Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The German press talks about "Erdbeerwaisen"

The premiere of the production "Erdbeerwaisen" (Strawberry Orphans / Capsunile si Orfanii) took place last Thursday October 23 at the Staatstheater Braunschweig. 

Here is a selection of articles, tv and radio links:

Geld oder Kinder?
By Jan Fischer
>> Click here to read

Norddeutscher Rundfunk
"Erdbeerwaisen" - Eine verlassene Generation
>> Click here to watch and listen

Deutschland radio
"Erdbeerwaisen" - ein Theaterstück in Braunschweig über EU-Waisen in Rumänien
>> Click here to listen

Braunschweiger Zeitung"Erdbeerwaisen" weinen nicht
By Florian Amold

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Translating = Creating

Some thoughts on Ivor Martinic’s play “Bojim se da se sada poznajemo” (“I’m afraid we know each other now”)

by Renata Britvec, translator of the play from Croatian into German

„A language is always a whole world view”, my professor of philosophy used to say. What seems so obvious opened up a new perspective to me and raised a lot of questions. During my studies, I started to ask myself about my native language from another, broader point of view and I also started questioning how my mother tongue affected the way I express myself in German, or any other language I speak. Back then I realized how strongly my mother tongue determines my personality and how the simple fact that I am bilingual causes many misunderstandings, and that there is always the imagery, the fierceness, the head-on brutality, the meekness, the sense of humor, and the meandering ways to tell stories of my home countries which always seeps through and interferes with my expression and way of speaking.

I love my language, I love the way it creates and destroys images. I also love that you can be obvious and subtle at the same time. But how can you translate this language without losing all the richness? I realized I wanted to dedicate myself to these questions, and not only on a theoretical level. I wanted to contribute to creating an understanding for the cultures of the Ex YU countries. So I started translating, short texts at first, then longer ones, from different genres, and as my way has always led me to the theater somehow, I ended up being a translator of dramatic texts.

When Jürgen Popig of Theater and Orchester Heidelberg asked me to translate Ivor Martinić’s new play for the project The Art of Ageing, I was honored and excited. I had read Martinić’s work before and his subtle writing and his ability to create a strong narrative in dramatic texts impressed me a lot.

In Martinić’s new play “Bojim se da se sada poznajemo” (“I’m afraid we know each other now”) Ivana leaves Filip for his increasing inability to create a common narrative and therefore (a personal) history. He cannot remember important moments of their relationship, like the first time she told him she loved him, nor is he willing to remember or to recreate those moments for the sake of her – and his! - wellbeing. Even when she breaks up with him, he refuses to react appropriately. Instead of saying something valuable, he just recites what his mother told him once. Ivana cannot accept his reaction and comes back and back again to demand a real and just ending, an ending she will be able to retell as part of her personal history. As soon as they aware of the break-up, Filip’s neighbor Andreas and Filip’s friend Natalija come to support him. While Andreas is trying to persuade Filip to come Ivana’s way and find a nice ending, Natalija is holding on to her conviction that Ivana does not deserve a man like Filip anyway. The two of them probably serve as hidden undercurrents of Filip’s persona. When these antagonists eventually knock each other out and Filip is alone again, he subsequently finds a way to create the story of his relationship and to make peace with himself, with Ivana, and with their failed relationship. “I’m afraid we know each other now” is a subtle play about the human need to locate oneself in history, and moreover, to create a personal narrative, where memory, emotion and what one desires supplement the truth.

As I have stated before, Ivana leaves Filip because of his inability to create a common narrative, which means specifically that he is unable to express his emotions through language: He himself explains at a later point of the play that he always felt the most urgent need to tell her he loved her while she was asleep, and as soon as she would wake up, everything was gone. When she tells him the relationship is over, he cannot find words to express his feelings and instead quotes his mother, who told him about the best way to please a woman. He shifts his emotion into somebody else’s words, and he shifts the actual problem into something easier, more materialistic and “real”. But in the course of the play and in the course of his involvement with Andreas and Natalija, i.e. with himself, he realizes how important it would have been and still is to communicate. 

More important, he realizes he needs to actively translate his innermost feelings into words, and that he needs to talk, to narrate. He may be right with his assumption that words can never describe appropriately what we actually experience and/or feel: “How strangely do we diminish a thing as soon as we try to express it in words.”, says Maurice Maeterlinck (we’ve all been sceptics since the beginning of the 20th century, but …).

But the sole act of speaking is always a translation of what we feel, of something indescribable into words other people can share and understand. In the end Filip is able to open up and create a story by which he is able to express himself and his love for Ivana subsequently, and by doing so, he creates an end to the relationship he will be able to remember, and Ivana will be able to remember, too. By remembering and retelling their story, they will know it has been there, it has been true, and now it is over, finally.

Ivor Martinić created the play during and after the workshop with artists of Theater and Orchester Heidelberg and Gavella Theater Zagreb. With this play inspired by artists of at least two different nations, he beautifully demonstrates the human need for words, language, narration, memory and therefore history. But above all, he depicts the act of struggling for words which will translate what we feel into something we can grasp, we can understand, we can share and make peace with.

Renata Britvec, October 2014

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Rehearsals in Heidelberg - Impressions by Ivor Martinic

Rehearsals of the performance "Ich befürchte, jetzt kennen wir uns" have started in Heidelberg on October 7. Photos by Ivor Martinic. 
Click here for more information about the play

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Strawberry Picker’s Heritage – Erdbeerwaisen

The German language is like Lego pieces; the words can interlock with each other, reaching incredible lengths. They adopt each other to form new words, new subtle or specific meanings. In that regard, it is a rather poetical language, even though it may sound abrupt. In Romanian, the title of the show was Căpşunile şi orfanii (Strawberry Orphans), which in German was translated as Erdbeerwaisen, almost identical to its English title – Strawberry Orphans; this translation didn’t suggest that those children belonged to strawberries and became orphans as a result of their absence, but rather meant that they were made orphans by strawberries. The English language is more flexible than Romanian too, because it even has a word for making, turning someone into an orphan: The children were orphaned by strawberries.

(...) "we have long become accustomed to the thought that people go away to Spain, Italy, England, Greece, Germany, and many other countries where this very complicated economy seems to be more stable." (...)

When I was little, I was under the impression that the world can only evolve and constantly improve, albeit at a slower pace. It only seemed natural, perhaps thanks to the stories I read, which always ended well for everyone who was good. I honestly believed that politicians learn from past mistakes and will automatically avoid repeating history, and I was convinced that economists can only improve the methods meant to control the economy. I have no better understanding of these things now, but at least I understand that everything is much, much too complicated and that people don’t always know, or do what’s best. Nor do Romanians know whether it’s always best to go and work in other countries; but when it seems to be the only option, and many others around you are doing it, you don’t waste time in securing your chance. Thus, we have long become accustomed to the thought that people go away to Spain, Italy, England, Greece, Germany, and many other countries where this very complicated economy seems to be more stable. And we’re used to hearing stories about those who left – some better, some worse. We, from the younger generations, have friends whose parents seem to have always been away, friends who come to aspire to the same goal because it’s the best success example they’ve ever had. 

It is also commonly known, although a generalization, that the orphans whose parents have left either miss a lot of school, or barely learn anything. They also say that all Roma people went abroad to steal or beg. Lots of other stereotypes circulate among us, oral and from the media; both the foreign press and the Romanian press have magnified these stereotypes for ratings’ sake, and we’ve assumed them without even realizing. The subject of the strawberry pickers has been disputed so much that we’ve somehow forgotten to pay attention to it; which is why a performance like Strawberry Orphans turns into a fundamental reflection, because it restores an objective perspective on the situation that has been happening in Romania for such a long time. The show, created within “The Art of Ageing” project, brought together four actors: two from Romania, from the National Theatre “Marin Sorescu” of Craiova, and two from Germany, from Staatstheater Braunschweig of the homonymous city. It was also supported by Goethe-Institut Bucharest, but by WorldVision and Save the Children too, which helped the artists’ team on their research work; through these two organizations, they were able to communicate with children, grandparents and families who live the reality of having relatives that work abroad. Their stories were dramatized in the performance I saw on the 28th of September in Craiova. Actors Gina Călinoiu, Gabriela Baciu, Sven Hönig and Oliver Simon animated these characters who live among us, and who were so real on stage that they must have brought tears to spectators’ eyes throughout the performance. On stage with the actors was musician Kim Efert, who provided the live soundtrack created with an electric guitar, synthesizers, a drum brush, and rhythmic tapping on the enormous cardboard box that was, in turn, a closet, the actors’ wardrobe kit, a children’s playground, or any other necessary furniture piece. 

The actors took their part in the research work; back in Germany, all four of them spent a day on a strawberry field, picking full baskets of this significant fruit, probably reflecting on how difficult it is to perform a task like this, day after day. The show’s director, Julia Roesler, together with other members of werkgruppe2, interviewed and had discussions with approximately 30 families in the Craiova area; the stories from the show are their stories, which the team tried to transpose in all their variety. The main subject here are the children and what happens to them when they cannot grow up next to their parents. Sven Hönig, an actor who is rather well-known on the scene of German cinematography as well, and who best managed to sink into the minds and worlds of the children he interpreted, concluded that for these so-called orphans, communication becomes the most difficult thing to do. Children like these don’t receive the same attention, or the same solid structure that would allow them to grow and evolve normally, with normal children’s thoughts. If Hönig was the most credible child, Gina Călinoiu was the most sensible one; her interpretation, oftentimes incredibly touching, demonstrated a level of empathy we should expect from all the citizens of this Europe we want to live in.

The show has its moments of original humor as well, but it works to further highlight the true bitterness of reality, like the scene when the cardboard box becomes an outhouse, and an interviewer’s voice asks: was this your toilet? The reply comes: it still is! On stage, we saw children who wished their parents brought them some doll when they came back, but more than anything, that they simply returned; children who tried to raise their younger brothers and sisters almost on their own, children who were apparently rejoicing in the liberty created by their parents’ absence, grotesquely matured children, sad children, but grandparents as well, who couldn’t enjoy their retirement, worried when their children stopped calling, or fearing that someday, the money might stop arriving. Similar situations from the Roma communities were interpreted, communities where the same children who rarely have access to a real education and equal rights – due to certain traditions, but also because of a less than tolerant society which is everything but equipped for such a responsibility –, are also deprived of the presence of parents who would at least love them. In order to have a real awareness impact, at the end of every show the actors are available for discussions and questions; the more we talk about this subject, the more real it will become, and we will come closer to finding a possible solution, or at least closer to eliminating a generalizing mentality that tends to discriminate against the seasonal immigrants from the get-go in the countries where they appear, but their children as well, whose poor start in life hinders a normal evolution in society. The performance will also be played in other Romanian cities like Sibiu, Brașov and Bucharest, thereupon following a similar route through Germany.

The situation is clearly overwhelming for all those involved, perhaps even more so for those who only know of these cases, like the Romanians, or for those who meet these cases in their own countries, like the Germans, the Italians, the Spanish, the French and so on. And yet we’re the ones who might be able to help, we whose families are at least together; the people who talked to the artists from werkgruppe2 often receive aid from the NGOs involved in this project, and which are mostly interested in providing the children with school supplies, making sure they can continue with their studies even when life at home is difficult. Projects like Strawberry Orphans are necessary, because they remind us to not become used to a tough situation, even if it’s been going on for such a long time that we barely notice it anymore. Habit leads to negligence, to forgetfulness, to indifference; and the theatre must take on a social role as well, like any of the arts – something that the collaborating artists have fully managed with this show. A show which, if analyzed from a purely aesthetic point of view, is well put together, played by discerning and skilled actors, and carrying that quality of keeping spectators on the edge of their seats, only this time being uncomfortable as well, because the theme itself brought to mind conflicting thoughts and emotions; a modern show directed with precision and minimal use of raw matter, but generous in subjects, range of emotions, and interpretation.

Lia Boangiu, Essayist & translator

Friday, 10 October 2014

Strawberry Orphans – A Touching Reality

With Strawberry Orphans, being a documentary theatre play, you feel the desire to engage in a dialogue with the characters. Because you perceive the vein of the immediate reality and it is from there that the predisposition for involvement comes. Incidentally, the show even asks that implicitly and explicitly. It requires an attitude. Julia Roesler, Silke Merzhäuser, Gina Călinoiu have documented in details, working with, unfortunately, the few non-governmental organizations concerned with the fate of children who, in one form or another, are disadvantaged. Silke Merzhäuser and Axel Preuß, built, based on documentation, a well-structured dramatic, homogeneous and dense text, attractive in all respects. The subject is a current one and it demands our attention, it is challenging for debate. The topic of the play deals only with the consequences and not with the causes. How did we come to the situation of this mass labor migration? A grandmother in the story could have conjured the image of mornings before 1989, when waves of people headed for various industrial areas that provided jobs for almost everyone. And most of them were at that time highly skilled labor, whereas now it became a migration to low-skilled jobs. We could even push the question further and ask why are there so many jobs available? Without ignoring the major issue of the performance, i.e. the transfer of civilization, beyond the material quantification, a positive aspect could be added to the discussion, when parents arriving in the West acquire skills and discover modern attitudes and approaches which gradually impact in the country of origin.
Until now, this topic was barely highlighted in studies or analyses, but now this performance succeeded in addressing the topic to everyone, children and adults. The text skillfully combines stories collected from interviews with a minimum of fiction to ensure a connection and a flow that keeps the audience's attention. Being a show that brings together two cultures, it had to deal with languages. The combination of the two languages was so natural that, at no moment, the homogeneity suffered. Here, of course, the major asset were the two German actors who spoke many lines in Romanian, often with an effortless accent. Naturally, in Germany the proportion will change, Romanian becoming an element of ambience and particularity. 
Speaking of homogeneity, I would like to emphasize the perfect harmony between the German actors, Sven Hönig, Oliver Simon and the actresses from Romania, Gina Călinoiu and Gabriela Baciu. They form a team and complete each other delightfully. When the actresses emphasize the emotional side of the story, their partners offer a playful counterpoint. Their game is overflowing with inventiveness and they successfully embody children. Naughty boys, especially in a cavalcade of gestures and gags, but also with sensitive episodes. Oliver Simon has a very successful monologue as a girl and Sven Hönig goes through the full range of expressions from burlesque to tragic. Julia Roesler uses the space well, with minimal decor but successfully employed throughout the show. That huge cardboard box becomes by turns a trunk or a closet, a long table or a hiding place for children's play, a stage for Gina Călinoiu's performance, who gives an amazing performance, constantly relying on a direct relationship with the audience. That murmured chorus becomes obsessional, "I would give my life and me", especially in Kim Efert's musical adaptation, who as a discreet presence on stage, like a magician, accompanying the story with original music, played on all kind of instruments, simple or more sophisticated, joining the actors, producing melodious sounds even with the carboard box. Perhaps an accoustic guitar instead of an electric one would have induced even more emotion; perhaps choosing electronics is to remain closer to the tone of this epoch.
The five of them, together with Kim, of course, are the key to this show that deserves to be reviewed, especially since it will also be played in Germany where, I imagine, Gabriela Baciu will bring tears of emotion in the audience.
In these stories emotion is palpable. At one point in the story the children confess they want, besides the presence of their parents, of course,  a telephone. One of the smart ones existing today. This, in fact, seems to be the unanimous desire of this generation. For these so-called 'orphans', communication, especially with their parents working far away, is what they desire most. But this communication is not enough, technology being powerless to provide what a child feels, what any of us feels: the need for comfort, for touch.

Marius Dobrin

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Rehearsals have started in Heidelberg!

An E-Mail-Correspondence between the director Miriam Horwitz and the dramaturge Jürgen Popig about Ivor Marinić's play ‘Ich befürchte, jetzt kennen wir uns’ / ‘Bojim se da se sada poznajemo’

The play is based on the results of a workshop with the Croatian and the German cast who will perform the piece in Heidelberg and in Zagreb.

September 20th
Dear Jürgen,
I am asking myself what kind of importance the city has for the characters in the play. It seems to me a place where they can orientate themselves, find ways to go. As soon as they can't find themselves in it anymore, they can't survive. It seems to me a mirror of time as well as of themselves.
All the best,

October 3rd
Dear Miriam,
I also assume the city supports the characters. Here they can find the localisation that is disappearing in their existence. In our text the city is always presented in a positive way: The city is safe, the city is comfortable, that's why I love to live here, etc... At the same time this city turns out to be an imaginary place: it combines elements of Heidelberg as well as elements of Zagreb. A kind of an utopian construction of a European city in which the characters can locate themselves. In the Heidelberg production the city will be called Zagreb, in Zagreb it will be called Heidelberg. Conflict arises when the city loses its reliance: in Mirogoj cemetery the inscription of the memorial for the fallen Croatian soldiers in the first World War has been extinguished so that you can mistake it for a partisan memorial now. I am anxious to know what equivalent in Heidelberg history our author will find.

Second question: The play is part of the European theatre project „The Art of Ageing“. Where do you see the connection? In my opinion the play is about locating oneself in history. The memories of the characters change in the course of time until they cannot be sure any longer what really happened. At the same time they fear they cannot exist without history. The text says nothing about the age of the characters. I could imagine that ten years are passing between each scene. How do you think about this?

October 4th
Dear Jürgen,
that's an important question which I hope we can answer. How much time passes between the scenes? The actors in Zagreb said at first they felt the whole action would take place in a few hours, later they thought it would cover many years. Time passes and our counting of it can only be a kind of guiding rule. What does it mean to feel young or to be tired of life? How can you say, you have lived your life, you have experienced everything you could, and now it's over. For me it is exciting that not only Andreas – our ‘older’ generation – feels like this, but also Josepha (Natalija) has a reply that describes exactly that feeling. The question is, what do I have to experience in life? How many things do I have to have seen, how many questions do I have to have asked? When are we old? Is Filip young because he denies life, denies memory? He lives just in the moment, he creates his own life, not reacting to anything that lies in the past, he becomes timeless. Through that he is no longer available for the others and at the same time he is immortal. When I don't know how old I am, I am not as old as I am, am I not? The years and hours and moments we are counting are just a kind of education – I say it’s summer even if it is raining and hailing, because it is June. I believe that our history depends on ourselves. We use language for orientation, to share and communicate with each other, to become of one voice. By doing so, values have changed. At an age of 65 you are going to be a pensioner, whether you are tired of life at 30 already or even not before 80. This Orientation makes understanding possible but doesn't permit deviation. This is what the play points at: deviation.

„Man kann die Dinge nicht aufschreiben. Und wenn man sie aufschreibt, sind sie doch immer anders.
Er ist immer ein anderer."

Same as time. Perception of time – it is always deviating.


October 6th
Dear Miriam,
Let’s develop this further! Another question: You are putting the play on stage, first with a German and afterwards with a Croatian cast. I find that very unusual! Do you have different concepts and/or expectations for the two productions? 

-   to be continued - 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Premiere in Karlsruhe "The Clock is ticking"


The choir of Banat Suebians from Karlsruhe consists of women and men who all have emigrated from Romania to the Karlsruhe area in the past 30 years. All of them are retired and full of memories about their old home and their new. Here they rehearse with choir leader Hannelore Slavik the traditional Banat song: "We will not meet again as young as today. So let us sit down and sing the old songs..."


Romanian actors Sabina Bijan and Colin Buzoianu get their basic makeup.
They have to be prepared to play a maximum of 5 out of 9 roles. Peca Stefan has conceived a play with 9 scenes from which the audience chooses 5 each night.
The costume and wig changes have to happen quickly because "the clock is ticking".


A happy Heinz Doll, President of the Association of friends Karlsruhe - Temeswar, surrounded by the artists after the opening night:
Director Malte Lachmann, playwright Peca Stefan, actresses Sabina Bijan and Sophia Löffler, actors Jan Andreesen and Colin Bzoianu, designer Anna van Leen.

Cast choir and audience celebrate on stage the first performance of DIE UHR TICKT in Karlsruhe. After each performance the audience is asked on stage for a glass of sparkling wine and a piece of cake to celebrate the performance they have contributed to by voting which scene should be played next.

In her speech before the opening night, Dr. Susanne Asche, Head of the cultural department of the city of Karlsruhe, underlined the importance of artistic projects in the process of keeping the friendship between the two cities alive. On the seats: Playwright Peca Stefan and dramaturg Michael Gmaj.