has continued to follow with interest the development and new experiments that emerged over the years. She has taught theatre in higher education in the US since 1996, and moved into administration in 2006. She currently serves as Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Chapman University, a private university in Southern California. It is a pleasure to be reunited with folks she worked with during her early research years.

Twyla Mitchell (formerly Mitchell-Shiner) discovered ATHEMOO when she was studying for her Master’s Degree in Dramatic Art at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her fascination with MOOs and the new possible ways theatre could manifest on the Internet culminated in her Master’s Thesis, A Place for Souls, a performance in ATHEMOO that she directed and co-wrote. She later attended the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa where she spent several years working toward a PhD in Theatre, before changing to a career in performing arts ticketing. She is currently the Senior Director of Ticketing and Box Office at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Rick Sacks lives in Toronto, Canada. He composes, conducts and freelances as a percussionist. Rick has composed chamber music, orchestral works, film scores, and sound design for theatre. Along with re-installing his adaptation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis in the ATHEMOO, Rick performs with contemporary chamber ensembles. He has been composing and performing with Red Sky Performance, Canada’s premiere First Nations Theatre and Dance company for over 15 years. Red Sky performances include the Kennedy Center, Shanghai Expo, Beijing Olympics, Mongolia and throughout Germany and the Netherlands. Rick’s most recent exploration is in live manipulation of video and music streaming to Twitch.TV, Youtube and Facebook as Soundpilot.

Dr. Stephen A. Schrum, who is retiring from his position as Associate Professor of Theatre Arts at the University of Pittsburgh in Greensburg in the summer of 2022, is an Associate Member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, the professional union. With a PhD in Dramatic Art from the University of California, Berkeley, Stephen is interested in digital filmmaking, virtual performance, and playwrighting/screenwriting. Since the 1990s he has written and presented extensively on the use of technology in teaching and performance. In 1994, he created COLLAB-L, a listserv designed to promote collaboration across the internet/WWW. He wrote the play NetSeduction, performed in 1996 at ATHEMOO, blending the idea of chat environments with traditional dramatic structure. In 1999 he edited Theatre in Cyberspace: Issues of Teaching, Acting, and Directing, providing a snapshot of the use of technology by theatre artists and scholars at the turn of the century. He continued with online performance, directing several productions, including Euripides’ The Bacchae and Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, in the 3-D environment of Second Life™. He is also a novelist, filmmaker (the award-winning short, Wash Hands, Save Lives? is available on his YouTube channel stephenschrum), playwright, and podcaster; you can find Audio Chimera wherever you listen to podcasts.

Esther Slevogt is editor-in-chief and co-founder of In addition to her journalistic work, she writes non-fiction books on theater history topics. Another focus of her work is on the changes in old cultural techniques such as theater due to digitalization.

Monika Wunderer was in Austria, writing her master thesis about performances in virtual space for the University of Vienna, when she joined the team of oudeis as dramaturge & the person responsible for the international communication. She moved to New York in 1997 to pursue an M.A. in Arts Administration at Columbia University. She has since worked with institutions such as Brooklyn Academy of Music, City Parks Foundation, Wave Hill, Park Avenue Armory, Festspielhaus St. Poelten (Austria) and Cambodian Living Arts (NY & Phnom Penh), and groups including David Dorfman Dance, Mabou Mines, and Trisha Brown Dance Company and is the General Manager of The Wooster Group.

More Context in this essay on topic + event: DIE OPERATIVWERDUNG DER SCHRIFT by Martina Leeker (In German.)


This event is part of the nachtkritik-series on history and present of theater and liveness on the internet:
curated by Martina Leeker and Esther Slevogt.

Most recently, the series featured the epochal work of Sherrie Rabinowitz and Kit Galloway. As part of this event, Kit Galloway gave a lecture rich in material.


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