Friday 12 December 2014

Eins, zwei, drei: children, parents, grandparents

by Daniela Firescu – Ramuri magazine, no.10/2014

A project in collaboration - ʺMarin Sorescuʺ National Theatre Craiova, State Theater of Braunschweig and werkgruppe2

Started within a program of the European Theatre Convention, ʺThe Art of Ageingʺ Strawberries and Orphans / Erdbeerwaisen collapses in the documentary theater, a space where artistic tools & techniques are used for and with different expectations - not to produce subtle mutations in the perception of the spectator, but to bring into debate a social problem while presenting their own version of the events. In the documentary theater, ʺdramaturgy of the realʺ (in the conceptualization of Carol Martin), art can be objective, and the actor/performer can be a person and not a character, a part in the classical acceptation of the term, applied in the dramatization procedure also applied in the dramatization performed by Julia Roesler. (...)

There are stories that reveal the true state of a widespread phenomenon - the exodus of seasonal workers, generically called ʺstrawberry pickersʺ, and especially the side effects: family disintegration, extreme situations, childhood without parents, material compensation, suffering, sadness, dissimulation. ʺWe are a happy family.ʺ is the conclusion of the first episode. There is a pattern in almost all stories related, a monologue which introduces the family drama, with digressions/confessions, a public denudation develops gradually. (...)

The episode of the two brothers is played naturally by Sven Hönig and Oliver Simon, perhaps the most convincing piece performed by the two German actors, nothing is ʺlost in translationʺ. (...)

Interesting is the option for the two cases presented - the grandmothers as feminine protecting presences, a matriarchal view on the family proves to be only a circumstance solution: lamentations, mourning of the woman living in the countryside, confused, overwhelmed (Gina Călinoiu makes a very suggestive translation between grandmother and girl) or the aggressive grandmother who says bluntly, ʺI started to get to the limitʺ. In all this madness, words are not enough, the music is a more effective means of outpouring, but all the songs reflect concretely breaking the harmony, sung false, incongruous, cried, most evidently in the song I would give up on life and you, in the two interpretations: Oliver Simon, quietly, almost intimidated, Gina Călinoiu - hard-bitten, desperate. (...)

The theater of the real is an inexhaustible source in this topic of orphans, where concealment is generalized ʺeverything is/will be fineʺ. Parents wearing cheerful, optimistic masks, where an eye is crying and the other is laughing, because (although ignored in the show), the parents’ leave (when it’s not overly extended) has a positive dimension, there is a restoring of the individual dignity, of the possibility to support one’s family - an idea best grounded on Gabriela Baciu’s performance, a speech of defeat (...), a scene that resists and stands due to the force, the intuition of the interpretation, rather than due to the script, which in most episodes prefers to stay at a documentary level, but in this context, the purpose is not the aesthetic, but the impact / the ʺaesthetic shockʺ.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Finding ways to communicate - questionning the role of theatre

by Miriam Horwitz and Anne - Mareike Hess

Reharsals for the production Bojim se da sada poznajemo (Ich befürchte, jetzt kennen wir uns) have started at the Gavella City Drama Theatre Zagreb in Croatia. The premiere will take place on January 16th. One day after the German version will be performed to the Croatian audience.

M: The piece is questioning language as, “The way” to communicate in the world. It is asking if we do understand each other, if we are able to share.
Do you have different ways of communicating to each other in the society we are living in?
Or did you find any examples you are developing?

AM: Yes, I think the piece questions the role of spoken language for our communication and the concept of language in itself. But it also questions the importance of memory and collective memory. Our interest in this context is to open up the notion of communication, to take it beyond the spoken word and to involve the whole body. We are searching for another way of speaking to each other. Through words and body we want to challenge our understanding of each other and our preconceptions as well as open up to multiple ways of interpretation.

M: The concept of communication through spoken language implies misunderstandings. This is an agreed fact, which nevertheless leads to problems. We want to create a space, in which the performers as well as the audience have the possibility to experience multiple meanings, in the pictures and the words and the way the body is moving. That means to not put one definition on a situation, or a dialogue, but several. It also means to put the audience in a position where they have to work, in this way they have to decide things for themselves - if they want one meaning. Through this opening up of definitions, we want to create a room in which the imagination and the understanding of the performer and the audience is constantly in movement.

Does that mean to push everybody towards their insecurities?
Into a state of being lost or at least shaken up?
What do you think is hidden in this moment of being shaked?
Why do we search states which are in between, whose meaning is not defined by the performer or the observer?

AM: This piece, at its roots, is questioning the fundament of our communication and therefore also us, as social beings. This approach is in a way so basic but that's exactly what makes it so difficult. We are constantly organizing and categorizing the information we perceive with our senses in order to make sense and in order to navigate through the world - and this also applies to watching a piece of theatre as an audience or performing it as an actor. In this moment where this basic understanding is challenged or even suspended, because maybe information becomes contradictory, an opening appears, a gap that we believe holds the possibility for a different approach to the known. It is a moment for possible expansion of the socially agreed. A moment where two well-known components can create something unexpected or even unknown. And this is exactly the reason why we in our work like to provoke these moments of insecurity or let's say ambiguity. The problem is of course that this new or unknown can not be predicted, because it is nearly impossible to construct, but it is through the (physical) experience of these gaps that possible new ways of thinking can be enabled.

I think it is important to know that with our work we are not suggesting or propagating just one vision for society, rather we are introducing a first step in order to raise questions. and trying to multiply the visions or even try different visions. Theatre is in our opinion the perfect media to do this, because it happens in the moment and decisions are taken live in front of and with the audience.

M: That means to open up the working process. The moment of taking a decision or not taking it. It means to put yourself as a performer in an insecurity, and show it on stage. To raise the question of how we will spend the time together in the theatre room, in the black box. In relation to the text it has to be an undecided open process, which is not ending. In that way to put the text in between you as a performer and the audience, to let them raise their own questions. So it is a constant working process on both sides.

Monday 24 November 2014

Opening night in Berlin!

Land der ersten Dinge premiered on November 14th at the Deutsches Theater Berlin. 

Exchanges and group pictures after the premiere!

Gabriele Heinz and Emília Vášáryová, actresses

The Slovak premiere will take place on November 27 at the Slovak National Theatre Bratislava. Click here for more information on the production

Links to the critics
Nachtkritik, by Simone Kaempf
Taz, by Barbara Behrendt


Wednesday 19 November 2014

Opening Night in Heidelberg

The cultural exchange has been successful – artistic team got big applause!
An audience survey by Janina Beck, Intern at Theater und Orchester Heidelberg.

We’re ready to rock and roll: Sunday, 16 November 2014


While the first spectators are entering the theatre, taking off their soaked jackets and give them to the cloakroom attendant I try to figure out their previous knowledge and expectations of „Ich befürchte, jetzt kennen wir uns. I am interested in what they think about such projects in line with the ongoing globalisation of the world.

Anna Maria L. from Heidelberg replies: “Such projects are more than important! They are a chance to get to know theatre esthetics from different countries and to gain new perspectives.“

Sophia R. from Rauenberg agrees: ”I’m interested in the cultural exchange. I hope that contemporary drama brings more young people with different cultural background together and notably to go to the theatre. I hope we, as the audience, will notice this exchange.“

18h55: The doors open

The venue is wrapped in a spooky dark light with generated fog and the public is sitting dangerously close to the action. It’s so quiet you could hear a pin drop.

Dieter B. from Heidelberg: “The stage design is very impressive. The audience is sitting vis-à-vis, that’s new for me. It’s like the searching and penetrating looks from the actors interfuse me.“

Annette P. from Heidelberg likes the stage very much: “It’s unique that it’s rotatable and formed like a walkable ramp! I like the timber and the details very much.

Credit: Annemone Taake

My first thought after the actors enter the stage is about their wondrous suits. It’s a mixture of fabulous and abstract designs.

So much for the first impressions…

First the actors stand next to each other and move slowly and controlled but little by little they get more hectic and ecstatic.

Stephan from Frankfurt compliments: “The fantastic physical-athletic performance is well done, chapeau!

The audience is impressed by the extraordinary way of movement and the imbrication of several theatrical methods.

Marlene P.-S. from Trier agrees: “This interlinking is new for me, but exciting!“

“A successful combination, the movements have extended the language.“ (Peter Z., Frankfurt)

Erika M. from Heidelberg contradicts: “I can’t understand the physical activity referring to the subject. Everything is like a bit too flurry, too loud and too disturbing.“

The first spoken sentence hits! It shook me up, while before I was totally captured by and immersed in the movement.” (Alexander W. from Heidelberg)

This first sentence of the play sets the course for the play: As Ivana leaves Filip it turns out that he can’t remember special moments, for example like their first love confession. Furthermore he’s also not ready to recapture this memory.

It is very interesting how the public thinks about narrated time and narration time:

I think there are some time jumps. I also believe that this story can happen anywhere, whether the people are young or old.“ (Erika M., Heidelberg)

Marlene P.-S. from Trier describes it by a single word: “Timeless!“

I also want to know which actor the audience likes the most - But they couldn't agree:

Lisa Förster has the attitude of a ballerina.“ / “She shows so much strengths but looks really gracile.“ / “Ivana has an excellent pronunciation.“

I was so surprised about the big voice of the petite actress Josepha Grünberg.“ / “She has a lot of humor and knows how to entertain.“

I’m impressed by Fabian Oehl’s strength and his body control.“

I think Andreas Seifert’s skill is based on his experience.“ (Stephan, Frankfurt)

  Credit: Annemone Taake

Another question from the survey was: “Which scenes did you particularly like or dislike?“

"I like a lot the quiet moments. In these scenes it’s easier for me to understand the narration“. (Anna-Maria L., Heidelberg)

I didn’t see the memories that this play was about." (Erika M., Heidelberg)

The emotional song by Ivana was really cool. Was it “Lithium” by Nirvana?!" (Alexander W., Heidelberg)

 “I didn’t like the physical violence.“ ( Susanne M., Heidelberg)

I’m glad that no one had been injured!” (Peter Z., Frankfurt)

21h15: A big applause for the actors and the team around Miriam Horwitz!

21h30: While the public compliments the actors and the team, I’m handing out my questionnaire and interview some audience members.

During my research I thought about the topic and the difficulty of the project, and that’s what I want to know now from the audience, too: Has the production inspired you to think about something?“ / Are there unresolved questions?

I have been thinking about what it means to be an actor.“ (Barbara K., Frankfurt)

I cogitated about nihilism and war.“ (Marlene P.-S., Trier)

I asked myself all the time if someone would die.“ (Alexander W., Heidelberg)

I talked with some ladies about maturing and how they define it, according to the motto of the project “The Art of Age!ng”:

Age means to me maturity“ / “Ageing means to me to evaluate memories.“ / “Ageing is a wonderful experience.“

Credit: Annemone Taake

To give a résumé

The audience liked the high skilled actors, the special design of the stage and the richness of details. The experimental use of phisicality detached from direct meaning of the spoken wod presented a challenge to the viewer. 

The rehearsals of the Croatian production will start next week in Zagreb. The audience from Heidelberg is already cuirous to see the result and wishes the Croatian team and Miriam Horwitz

“Good luck!“, „Viel Glück!“ and „Sve najbolje!“

A few words about me

A few weeks ago, my ntership tutor explained to me what to do, I remembered she said:
Acquaint yourself with the production, work into it, it’s important to know what the audience is thinking“At that point we wanted to figure out how my voluntary project would look like. Realizing a project is the task of each volunteer of the „Landesvereinigung kultureller Jugendbildung Baden-Württemberg“ so I, Janina Beck, a 19-year-old girl from a small town, 30 kilometer away from Heidelberg, working one year at press department, decided to do a survey with the audience of the opening night.

“To look behind the curtain“ or what I did in the last few weeks

To prepare this survey, I attended the rehearsals and the press conference just a week ago.

It was the first time for me to visit a rehearsal without audience, where only the team is present, and I was amazed by the atmosphere which was magical but also very professionnal. Right after that, I started to work on the topic and made this questionnaire, printed 100 copies and built a carboard box to receive the survey on the opening night.   

Wednesday 12 November 2014

What kind of stage director are you?

A portrait of Miriam Horwitz, Director of the play "Ich befürchte, jetzt kennen wir uns"

Es gefällt dir, Zuschauer,
nur Zuschauer anderer zu sein.
Aber heute, Zuschauer,
bist du nicht nur das.

10:00 o’clock. Pia Dederichs, costume designer, still isn’t here.
2 Minutes later she arrives. 
Too late. 
It’s the third time Pia is late, which means she has to cook for the whole team. 
This is just one of Miriam Horwitz’s rules.

Then Miriam starts the daily warm-up. 
30 minutes of fitness, stretching and poweryoga. 
That’s one of her other rules. 

She loves discipline, hard work, physical strength and health.
This means that she demands a lot from her actors.
But not only in a physical sense, also intellectually...
A lot of time is allocated during the rehearsals for talking. 
About current themes, politics, and society, mostly referring and connected to the project of course. Even the actors give special presentations about chosen topics.

Although her way of leading is quite strict, she really wants to create a team around her. 
Everybody’s opinion, suggestion or advice is welcome. 
She is really interested in everyone's impressions during rehearsals, even from the young students or interns (I have not seen any other director who includes everyone from the artistic team, no matter which position they have). 
She creates a very familial atmosphere. It is not just some people working together for a few weeks; working with Miriam Horwitz means spending a period of your lifetime together. And it can be really fun. Her energy is impressive and contagious. She herself is a performer during the rehearsals from time to time, playing the king, the teacher, the mother or just being crazy. 

She wants artistic freedom, meaning time and liberty for the process, for creating, finding, forming, trying, failing, and building a team, which is 100% dedicated to the project, working towards an aim, which is never 100 % definite. 
This way of working is not always easy when putting it in the context of a city theatre, with its hierarchical structure, its bureaucratic system and the lack of time.

It’s like the dramaturge Bernd Stegemann says: 
“The director’s force crystallizes in the ability to turn the genuine character of the text, with his chosen propositions and together with the actors, to a new quality. 
The greater this force is, the more successful the performance can get, or the more disastrous its failure“.
This is the risk more directors should take.
Miriam does.

After all Miriam's work is essentially about finding a new language on stage.
And it is not just the actors, the lighting technician or even me that have to learn it. 
It’s important for the audience to understand her intention and to grasp a feeling for her artistic cosmos, because and especially this time, from the very first show of „Ich befürchte, jetzt wir kennen uns“ we will be on our own conducting it, having no cues, no scenic lighting – we will decide which light and when. We are free to make our own decisions.  So are the actors. We have built a framework in which we can move.  
Our strength is in our intuition and the trust we have in each other.

Miriam's work opens spaces, in which the audience has to fill with their interpretation, with their thoughts, associations, mental connections and imagination.
The audience has to be awake and aware, 
just as Miriams actors/dancers/performers have to. 
And if the audience is willing to „work“ and not only wanting to be entertained,  maybe they will find out what Miriam's work is about.

„It’s the spectator, not life, that art really mirrors“. 
(Oscar Wilde)

Juri Padel
Assistant Director

 Miriam Horwitz, Credit: Pia Dederichs

Thursday 6 November 2014

Welcome Berlin!

Berlin, November 6 2014
Miriam Kičiňová takes a look back on the mutual work started with the Deutsches Theater Berlin one year ago, and the play "Land der ersten Dinge" (written by Nino Haratischwili). The premiere is next week on November 14. 

It has been already some time before the start of the project „Bludičky“. But now the third part of the journey through the topic of ageing starts for me.   

The first part of the trip started some time ago. It was a year ago when I met Nino Haratischwili, Christa Müller, Malin Nagel and Ulrich Beck for the first time and we started to talk about the topic, our work on the text together and the performances in Berlin and Bratislava.

It was really fun to work on this, but also quite hard to explore our common and very different history.  We searched for an interesting approach. And after that Nino came up with her story. A nice story. A strong story. A sad story. A story of hope. A story that tells us that we can understand things better when we know each other’s origins. 

And after that, we discussed our visions a lot, our different readings of our history. We had deep talks about feelings that are based on our personal experiences, feelings that remain hidden in our subconsciousness because of historical experiences. Maybe this is why we are still going back to the past. We are still trying to understand, trying not to forget. Thanks to Bludičky, a very important part of my history was opened up to me, the history of my family, as well as that of lots of families in Slovakia. And it is nice that this was opened up to me by someone from abroad. Someone, who can see things in a more objective way. Thanks to Bludičky, we can also understand the history of the last 50 years of German families. Thank you, my German friends. 

The second part of the trip took place in Bratislava and it was very strong. We started to rehearse the  play Land der ersten Dinge/Bludičky. It was a deep, strong and also passionate meeting. The rehearsals were about questioning, searching and changing. We worked in such a nice atmosphere together and I cannot continue writing without saying thank you to the team : Brit, Karin, Niko, Peter and Thies. For me, it was so impressive to see the work of Gabi Heinz on stage. Of course I know the work of our actors, but seeing her work was something totally new for me and very inspiring for my future work. How is it possible, at the same time, to see a strong emotion on stage and acquire distance to it, always immediately, intensively, and so easily? 

A big part of our journey is already over. We really had fun and enjoyed it so much. Of course when comparing two different working system of two big theatre houses, we have to admit that it is not always easy to understand each other and that everyone has different expectations. But the whole experience was very enriching, even if that sounds cliché. But the journey is not over yet, the most important part is in front of us now. 

For me, it starts right now, as I just arrived in Berlin to join the team during rehearsals. We are still researching and trying to understand our history, and history in general, better. Therefore, welcome to Berlin! 

To be continued....

Miriam Kičiňová

Dramaturge at the Slovak National Theatre, Bratislava

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Immersion into rehearsal

Glimpse of a dialogue between the actors of the production "Ich befürchte, jetzt kennen wir uns" (Theater und Orchester Heidelberg)

We have to be careful not to celebrate the sentences too much and by that give them just one meaning. That would be wrong.

You could compare that awareness of the language to the situation when you don't just produce a sound while singing but you listen to yourself develop that sound and you feel it and sing it out because you want to hear it.

One is exposed on stage and has to be careful not to fall off it. And while doing that, you have to say your lines and pay attention to how you say them and know what they mean and on top of that you have to play with the audience.

I am in a weird state right now. I can't say I have understood but I notice that there is something developing.

Sometimes emotions arise from the examination of the text while you say the words. For example, you start to cry because you notice that you ask "do you remember" three times and nothing happens.
If an emotion arises from somewhere else but the lines, we can just let that emotion happen if it fits the scene. That makes us sincere.

Learn to be in the moment more than just on stage - what is staged, what is the moment?

For me it is about the effort of making the unvisible visible.

We miss each other in the attempt of communicating and sharing. Speech is breath is body.
We are building a language.
We are banging against walls, verbally and literally.

We need to move our utopia from an island to the land.
An abstract utopia can't age.
Utopical ideas are more similar to maps than to tales.
Each figure has their own time.
Our economy of gazing. 
Affective presences. 
Hug machine   
The ship has to go over the mountain.
Do we have strange memories?
We are not animals in herds but hunters who hunt in groups.
Can the mountain grow so that the audience sits inside of it?
We are eating "snowballs" and "icecream", sticking ourselves to one another, we are melting and desolving, between all of that we are killing ourselves and afterwards our remains stood on the roots of the old maple tree that had been burried deep for a long time.