__MAIN_TEXT__
feature-image

Page 1

theatrama Theater Magazine for Makers and Audience

Sebastian Blasius, Marianna Salzmann, Mischa Twitchin Ana Zirner, EGfKA, Katharina Herold, Marijana Cosic Volume 1, 2013

Curtain Call: Political Theatre


We would particularly like to thank our friends Daniel Schüssler, Dorothea Förtsch, Giovanna Chiara Gilges (ANALOGTheater Köln), Phillip Austerfield, Claude, Julia Lauber, Christine Smuda, Mischa Twitchin, and Brett Bailey.


Editorial Katharina Herold and Daniel Austerfield

‘One can dare anything in the theatre and it is the place where one dares the least.’ So far Eugène Ionesco. We want to ask a question in return: ‘What does it take to dare?‘ theatrama, wants to take the reader, young theatre makers and theatre audiences, on a journey through different fields of interest connected to theatre and the performative arts. On this journey we offer young theatre makers’ perspectives, describing a range of theoretical considerations and practical experiences in an international context. This first issue asks whether and how theatre can remain, or become, a space for political discourse. In response, we present a selected insight into the current discussion of the political potential of theatre. Our authors consider German, English, Greek, and Iranian politics and theatre landscapes, and explore the interdependencies of theatre and politics in an international network. Facing the increasingly high dependency on the economic instability worldwide our authors have to re-phrase their ethos: theatre on politics vs. politics in theatre. With theatrama we want to show their personal processes of theatrical creation wherein they articulate their political voices, and allow the reader to retrace the conditions of their practical political work. Whereas their common objective is to create political theatre, their approaches are manifold. In this issue scholar and director Sebastian Blasius explores the suitability of theatre as a medium for political discourse. Regarding this framework, our authors discuss their ways and experiences, thus leading us through theoretical and practical controversies. A practical need for political theatre stands against a denial of entering a country ever again and many overwhelming cultural experiences. In this sense, have an inspiring journey. 02


Content

The Medium covers the Message Sebastian Blasius questions the ability of theatre to act politically.

He outlines the major difficulties theatre has to face in order to unfold its full political potential: its medial nature, its predictability of being theatrical, the actual dependencies on politics, and its very own conventions of reciprocal perceptibility.

..... 5

In Search of an Audience (Interview) Mischa Twitschin compares the practicalities of producing theatre

in Britain and Germany, the need of space to appeal to an audience intellectually, and the importance of teaching young theatre makers to ask questions. In this interview he traces how these conditions determine the successful search for an audience.

... 13

‘The Exodus leads into the Theatre’– On how to be political when making political theatre Sabrina Apitz, Florian Thamer and Tina Turnheim consider the possibilities and limitations of making political theatre today by analysing the preparation workshop for their production „FATSA/ KOINA: Athen“ held in the occupied Embros Theatre in Athens. 3

... 19


The Stage as Satellite Ana Zirner explains the will to set in motion a political conscious-

ness with her work at Satellit Produktion. In this she shares her experiences of preparing for a production in Iran, that ultimately caused the Republic to deny her any further entry to the country. Yet, what she brought back with her were remarkable insights and a deep connection to the people.

... 29

Blackfacing - On the Representation of Ethnic Minorities on Berlin and London Stages Katharina Herold illuminates the theatre practise of ‘blackfacing’

with reference to a selection of performances and plays on Berlin and London stages. She pleads for a social diversity without instrumentalisation of stereotypes.

... 35

Responsibity (Interview) Marianna Salzmann talks about this interview, the author and

director talks about the importance of political theatre and her personal responsibility to issue political matters. She thereby gives insight into her method of working, the constant need to travel and the importance of talking to people without a set of preoccupations.

... 41

The Emphasis on Character Marijana Verhoef Ćosić provides insight into her work ‘Amster-

dam’ and the rich as well as difficult situation of being raised in three different cultures. She outlines how the development of her characters become the starting point of her writings, through the process of which she is able to sharply and intriguingly depict light and shadow of culture and society.

... 47 04


The Medium covers the Message Sebastian Blasius

Sebastian Blasius works as a director, choreographer, theatre scientist, and lecturer. Amongst others, he has published articles on Samuel Beckett, the Theoreme of Presence, and theatre and politics. His practical work aims at articulating a doubt or some form of melancholia towards sociopolitical effects of theatre. His last work ERASING CAFÉ M premiered in June 2013. 5

Hans-Thies Lehmann asserts in the epilogue of his classic Postdramatisches Theater [Postdramatic Theatre], theatre cannot not know ‘whether it did anything, caused anything, or even mean anything’ [1]. This is the more astonishing, coming from an acknowledged specialist on Brecht, when Brecht’s work became prominent particularly because of his intention to move the public; he whose work on alienation stood under the premise of influencing the attitude of the spectator, of presenting a world fully to the recipient’s account. [2] Yet, in Lehmann’s statement the presumed performative act of theatre, which could resume and manifest a certain reality under ‘proper circumstances’, is cancelled. [3] In addressing this assumed deficiency, this article enquires the political effectiveness of theatre due to its medial character. Theatre cannot be political per se in the sense of an intentional act – thus the starting point of this article. It cannot, since theatre is not a space of communication where the integrity and clearness of the message is not essentially interrupted. Moreover, it is questionable whether theatre’s embeddedness in the cultural context undermines its practical political impact. Due to theatre’s inherent features it will always remain decodable, be predictable and impede subversion. Now, how can this assumed poverty of


judged in respect to its sociopolitical effect? Can its political potential alternatively consist in understanding the work of art in its autonomy or utopia? [Theatre ≠ Medium ≠ Politics] Jean-Luc Nancy differentiates between the spheres of politics and art in general. According to him, art cannot celebrate a world order or fate, so that consequently, art is projected onto politics. In his view, art starts denouncing human wickedness and social or economical responsibilities. Yet, art has never been thought of under a political efficacy, nor any efficacy whatsoever. What art is about should remain ‘outside the world’. With reference to the ceremonial or ritualistic character of art and theatre, a first separation of the spheres can be constituted. Consequently, these spheres do not direct the act of art and theatre to practical politics. When we ask whether theatre can generally depict a performative act the question could be denied referring to a thesis of Lehmann: unlike a terrorist act, the performative act would be unintentional. Even more, it would be no ‘simple performative act’ [4] and no setting in the logical realm of means and purpose. We can support this thesis with considerations of the medium. Maurice Blanchot assumes that language (as an example for a medium) also always speaks of that which eludes from what is spoken about. Thus, every word also refers to an absence. [5] Now, if we adapt this thinking to theatre, we will shortly see that here, too, the clearness, the intentionality of a performance always bear witness to what is excluded. In order to benefit lucidity, theatre refers to a void, which might contradict an actual staging in terms of forms of expression or employed theatrical means. According to Walter Benjamin, the clarity of means always denotes a form of barbarism, because deciding for one thing also means killing every other possibility of

display. Theatre’s ability to act intentionally becomes even more questionable if we are to consider its medial constitution: Theatre scholars cannot reach a consensus on ‘whether theatre is a medium itself or should be understood as a medium.’ [6] Even if we agree that a medium is a means for another purpose, hence carrier for another kind of information, it is difficult to bring this into accordance with theatre: a performance takes place as intermedia, spatiotemporal event, which implies the participation of an audience and makes them co-constituents of the event [7]. This in turn undermines the creation of a homogeneous space of communication. The doubt whether theatre can transmit political intentions can be expressed in light of many modern theatrical productions. In productions by René Pollesch, Andcompany & Co, or Laurent Chétouane the theatrical elements always insist on their materiality and peculiarity. Their material, spatiotemporal character does not disappear behind a message about something else. As elements they show that they produce something. When, for example, the actors and dancers in Chétouanes’s performances repetitively stare at the audience (often for a long time) and make the audience part of their theatrical process, the viewer is made aware that he is in a specific place at a certain point in time; that he is part of a group together with others who experience and co-produce meaning and sense. Productions like these place the political aspect of the performance situation centre stage. Working on and with the medium is already political in itself: simply by having performers appear in front of an audience politics is at work, even before this appearance is explicitly connected to an artistic or political aim. The viewer’s look at the stage, for example, is ‘all but neutral’. It creates a ‘visual power relationship’, because the view is strongly shaped by ‘standardised expectations’.[8] 06


Understanding the actual (inter-)media quality of theatre as political matter however always seems to testify a doubt about the political effect of theatre beyond its own sphere. Here again a look to Benjamin is worthwhile. He argues that the theatre of the Counterreformation secularised time by ‘provocatively putting forward’ itself as being theatrical, avoiding to be considered a ‘substitute for salvific history’. [9] Self-referential negotiation of performance as political matter in modern theatrical productions can be understood as a secularisation of the assumption that theatre had the capacity of acting politically or educationally beyond its own sphere. Theatre’s self-referential negotiation of its means, examining its constituents and intermedial processes as political matter, is its potential and, at the same time, its poverty. Performance always confirms its theatrical nature. It certifies itself with a general predictability of the audience and sets in motion a set of conventions (of reception). These conventions make a socio-political impact beyond this predictability problematic. If we do not want to completely deny theatre’s potential political impact, it seems to be most promising to start at theatre’s ignorance of its own socio-political effectiveness. Theatre can hardly evade this crisis of meaning if it clings to its inherent theatrical mechanisms. So what does that imply? [Openings and Closings: Taming of the Subversive] Revealing itself as theatre, it ranks among those places Michel Foucault calls ‘heterotopia’: whorehouses, cemeteries, mental institutions, theatres etc. are ‘effectual places, (…) so to speak oppositions or counter-places to effectively realised utopias, in which the actual places of culture (…) are contested or turned’. A heterotopia is connected to all

other places but ‘nevertheless (contradicts) all other positionings’. Foucault notes that a heterotopia like theatre always presumes a ‘system of openings and closings’ since, he continues, you can only enter ‘with a certain form of permission and the performance of certain gestures’.[10] A system of openings and closings ideally makes theatre a self-sufficient place, a place of concentrated thinking and perceiving. It becomes a place of failure and crisis in light of the prevailing principles of our economic civilisation. Such a system, too, renders theatre predictable: it functions as both, a disciplined and disciplining authority, especially because you can only enter ‘with a certain form of permission and the performance of certain gestures’. It behaves disciplining insofar as it reveals itself as a theatrical medium in terms of scope, architecture, manner of representation etc. Therein it gets controllable and can become manipuliative. At the same time, these inherent features uphold the disciplining function by, for example, rebuking the audience to a certain way of perception and concentration, even to a cultural habitus when entering the theatre. Hence, as long as theatre can be identified and labelled as theatre it seems doubtful whether it could ever be anything else than theatre. Hardly any tendency in the performing arts can escape the suspicion of producing certain conventions through their openings and closings, thereby subverting their own subversive powers. [Overcoming the Police-likeness of Theatre] Theatre’s precarious status regarding political action thus is not just a question of medium. It is particularly a question of the actual conditions under which theatre exists and operates. We can try to grasp that with Jacques Rancière’s notion of the ‘distribution of the sensual’. In the distribution of the sensual, everything has 08


Contradicting the heterotopia of the cementery.


its own place, which, for Rancière, is secured and administered almost if by the police. According to Rancière, a political act, however, subverts the fixed and administered distributions; it breaks up sensual formation. In short, it re-arranges the ways of acting, being, and telling as intrusions into established structures. The predictability of the political action of theatre could count as a result of such a distribution. For example: Over the last 20, 30 years – mostly in German-speaking cities – performance and production spaces of the fringe theatre and performance scene [Freien Szene] have emerged. In dissociation from the institutional theatre houses, those spaces understand themselves as spaces of experimentation, genre-overlapping performing arts, and as spaces of a non-bourgeoisie cultural industry. People were searching for open artistic spaces that were not so much bound to the number of sold tickets or the cultivation of a dramatic repertoire. Despite precarious working conditions these open spaces were to enable an uncompromisingly reflection on alternatives to: prevailing mechanisms of the cultural industry, power structures, forms of representation, identity and community in times of globalisation. Even today the allocation between institutional theatre houses and the fringe theatre is still commonplace. The fringe theatre tends to label institutional houses ever so often ‘accomplices of mainstream’. The free scene on the other hand is hardly taken seriously by the institutional houses for their supposed amateurism and more and more criticised for the coherence with neo-liberal working conditions. Approaches between the two remain a thoroughly calculated exception. Yet, such an allocation creates and furthers predictability: It is almost a convention of the performance scene to develop alternatives to mechanisms of power, representation strategies, and entertainment apparatuses. These are then visited and, in a sense, affirmed by a mostly academic and critical

audience. The task is to overcome this predictability and create new chances of subversion. [Theatre without Theatre, as a track of itself] Accordingly, it is not surprising that new forms of theatre are researched and explored repeatedly, with the aim of diminishing theatre’s conventional inherent features. These new forms seem to find a close proximity to Actionism or the interventionistic, even though they articulate themselves in an aesthetically independent way. This area of conflict and tension can open up new spaces of thought without being inevitably decodable as a disciplined or disciplining medium. In his talk at last year’s Berliner Festspiele Lehmann explained that theatre could act by ‘remaining a practice closely connected to, yet clearly distinct from, politics (…) through its reality as aesthetic behaviour’ [11]. In order to be political, theatre subverts its stable constitution of being theatre and yet, as an independent practice, maintains its distance to moral-political action. A work close to this idea is the performance is Zwei Minuten Stillstand [Two Minutes Standstill] by the Israeli Artist Yael Bartana. With respect to Jom haSho’a, the Israeli commemoration day for the victims and resistance fighters of the Holocaust, on the morning of June 28th, 2013 Bartana tried to halt Cologne’s (Germany) everyday life for two minutes: schools, soccer practice, productions, any movement in the public space should stand still with the aim of, for instance, asking questions for forms of commemoration, as well as collective and individual remembrance. The performance jeopardised conventional forms of appearance of theatre and art. It planted itself into the everyday and scrutinised without losing touch with the roots of theatre as a ritual. According to Lehmann, art and theatre today increasingly start associating themselves with 10


all other opportunities and possibilities outside established artistic genres. They thereby adopt other forms so that we may need to revise current conceptions of art. Referring back to Nancy, art, including theatre, transpires perhaps only as a ‘track’ of itself. Nancy himself argues that it should be the task of politics to allow for the exertion of art without dictating forms or even making theatre depending on politics. This would mean that politics ought not to hinder theatre from dissolving those police surveillance, from a transformation of its defining features as medium, from it being named, and from being predictable as a heterotopia. Heiner Müller said that the quality of some of Frank Castorf ’s productions was that they gained their strength precisely from being ‘arranged and constructed according to the golden ratio’, even though we could see ‘potato salad or filth flying across the stage’. [12] Despite all the subversion of norms or established canonical forms, an element of a transcendental ordering principle remained; an alien element, which contradicted the specially developed processes. Hence, theatre makers should be encouraged not to relinquish this ‘track of art’ in their transformations – not for reasons of discipline or nostalgia, but as means of an ethical questioning, as an interruption of one’s own options. [Notes] [1] Hans-Thies Lehmann, Postdramatisches Theater, Frankfurt am Main: Verlag der Autoren, 2005, S. 460 [translation Daniel Austerfield]. [2] Bertolt Brecht, Über experimentelles Theater, in: Ibid., Große kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe, Berlin/Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1988-2000, No. 22.1, p, 540561, here p. 555 [translation D. A.]. [3] Nikolaus Müller-Schöll, Das Theater des ‘konstruktiven Defaitismus’, Frankfurt am 11

Main: Stroemfeld, 2002, p. 385-407, here p. 407. [4] Lehmann, Postdramatisches Theater, p. 461 [translation D. A.]. [5] Maurice Blanchot, Das Ende der Sprache schreiben, Solothurn: Engeler, 2007. [6] Henri Schoenmakers, Stefan Bläske et.al., ‘Einleitung: Theater und (andere) Medien. Themen und andere Positionen’, in: Ibid. (Eds.) Theater und Medien. Grundlagen - Analyen Perspektiven. Eine Bestandsaufnahme, Bielefeld: Transcript, 2008, p. 13-28, here p. 14 [translation D. A.]. [7] Kati Röttger, ‘Intermedialität als Bedingung von Theater: methodische Überlegungen’, in: Henri Schoenmakers, Stefan Bläske et.al. (Eds.), Theater und Medien, p. 117-124. [8] Rudi Laermans, ‘Politik des Zuschauens’, in: Nikolaus Müller-Schöll et.al. (Eds.), Performing Politics. Politisch Kunst machen nach dem 20. Jahrhundert, Berlin: Theater der Zeit, 2012, p. 43-53, here p. 43 [translation D. A.]. [9] Samuel Weber, ‘Mitteilbarkeit’ und ‘Exponierung’ [translation D. A.]. [10] Michel Foucault, ‘Andere Räume’, in: Karlheinz Barck et.al. (Eds.), Aisthesis. Wahrnehmung heute oder Perspektiven einer anderen Ästhetik, Reclam, 1992, p. 34-46, here p. 39/44 [translation D. A.]. [11] Hans-Thies Lehmann, ‘Ästhetik des Aufstands? Grenzgänge zwischen Politik und Kunst in den neuen sozialen Bewegungen’, held on October 10th, 2012. A record can be found here. [12] [Interview with Ute Scharfenberg] Heiner Müller, ‘Theater ist Krise, Arbeitsgespräch vom 16. Oktober 1995’, in: Frank Hörnigk, Martin Linzer, Frank Raddatz,Wolfgang Storch, Holger Teschke (Des.): ‘Ich Wer ist das Im Regen aus Vogelkot Im Kalkfell. Für Heiner Müller. Arbeitsbuch, Berlin 1966 (Theater der Zeit, ‘Sonderheft Heiner Müller’), p. 136-143, here p. 140. Further Reading: Michel Foucault, Hans-Thies Lehmann, Jean-Luc, Nancy, Samuel Weber


Two Minutes Standstill in Cologne, Germany.


In Search of an Audience A Dialogue with Mischa Twitchin

Mischa’s teaching at Goldsmiths College covers performance making as well as courses on Modernism, Post-Modernity, and Polish theatre. Being a member of a performance collective himself he combines theoretical knowledge with practical experience. In this interview we asked Mischa about the political significance of working conditions in Britain and Germany, the difficult search for an audience, and the importance of teaching.

Mischa Twitchin is a founder member of the performance collective, Shunt. He also makes his own performance projects. Working in the Theatre and Performance Department at Goldsmiths College, University of London, his teaching addresses theoretical and practical aspects of theatre, performance and culture.

13

Katharina Herold (for theatrama): As a lecturer of drama at Goldsmiths College you teach, amongst others, a course on specifically Polish theatre and Kantor. Where does your involvement with Polish theatre come from? Mischa Twitchin: Indeed, how and why do different theatres fascinate different people’s imagination – this is a vital question for theatre studies, beyond simply biographical interest! What sort of experience does theatre offer specifically? This is also a question for teaching, of course. What might a ‘history of Polish theatre’ mean for a class taught in English, in London today – not least in the context of the contemporary British theatre that the students are seeing?


theatrama: I guess it is quite hard to define such a thing as the European theatre scene. Most of the time when I go to the theatre here in London the theatre event itself is a much more commercialised experience than a stereotypically stiff evening in a German theatre where it is frowned upon to bring your beer or food into the auditorium etc.. From my limited perspective I then blame this sense of commercialisation of the arts on the British arts funding system. For example Shunt’s production of The Architects, running earlier this year in London, was theatre I enjoyed where I found both, entertainment and thought-provoking intellectual content. However, I heard and read about how much struggle is involved with producing such theatre in Britain, theatre I take something away from as opposed to pure mass-entertainment. This always makes me wonder how strongly the actual artistic product is determined by a dependency on the working conditions? Twitchin: This is an issue for everyone, everywhere. I mean at the end of the 60s you have the Mitbestimmung endeavour, which didn’t last. Claus Peymann left Frankfurt because the authorities said, no we are not going to support you in this. But then he has a year at the Schaubühne and realises that it is not for him. And god knows, he’s running an ensemble now with a clear hierarchy. But still, for people like Peymann and Peter Stein, this question was part of their careers. I am sure that there are other theatre companies in which this question is still alive and active. In this country it was similar. There were the theatre collectives in the 60s and 70s, which don’t appear in the institutional history that is devoted to playwrights. Perhaps the most prominent was Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop – but one might think of the People Show, Red Ladder, Welfare State International, Lumiere and Son. So many – and some of them still going strong! But the question remains – envisioning the

outcome of the work in terms of a division of labour, and that division of labour being conceived of as either something collective or hierarchical. Behind this is, of course, an ethical question of responsibility and participation. With the German Staatstheater [State’s theatre] the dramaturgy has to engage with a repertoire’s relation to the community – not least, but not only, the subscribers. But then that community is also the employees of the theatre and there is also the responsibility they have between themselves for the theatre’s work. It is not so obvious that the Intendant [artistic director of a Staatstheater] has a free hand either. The theatre is in a relation to the local council which is telling him or her how much money can be spent. So there is always a whole network of responsibilities before anything happens on – or off! – stage. However, we don’t have a Staatstheater system in this country, with its vital relation between repertoire, ensemble, and audience. theatrama: Being used to the Staatstheater system, it always strikes me as an alienating concept to have professional theatre makers who have to have another job in order to pursue their artistic work, mostly on a non-profitable basis. In comparison to Germany where – despite tough competition – prospects for young theatre makers seem almost idyllic. In Munich, for instance, granted that it is one of the richer German cultural hot spots, young directors have the chance to apply for funded start-up projects worth 12.000 Euros. That can be seen as very generous. However, having another job might actually be quite healthy. Artists in England consciously commit their time to their work. In Germany financial security often leads to pointless indulgence. Would you agree? Twitchin: Ah – squaring the circle! In this country it was deemed a victory that the arts were ‘only’ cut by 5% in the government’s last budget. The very idea of public investment – 14


with its implications of a public benefit – is something that governments in the UK have systematically denigrated for years. And with private sponsorship it is always, of course, the same as in Biblical times – to those that already have shall be given more. Although there are the kinds of opportunity you mention within the institutional theatres, they also come at a price. Nobody is going to mistake the fact that this is your big career opportunity. You get your 12.000 Euros and three weeks in the studio theatre – but you can’t fuck up! The theatre is betting on a ‘successful’ production, rather than your longterm development as a theatre maker necessarily. But then again you could be in a quite different environment, such as Brecht operated, for example, nurturing a group of colleagues. Of course, he ran the show, but even students might arrive and become part of a team of dramaturgical and directorial assistants. I suppose it depends on the confidence of a director, to sustain this kind of dialogue. So, there are assistant directors’ schemes in this country – as at the Young Vic or the Royal Court – but it is unlikely that you will be given a project in the theatre itself, although it can happen. Established theatres that plan their season hire production teams for each show individually – there are no real ensembles. Everyone is looking for a ‘hit’ show, rather than thinking about a repertoire. Again, it’s the same with the theatre’s ongoing relation with an audience. There are examples of sustaining a longterm relation, of course – at the Tricycle, for example – but many places rely on buying in shows to create a temporary audience, rather than developing one that shares a ongoing commitment to the artistic policy of the particular theatre itself. theatrama: Is there scope then for ‘political theatre’ or is the process of making theatre political enough? In Dresden for example the theatre tries to engage its audience by putting citizens 15

on stage, exploiting the idea of theatre as a space of public gathering, a theatre for the city made by the city. Twitchin: Well, politics concerns the nature of public space, of places dedicated to public gathering in relation to spaces that are ‘closed’ to the public – even when these are paid for by taxes. But there is also the question whether the theatre is only reflecting, reproducing, or representing things that are already familiar and known politically. What is the aesthetic or formal question that disrupts the everyday expectation of politics, that makes of it an experience that is a cause for thought? theatrama: That leads me to the production of The Architects. The show certainly addressed both, a fictional yet ‘real’ space and the disruption of the everyday. Unfortunately, I did not get to see any of Shunt’s site-specific shows, which seem to relate to the idea of public gathering and confrontation, but do you work there in a similar way as in The Architects? Twitchin: Well, the shows take place in clearly constructed environments. To say site-specific is not so accurate. In our case it only means that the show doesn’t take place in a theatre – which is itself always a specific site, of course. But the Shunt shows happen in artificial spaces that have been built by the company. The space is already part of the fiction of the performance. So it was irritating in some of the mainstream press reviews of The Architects that they brought with them a notion of sitespecific theatre, which meant that they didn’t actually see what was there. Rather than address the actual show they discussed something that they wanted to be there but wasn’t – a narrative about the Biscuit Factory, which is where the piece was performed and which is just an enormous concrete warehouse. Why would somebody go to the trouble of building a labyrinth and then a ship in such a space?


People who were just looking for the site-specific thing didn’t even ask themselves why it wasn’t being offered. theatrama: The constructed room definitely transported the audience into the realm of myth and purposeful artificiality. For example the beginning monologue about architecture, which was clearly theatrically overstated, made me wonder how I relate to such stories as Ariadne’s and those labyrinth-like ‘buildings of narrative’. Even though the show of course did not explicitly refer to any tagespolitische issues [issues concerning everyday politics], like for example the fate of the workers in the biscuit factory, one still got a sense of a private-political appeal from it. How to re-act to make-believe? Twitchin: The speech you mentioned was from Daniel Liebeskind and indeed for some people it was just an experience of nothing ‘happening’, whereas for other people there was the dawning realisation that there was a relation between what was being said – clearly quoted from somewhere else – and where we are now. It works for somebody who is willing to be mentally in both places at the same time and therefore to hear, to attend, to the irony of what is being said. But still, exactly as you say, there is a situation in which you are being invited to listen to something which itself invites you to think about built space, and how it is never politically neutral. theatrama: Is it political then in the sense that you alert people even though in an indirect fashion? Twitchin: Yes, you could say so. Well, then the question is: the labyrinth was a built space, what was it built for? Are these architects avatars of the Deadalus figure? But for many people this was not the beginning of such questions. So in that sense – this is just a truism – the political aspect of this relation remains 17

latent. You are appealing to the presence of an audience, but if it doesn’t resonate with anyone... Then, of course, you get another kind of political theatre in which everything is signposted, where you are being told what to think about – political theatre in a bad sense. theatrama: As a lecturer at Goldsmiths do you think University can educate politically or at least critically, especially in the field of drama? Twitchin: You always have to deal with a body of knowledge, which has already been ‘validated’ and which students are supposed to be introduced to. The issue is to encourage them in having the confidence to frame their own questions, to pose questions for themselves – and even, perhaps, for each other! With many students it’s just a matter of ‘what do I need to know?’ The basic question of education – and of political citizenship – however is ‘what do I need to ask?’ What is there to learn – in the sense of changing our expectations of knowledge? As a teacher you are there to hold open the time in which that question might at least be heard. Often people coming straight to university from school are inhibited by expectations of knowledge. There is a reticence of saying anything – it’s always preceded with an ‘oh, I know it will sound stupid, but…’ If anything is stupid it is this claim to already know what it is! If you were simply to ask ‘what does that mean?’, you would not need to preface it with all of this circumlocution, in order to discover that others don’t necessarily know either and that it is the question itself that needs to be shared in the first place. But that requires confidence. People coming from school have been systematically abused in that respect. There is this model that what you don’t know is the basis of others’ authority and your task through education is to try to appropriate some of that authority for yourself. But if you have no relation to this knowledge, in terms of some ques-


tions of your own, then of course it remains alienating. theatrama: Is your task then to enable students to ask questions? Twitchin: When you formulate questions you are in a sense making your own journey through an experience of ‘not knowing’. You are not just lost in the forest, with the wolves howling, but you are discovering a path, laying down stones so you can also return by yourself. In theatre making you also have to learn how to work with other people. You can’t hold on to the alibi of feeling that others are stupid when you have to work with them to get somewhere – and then realise anyway that they think the same thing about you! You have to allow for the creative possibility of trying something, of just making it happen without necessarily prejudging it. theatrama: There is a nice Ionesco quote: ‘One can dare anything in the theatre and it is the place where one dares the least.’ So, unless the audience takes it into their realities, theatre remains a fiction, an image? Twitchin: (laughs) Ah, that could be a political slogan. I suppose that comes back to the opening point, theatre is not one thing. It depends on where it is happening and how the invitation to an audience is organised – all of these things make big differences. However, the kernel of the theatre experience is precisely the distance that allows you to play with the image or representation of some situation. For me, there is little more embarrassing than when you are in a theatrical situation in which this possibility of distance is misrecognised; where you are in a scenario in which it is being supposed of you that you think that the situation is not theatrical but ‘real’. There are productions that want to insist on the fallacy of their own fictions, as if – in a naive sense –

it was ‘all true’. Where a performance is being enacted as if there was no fiction involved or as if we were not conscious of its formal conditions of possibility, then we have anti-political theatre (laughs), so-called ‘immersive theatre’. theatrama: Are there any trends discernible of where your students take their work? Twitchin: I suppose there is, historically, a great suspicion these days of any characteroriented approach, whether in the traditions of Stanislavski or Brecht, because of course all that is so mired in the unfortunate traditions that precisely those great theatre makers themselves worked against. One may wonder then why do we need training programmes at all? It’s because character work remains the default of most people’s expectations of theatre; you cannot have drama with ‘real characters’, after all, when you have only the melodrama of actors on stage. Perhaps that’s different in Germany, where there is a much stronger tradition of exploring, or even remaking, a text scenographically. The sense that the ideas at work in a play are disclosed through autonomous stage media, which come together as theatre, is not really trusted here. The default position in this country is that the verbal image is simply amplified by all the other stage media, which makes for an impoverished theatre scene, I think. The various media are understood to interpret the words, rather than as the means of and for theatrical interpretation in their own right. There have been theatre revolutionaries in this country, but the mainstream history has been written in honour of the literary canon rather than the theatrical insights of such artists as Craig – one of many who found their home in continental Europe! Find out more about Mischa Twitchin’s work: Shunt Performance Collective, vimeo, London Theatre Blog 18


The Exodus leads into the Theatre Sabrina Apitz, Tina Turnheim, and Florian Thamer

The division T/A/T of the EGfKA (European Community for Cultural Affairs) consists of the three founding members Sabrina Apitz, Florian Thamer and Tina Turnheim. Their primary task is to cultivate a counter-public sphere. Their events aim to provoke alternative thought-processes that complement the cultural discourse dominated by feuilletons and specific political groups. 19

After returning from a research trip to Greece, that had just been declared bankrupt in November 2011, we started wondering how theatre can still have a political impact today. That was when we decided to found the EGfKA, [German for ‘European Community for Cultural Affairs’]. As a loose collective of academics and artists we try to aesthetically discuss recent political, economical, cultural and social developments.It is our goal to present these abstract observations and arguments to an engaged audience in a variety of (performative) formats. With this, we want to create a sensual theatrical experience, which will provide food for thought. [The first KRIS€NFEST] In February 2012 we devised and organised the first KRIS€NFEST (a series of theatrical debates) in Berlin in reaction to the bashing of Greece in German media and public. We created a lavish ‘One-Night Only festival’ with which we wanted to provide a platform for Greek theatre makers in Germany. At the same time provide the opportunity for personal exchange. We felt that in times of segregation and austerity personal encounters are the best way to dismantle prejudices on both sides, which had been stirred by media misrepresentation


‘European Telegrams’ in 2013.


of both countries. Most of all we wanted to manifest our right to celebrate together no matter what, quite literally we wanted to remain ‘krisenfest’ [steady in the crisis]. Apart from this format we developed the interactive symposium ‘EUROPÄISCHE DEPESCHEN’ [‘European Telegrams’] which runs every 3 months at the Neuköllner Oper in Berlin. Our guests so far included cultural workers, researchers, and activists coming to us from Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria and Hungary. [FATSA/KOINA: Athen] In 2012 we additionally formed a new division of the EGfKA, called the T/A/T, which aims to transform these theoretical debates concerning the current sociopolitical developments into actual theatrical practise. In collaboration with actors Mathias Kelle, Dafni Sofianopoulou and Olivia Stutz we produced FATSA/KOINA: Athen. The performance presents a re-working of Bertolt Brecht’s Fatzer fragment. Brecht’s play tells the story of four soldiers trying to desert the frontiers of the First World War. Lead by their most resourceful comrade, Johann Fatzer, they go into hiding in a flat in Mülheim, where they wait in vain for a general national uprising. Instead of the expected revolt outside, the violence of the outer political events diffuses into the dynamics of the group. So much so, that their conflicts culminate in the liquidation of Fatzer, who until the end remains an individualist. Even today this text, which Brecht devised during the second half of the 1920s, addresses imminent questions of the positioning of the individual within a community and the potential for political change resulting from the individual’s attitude. In order to lay bare the text’s contemporary appeal we decided to transfer the action of the play into today’s Athens. Four people, amongst them FATSA (colloq. mod. Greek for ‘face’) and KOINA (ancient Greek 21

for ‘community’), flee from their everyday struggle in the global south into the – what seems to them – rich and peaceful north. As destitute and illegal immigrants they strand in the foreign city of Athens, the entry-gates to the fortress of Europe, their supposed paradise. However, prospects here are not all that different: Crisis rules! Severe tensions in society lead to violent demonstrations, strikes and riots. The imminent revolt, which promises to make all citizens free and equal, is the hope of the four protagonists and at the same time their last resort. Yet, their taking part in the demonstrations is too dangerous. The risk of being discovered and deported or even to be brought to one of the infamous camps, is too high. So they stay in hiding and wait. [Crisis, revolt, and the occupied Theatre] Going to Greece made us realize in all clarity how inextricably crisis and revolt, solidarity and ostracism, hope and menace are intertwined. Capitalism and the current crisis therefore appeared to have become a new type of war. From the start we have been aware of the fact that the translation of the Fatzer-material into the context of today’s situation in Athens cannot be uncritically assumed. The problem of representation and exploitation of marginalised groups on stage made it necessary for us to first of all research the current Greek context and to enter a direct dialogue with the local people. In addition to the factual research and collection of (video-)material for our performance we hosted a workshop with the title ‘‘Face(s) in/of the Community’, non-citizens, spectres and living/surviving in capitalism’ in cooperation with the occupied and self-governed ‘Embros Theatre’. Twenty participants from Afghanistan, Germany, the Ivory Coast, Greece, Italy, Austria and Switzerland followed our invitation to take part in the workshop.


Amongst the participants were actors, teachers, social workers, activists, refugees, researchers coming from different disciplines and unemployed people, who each contributed their very own perspective to the discussion and improvisations. The workshop was designed to provide an open space of exchange for members of the community from various backgrounds and circumstances. The exchange was to happen on a theoretical basis complemented by a series of theatrical experiments with abstract terms, concepts and ideas such as (aesthetic and activist) disruption, desertion, refusal, exodus (Virno), the role of the individual in society, the start of revolutions as walks (Benjamin, Müller), the ‘naked’ and ‘threatened life’ (Agamben, Butler) and the situation of the ‘non-citizens’ in the fortress of Europe (Dublin II). Based on our experiences in Athens and the ongoing rehearsal process, the following characteristics emerged to be vital for producing relevant political theatre today: [Sensitivity, Participation, Aesthetic Disruption]

solidarity: Is not the concept of solidarity the actual ‘Subaltern’ of today? [1] Questions like ‘who is listening?’, ‘who responds to the (in Athens omnipresent) silence?’ were central to our workshop and made us realise how closely connected perception, sensitivity and solidarity actually are. In our rehearsal process, we were looking for a way to include the personal stories of the workshop-members in our performance. However this should happen in a way, which is respectful to their privacy and does not exploit their often precarious status. We must avoid a ‘theatre of pity’ at any cost. The personal encounters we had with members of the community lead us to neglect the critical distance that the formalism of a post-dramatic documentary theatre dictates. This formalism represents individuals as mere numbers and statistics, which ironically sparks an undesired effect of (even if only short-lived) pity. Not only does such a method imply the unwanted exploitation of personal stories in the name of alleged political art, it also often obscures the actual power structures underlying such life stories.

1. Sensitivity and Solidarity: How can we as artists enter an exchange with marginalised communities without profiting from this situation or without profitably reproducing a representation of that encounter? Is there a way to show the social, political and economical grievances and give a voice to the ‘subaltern’, disadvantaged communities without exhibiting or representing them in the theatre? How can we as artists work with disadvantaged people without profiting from their situation, which we intend to criticise? These questions require the development and exercise [the Brechtian ‘Einübung’ which he envisions as the purpose of his often misunderstood Lehrstücke (Learning Plays)] of a certain degree of practical sensitivity that may lead to an aesthetic and modern concept of

2. Participation: Over the last few years the idea of participation has had an increasing boom in its political as well as artistic context. Now, we must not leave this concept unscrutinised: Is it possible that this seemingly grassroots model of democracy is in fact nothing more than a neo-liberal strategy? [2] Blinded by the feeling of being an active part in the decision making process, one often forgets to question these seemingly democratic structures themselves. Participation, as we understand it, means exactly this: exposing the processes of collaboration, meaning to show a communal learning effort that allows each member of the team to actively contribute according to his or her abilities and needs. The participation of all members in different processes of (aesthetic) 24


Workshop in the occupied ‘Embros Theatre’ in Athens, Greece.


production can be seen as an ‘exercise’ of solidarity and can eventually be regarded as an explicit way to develop and practize political awareness. Therefore political theatre starts for us with the decision to dismiss hierarchic structures in our workshops and the rehearsal processes. Instead, we aimed to rely on the ‘equipollency of [multiple] intelligences’. [3] Still, the frame of such communal theatrical experimentation needs to be considered. What possibilities and limits are there within the sphere of institutionalised theatres? What other dependencies are connected with working in the so-called ‘Freien Szene’ [fringe theatre]? In the ‘Embros Theatre’ in Athens we were lucky to have found a non-commercial working space – structurally almost free of hierarchies – which enabled us to realise our ideas in an unrestrained way. Unfortunately, these ideal conditions are still to be considered an exception and do not reflect the usual working conditions for theatre makers. 3. Aesthetic disruption of reality: Is theatre – or aesthetic practise more generally – an effective means to react to social realities or even to change these? Our conviction and experience tell us, that exactly in times of crisis, aesthetic practice is of utmost importance, especially when it acts as a disruption of realities. The aesthetic disruption, which we created in the ‘Embros Theatre’, was also a disruption of the current political discourse which was often described as helpless. The workshop and the ensuing public presentation of our work in Athens, as well as the guest-performance in Mülheim in July 2013, gained significance as a disruptive moment of distance, which temporarily managed to suspend the prevailing discourse. It therefore worked a vision of how we want to live together in the future. The space created by our collective served as a space of reflexion set apart from the ‘Zeitökonomie’ [dictatorship of economy over time] exercised by the crisis. 27

The artistic space allowed the audience and us to gather thoughts and refrain from the mere re-acting to headlines propagated by the media. Accordingly, the theatre as a collective practice alternatively provides a ‘deceleration’, a ‘regulation of the stream’ of the ‘Zeitökonomie’. [4] [How to be political when making political theatre? The relevancy of Brecht’s Lehrstücke] In our view it is necessary today to make political theatre in a political way, that means, following the ideas of Godard, to rehearse and explore political contents in a collective working method. This implies further, that political theatre cannot qualify as political, neither purely by its content nor exclusively via a certain formalism. The theatre work of a collective, in which each subjective view can be maintained and prosper in all the multiplicity of voices within one whole artistic construct, enables a theoretical and practical discourse. Contents and forms then reflect exactly this multiplicity of perspectives and deny hierarchic power structures in rehearsals. Therefore the exploration of (if possible) consistently egalitarian working methods, without hierarchic constraints, proves to be an essential condition for truly producing political theatre today. This approach links to Brecht’s idea of the Lehrstück. According to Brecht a Lehrstück focuses on ‘how’ issues are addressed, less then on the content, the ‘what’, which is being addressed. Brecht translated the term Lehrstück as a learning-play which emphasises the purpose of the Lehrstücke to be ‘plays, that are of didactic use for the performers’ and therefore do not necessarily require an audience. Brecht’s educational intention therefore was not aiming at an indoctrination of his audience. Much rather he created a practical learning experience for the performers, which we tried to re-create in our workshop. Brecht’s famous and often misunder-


stood paradox of the ‘Lehrstück as theatre without an audience’ does not call for the actual abolition of the audience but aspires primarily towards an experience of self-teaching by adopting certain social attitudes and gestures (Lehmann). In Brecht’s view a ‘non-assisting audience does not [have] the role of a recipient, but that of a presence’ whilst watching a Lehrstück. His audience is formed by Rancière’s ‘emancipated spectators’. Brecht saw the future of theatre exactly in the revision of the consumerist attitudes of an audience and in a collective theatre practice. His motto – and ours therefore – must be: ‘To play Fatzer is to rehearse the revolt.’ [5] [Exodus: Into the theatre!] Our agenda of a contemporary politically produced political theatre sums up as follows: In imitation of Brecht’s methodology of the ‘Lehrstücke’, our clear emphasis lies on the collective working process, the ‘how’ we make theatre. This however does not imply that we are uncritical towards current aesthetic debates nor that we esteem the treatment of political content in artistic production to be obsolete. In our view, theatre and art in general, rather remain not only a social corrective and critical authority but a laboratory for alternatives, in which different forms of community must be generated and rehearsed. Despite the politically motivated work on the ‘distribution of the sensual’ (Rancière) the reinforcement of sensitivity is of crucial importance in order to develop an aesthetic concept of solidarity. The exodus thus leads us straight into the theatre.

Turia/Kant: Wien 2008. [2] Robert Pfaller, ‘Wofür es sich zu leben lohnt. Elemente materialistischer Philosophie’, S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2011. [3] Jacques Rancière, ‘The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation’, 2009. [4] In Brecht’s poem ‘On the critical attitude’ the ‘regulation of the stream’ symbolises the ‘feasibility of human plans and thus also the faith, that a reorganisation of society in the communist sense is possible.’ (Cf. Heiner Müllers Lyrik: Quellen und Vorbilder von Katharina Ebrecht, p. 106). (translation Katharina Herold) [5] Müller-Schöll, Nikolaus: Der geprobte Aufstand. Farce, Spaziergang, Hunger-Show. In: POLAR #13 Aufstand. Vorher-Nachher. The Authors Florian Thamer holds a degree in Theatre Studies and German Philology and Literature of the ‘Freie Universität Berlin’. He currently is a research assistant at the International Research Center ‘Interweaving Performance Cultures’. At the moment he is working on his PhD thesis on structures of performativity and commercialisation in the modern, globalised world of professional football. Tina Turnheim is a researcher in theatre, film and new media. She graduated from the University of Vienna and is currently completing her PhD in Theatre Studies at the ‘Freie Universität Berlin’. She holds a scholarship of the post-graduate research foundation InterArt. Her thesis examines documental-performative time experiments (Re- and Pre-Enactments) in the light of Alain Badiou’s concept of the ‘Real’.

[Notes] [1] Hilto Steyerl, (Introduction) in: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, ‘Can the Subaltern Speak? Postkolonialität und subalterne Artikulation’,

‘FATSA/KOINA: Athen’ premiered on July 21st at the Ringlokschuppen Mülheim as part of the 3rd Mülheimer Fatzertage. 28


The Stage as Satellite Ana Zirner

Ana Zirner is a director for film and theatre, based in Munich. Since March of 2013 she is part of the artistic direction at PATHOS münchen. Her label Satellit Produktion creates political-documentary-projects, derived from the dramatic material of daily world events. APPEAL: To finish the current project “brothers in arms”, Satellit Produktion needs your help: www.satellitproduktion.de 29

As theatre maker in Germany I perceive my liberty as mission. It confronts us theatre makers with a worthwhile, and artful, challenge. The on-stage work with contemporary and political material, the ‘dramatics of the events of the day’, is inexhaustible. It keeps awake and in motion because the material constantly changes. It demands flexibility and openness, because otherwise we would come to the dead end of propaganda. We are free in it, because we do not have to take a political stance. We are able to share our work in public and we even get applause for it at the best. In Germany I can voice the most absurd opinion without legal consequences, organise public pillow fights, or have live sex if I find that to be artistically worthwhile. I can watch movies from all over the world at the cinema and choose from a variety of newspapers the one that meets – or broadens – my worldview. I can get excited about politicians in public, I can request more transparency from them, and I can inform and educate myself extensively at almost no cost. With all criticism of our democracy: We are rich of useable liberty. [Liberty and possibility of theatre in political discourses]


The performers of ‘brothers in arms’.


Theatre, whether it takes place in a room or in the middle of the city, is a place where used liberty can be public. Due to the immediacy of the theatrical experience on the one hand, and the artistic alienation of covered topics on the other, new perspectives can be opened up for the audience here and now. Between material and performance together with actors and audience something like a ‘third truth’ emerges – something that sparkles in-between the material. This happens when the documented material with its serious contents is enriched with the personalities, movements, colours, bodies, music, and light on the stage. It is because the stage area liberates from the realistic claim a report or a documentary are subject to. The stage area creates immediacy through the people who represent content in it and for the audience. It is a safe place where you are temporally allowed to deliver yourself up. And, through directly sensual and ‘close’ experiences, it creates the possibility for thoughtprovoking impulses. To achieve that, it is essential for us theatre makers to know what we want to tell and why we tell it. Even if the audience perceives something own, something new, or something different. But yet, it can be good – and that does not only count for theatre – only with a strong and honest objective. Whereas ‘good’ is completely subjective of course. For me ‘good’ currently is when I can set in motion a political consciousness through theatre. ‘Political’ here does not refer to parties or governments. Instead, it is about communication and openness, about activity and purposes, about tolerance and the willingness to examine and cease one’s own prejudices. For me, that also refers to work at the theatre. To make political theatre one does not necessarily have to choose political topics. Rather, it is more important how the covered topics are dealt with on stage. For me, that includes the aforementioned honest objective; yet also that we as theatre makers challenge ourselves, 31

and the audience, to leave what we recognise as ‘comfort zone’, that we question our perception and maybe ourselves. At this point the ‘spark’ of political consciousness is generated: here you start questioning what you had considered ‘true’ thus far. [Personal political work with Satellit Produktion] In the projects of Satellit Produktion we start from thematically immediate and current conflicts that matter to us. We are interested in global relationships of local problems, comprising a (potential) war as well as a (burst) real estate bubble. We look for a personal impression, document conversations, and enrich this material for the stage through an artistic process.

‘On the search for stories – not history … suddenly feeling one’s own heart racing and the shortness of breath in a moment of fear, the noise and smell of Teheran, then again the nice parks with strolling people, where you have to sidestep vice squad controls, then: urban fringe, a jamboree behind high walls, illegally, later going out into the night – all of that keeps us from trying for an objectivity, which would ruin all the stories we were entrusted with in long conversations.’ (Daniel, performer ‘brothers in arms’)

SPRING and HOPE [FRÜHLING und HOFFNUNG], my first political documentary production as a director, was a jump in at the deep end. My diploma production was due and I was reading a lot of plays that did not interest me. It was the beginning of 2011 and the Arab Spring was in full swing. For


every play that I finished reading for school I ‘rewarded’ myself with tracing the developments in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt on the TV-channel Al Jazeera English. Processes like these were always by far more interesting to me. I remembered the unsuccessful ‘Green Movement’ where the Iranian population tried to change their system of government. And I wanted to know how the people there were doing now, especially in the context of the Arab Spring. Luckily, I realised eventually that I could not produce an already existing play, but that I somehow had to get ‘right to it’, to that which really interested and touched me. Thus, I went to Iran. Suddenly I was in Iran and young people told me about their lives. On the one hand, I felt close to the people there and was surprised how similar we were in many aspects, but on the other hand, the stories they told me about their childhood (Gulf War) and adolescence (protests, jail, torture) were of course infinitely far away from what I had experienced. What I immediately knew was that I wanted to construct the text from the word-for-word transcripts of our conversations, that German performers should speak and act the text respectively. It was about building bridges. An interesting and symbolic process takes place when interpreting the material for the stage: once learnt by heart and put on stage, the authenticity of the original voices turns into an artificial transcript. The audience here can easily identify with the German performers because of language and appearance, yet the performers become representatives of their peers in Iran. The Iran-raised musician Amir Nasr, who tells his story on stage through music, and the performers, who had not been to Iran but who took an interest in it, built a bridge to the audience for me as director as well. The current project of Satellit Produktion, brothers in arms (premiers in February 2014), and is about the Iran-Israel conflict. The idea

for this project came to me shortly after my journey to Israel for SPRING and HOPE, when I was in Israel for another project. I reckoned that the young Iranians and Israelis, whom I had met, had so much in common and I repeatedly thought that my friends from both countries would get along with each other pretty well. And yet it occurred to me that, in case of war between those countries, particularly these young people would be firing at each other. It was completely ungraspable for me how that could happen. Thus, I started to consider the question of what mechanisms had to be set in motion to make people choose following orders over human empathy.

‘Day 4, noon: Together with two Israelis – my interview partner and his roommate – I danced to Indian music in their living room in Israel. You immediately realise that we are hooked by the improbability of this moment. We grin like a Cheshire cat. Day 6: My interview partner describes a satellite-driven killing procedure. Back then, he was sitting in front of his screen, ‘marked’ the opponent, and, only a little later, saw the body parts fly around. Day 7: I realise that the conflict between Israel and Iran dosen’t actually exist. Only politically; in the government. Like two parallel worlds: Politics and people.’ (Gunnar, performer ‘brothers in arms’)

It was obvious that we had to talk to people who would actually be conscripted in case of war. Of course, this could only be about exemplarily impressions. To allow for maximum proximity, each of the performers had extensive talks with one young soldier or one con32


script on location in Iran and in Israel. Thereby, an additional artistic responsibility and personal relation developed, which will allow the performers for a very close handling of the issue on stage, which will then allow the audience to participate even more. For the working progress this, on the one hand, results in a greater personal effort of the performers, which will strongly influence the content. On the other hand, as a director it creates a valuable distance, which in turn facilitates an unsentimental access to the material. Now we are primarily concerned with sharing our impressions and perspectives from Iran and Israel with our audience through the transcripts and in collaboration with the choreographer David Russo. Often we are asked whether our work was ‘dangerous’. I understand the question. The performers’ journeys were planned professionally, and experienced advisers prepared them thoroughly. The local interviewees are chosen solely through private contacts. Their real names are not mentioned at any time and there are no photos. Before and during the journey there will be no public talking about the project. Of course, it’s clear for everybody involved that these can only be preventive measures, which will not protect us ‘in case of emergency’. The only palpable consequence for me is that the Islamic Republic of Iran refuses to grant me a visa since SPRING and HOPE. Hence, the performers have decided to only work for ‘brothers in arms’ under a pseudonym in order not to endanger another trip to Iran. However, our work on location is significantly less ‘dangerous’ and less difficult than one would imagine here. When it comes to the actual production it is important for me that we stay aware of where we are during our work. We are in Germany, we are in this city or that, we are sitting on precisely this stage. We also may drink a beer after the performance, and that is perfectly fine. In SPRING and HOPE for example, this awareness shows in a moment when both

performers open the doors and windows of the stage area, turn on the working lights, and take a break together with the audience – right after their telling of their solitary confinement in a jail in Iran. I have always loved it when this relaxation in the room had worked. It brings us back, does not let us get sentimental, and protects us from superficial ‘concernment theatre’ [‘Betroffenheitstheater’]. [Forms of working of political theatre] As theatre maker the quest for the ‘right’ way of dealing with realities that are not one’s own is a constant and exciting process. Thus, we have to stay aware of the fact that the material we are working with at Satellit Produktion may be personal and immediate, but of course starkly incomplete and subjective. Theatre makers like the Spanish Angélica Liddell or the Irish Dylan Tighe subject themselves personally and consequently to negotiation. They turn themselves into examples of a larger context. In contrast, Hans-Werner Kroesinger starts off with a big political issue, which he then breaks down spatially into personal experiences for the audience. In his documentary works he often emphasises it with respect to actual space: The viewer has to choose one of three stage rooms and, consequently, the information contained therein respectively. The viewer makes a decision in favour of the one and against the other, just like the theatre maker has to decide on which material to be used – and not – when drafting the text version. What we actually tell thus always is only a tiny extract of a big story. But the stage can become a satellite via which one can receive and process those extracts, and, in turn, radiate them into one’s immediate environment. And hence, into the big (hi)story. Ana Zirner recommends further reading: Bahman Nirumand; Ulrich Tilgner; Naomi Klein; Judith Weston (currently unavailable) 34


Blackfacing Katharina Herold

Katharina Herold studied theatre directing at ‘Otto Falckenberg’ School in Munich, Germany. She recently completed her BA in English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmith’s College, University of London. She is now going on to do her MSt in English Literature 1840-1914 at Oxford University, focussing on the literature of the Fin de Siècle.

35

‘Blackfacing’ did not seem to be a major issue in the German theatre landscape until Michael Thalheimer’s production of Dea Loher’s Unschuld [Innocence] 2011 (two white actors used black face paint to embody African refugees) at the Deutsches Theater Berlin sparked a long-needed and indeed complex discussion: Is ‘blackfacing’ today, used as a theatricalsemiotic of performance, in itself a discriminating act? And more generally, is the presence and representation of ethnic minorities on stage adequately reflecting a multicultural society? My first encounter with the historical problem of representation of ethnicity was as a directing student at the ‘Körber Studio junge Regie 2007’. Director Moritz Schönecker, now artistic director of Schauspielhaus Jena, Germany, cast the beautiful as much as talented AfroAmerican actress, Diana Marie Müller, to play the part of the seductive yet destructive Rebecca in his production of Martin Crimp’s In the Country, who brings about the downfall of Corinne and Richard’s marriage. In the audience talk after the show, students from Berlin were keen to know what exactly Schönecker intended to state with having Müller wear white fur on naked skin. While a heated discussion ensued on whether this is supposed to be a post-colonial reference, the Dutch and English guest students could not understand


Actress in Dea Loher’s ‘Innocence’ in Munich, Germany.


this debate since they only saw a young girl initiating a process of self-recognition of the stifled bourgeois couple. Two questions arise from these diverging observation in connection with the ongoing debate of blackface and ‘post-migration’ theatre in Germany when compared to an English acceptance of ethnic diversity on stage: Can ethnicity be ignored as a stage semiotic (as for example common on English stages)? And secondly, does ‘ethnic-casting’, to cast roles with their ‘proper’ ethnicity, and deliberate exhibition of ethnic diversity help to overcome stereotypes – or do they rather pose yet another racist act? In comparing the practices on main stages, in particular of Berlin and London, I hope to shed some light on the misrepresentation of minorities’ on German stages. [Politically correct theatre in London] On London stages the audience are blissfully prepared to ignore ethnicity as a theatrical semiotic. Black actors perform alongside white actors portraying fathers and sons. Even though the English theatre tradition in the West End is still indebted to stage realism, the English audience is one step ahead of a German audience trying to be politically correct. One of the many examples of this I have witnessed at the Donmar Warehouse production of Richard II in 2012, a play celebrating English national identity like no other. The audience did not hesitate one moment to accept black actor Ashley Zhangazha playing Aumerle as the son of the Duke of York, who in turn was played by a white actor. No review or audience reaction commented or questioned the possible post-colonial reference. The students from Berlin – I am sure – would have not hesitated to read this constellation as a deliberate ethnic casting and therefore as an intentional political statement. Instead, the Duchess of York in the play pleads to her husband for the reprieve of her son with the words ‘he is as like thee as 37

a man may be.’ As a consequence the natural acceptance of the actor’s ethnicity, as also often seen at the Shakespeare’s Globe, National Theatre and Royal Court, and particularly the Fringe scene allows a focus on the actual text and the performance itself. Even though there remains work to be done to master a true representation of London’s multiculturalism on its stages without stereotyping artists [1], the preparedness on sides of the audiences to overcome semiotics in favour of theatrical representation is a welcome starting point. Far from mixed ethical ensembles seen in London theatres however, Germany still struggles with equally representing its parallel societies in the highly subsidised Staatstheater. Due to the scope of this survey and for reasons of fair comparability I will look at the situation in Berlin. Germany’s biggest city has a 26.9 percent ratio of German citizens having a ‘background with migration’ and a 14.1 percent ratio of foreign citizens of 185 nationalities according to the Institute of Statistics Berlin – Brandenburg in 2012 [2] Yet, it is astonishing that these groups of citizens are hardly represented on main stages of Berlin theatres and mainstream festivals. [Blackfacing in Berlin - political or artistic statement?] Brett Bailey’s Exhibit-B as part of the Berliner Festspiele made an extreme attempt, and certainly also a debateable approach of pointing to Germany’s colonial history, in September 2012. Bailey’s admittedly provocative Menschenschau [human zoo] of German, French, and Belgian colonial atrocities committed in Africa captured in a series of tableaux vivantes, caused an outrage in –interestingly– both communities in Berlin. As a white theatre director, he says he consciously chose to ‘exhibit’ and thereby repeat history without the ideological Darwinist racism to wake up European audiences: ‘I make theatre, political theatre, but


most of all I bring black artists to Europe – in order to entertain a white bourgeois audience (...) The white audience acts as the observer, however a curious inversion takes place: the audience is ashamed when watching the black performers. Eye contact is avoided. That creates a very ambiguous situation.’ [3] His intentions, as the south-African artist explains, were to ‘open up the Eurocentric perspective and blind spots’ on Europe’s colonial history, which he felt still have a remarkable impact on today’s treatment of racial and social boundaries. As controversial as his approach might be, Bailey forces the audience to deal with feelings of shame and guilt as they watch the ‘ready made exponent’ of a contemporary asylum seeker. The way in which these feelings are provoked certainly creates a well-calculated dilemma for the audience – and effectively a political message concerning the misrepresentation of black communities on stage and in society. Yet, when reading reactions on this performance, especially those of the panel discussion ensuing the performance titled ‘Stages of Colonialism / Stages of discomfort’, I wonder how the exclusion of ethnic groups on German stages should ever considerably change. It seems that activist organisations like the Bühnenwacht will not allow a controversial discourse on problems like racism ethnic clichés, even though they rightly demand the inclusion of diverse ethnicities in German ensembles, in this case black actors who are, as scholar Joy Kristin Kalu states quoting opposed organisations, ‘glaringly underrepresented on German theatre stages’ and therefore unable ‘to correct these clichés.’ [4] This is indeed a very sensitive issue, strained by a history of cruelty committed against the black communities, however the discussion leads itself ad absurdum: Can only black people represent black roles, which again would be a discriminating and certainly a racist limitation? Still, Bailey’s drastic case exactly and 39

successfully asks the right questions: ‘How can we live together with a historical heritage that lives on in new globalised forms’, or more generally ‘how is cultural exchange – especially in the theatre – possible without exploitation or an artistic canonicalization or apartheid’? [Openness to debate is key] Kalu relates her article ‘On the Myth of Authentic Representation: Blackface as Reenactment’ to problems and ways of authentic representation of the other by ‘experts of the everyday’ and the in-necessity of ‘authentic casting’. ‘Exhibiting amateurism’, as she puts it, leads as much as Bailey’s stylised exhibition to an unauthentic and excluding performance act. Continuing her thoughts, one can only ask for a non-exclusive theatre, which at the same time ceases to emphasise and trade off its diversity. She argues that ‘blackface was a racist practice of entertainment’ and therefore ‘cannot be understood as a neutral theatrical sign for making difference – even today.’ However, while acknowledging the two positions of opposed activists and pro-artistic liberty defenders, she also admits that the two sides of the problems are hard to provide answers or even solutions for. She argues for ‘an openness towards historically loaded processes’ as a way forward. I agree that, as she states, ‘aesthetic and social dimensions can overlap’ and thereby create space for political innovation. She concludes: ‘Theatres should simply presuppose audiences that are as heterogeneous as the German society (corresponding) to their multicultural and multiethnic realities off the stage.’ [5] In his appeal from March 2012 André Schmitz, the state secretary of cultural affairs in Berlin, already considered the ways in which an appropriate representation of minorities in theatres could be established. He reasons that ‘if you want cultural diversity, you need to talk about a quota for immigrants.’ [6] By address-


Performer from Brett Bailey’s ‘Exhibit B’ at the Berliner Festspiele 2012.


ing the lack of multicultural audiences as well as cultural workers, Schmitz constitutes ‘how underrepresented the population with a migrant background in our (highly subsidised) theatre, operas, concert halls and museums is.’ This applies in particular to Berlin where social status is not a hindrance to have access to cultural events of all sorts. Additionally, Berlin’s ‘migrants’, he argues, are far from being ‘socially homogenous’, meaning that they have become established in all sectors of public life and social classes. He observes further that while integration is already successful in youth and children’s theatre and cultural workshops as for example in the Werkstatt der Kulturen where the full range of cultural (German) heritages can be experienced, representation on main stages is poor. Schmitz draws a parallel between the lack of inclusion on the established big stages and the lack of a multicultural audience: The artists of different communities must be visible on the major stages, departing from their traditional exhibition as ‘strangers or exotic, caricatures or stereotypes’. Accordingly, Schmitz dares to propose an introduction of an obligatory ‘diversity ratio’ in theatres and cultural institutions to ensure a fair representation. All this is true, however would such an opposed policy not be the confession of failure of an inclusive artistic cultural scene? [Positive trends] A next step to move on from these question concerning ‘the black or other on stage’ would be the attempt of being truly ‘colour-blind.’ [7] A new form of dialogue (not exhibition) is urgently needed. In conclusion then it remains to ask, how could such a representation happen without representing? And is that possible in the context of theatre, since it will never cease to be representation? Can a woman play Othello but a white person cannot? Does what is allowed in gender also apply for eth-

nicity? It is high time that the German system finds a way to embrace society’s diversity without exposing so called ‘marginal groups’ (that are not that marginal after all). Good intentions and an over-interpretation of artistic ambition all too often lead to the undesired effect of discrimination. True integration, which might mean to ignore semiotic boundaries, can only be realised by not only having excellent ensembles (like for example the ‘Ballhaus Naunynstrasse’, Berlin) as expert theatres of a certain ethical group or one-off forward thinking ‘integration projects’ – it must become normality, like in opera, where ethnicity is neglected and music is most important criterion. However, while all is not well in the British system either (there are only a few Indian/Asian actors visible on major stages) the London theatre scene seems to have been more successful in integrating all its cultural workers within one scene. Especially Germany should have a close eye on its ‘representation’ of ‘migrants’ that often just exposes such communities instead of truly incorporating them as a part of its ‘high culture’ theatre industry. Perhaps a start is made with Shermin Langhoff as artistic director of the Gorki theatre entering the state’s theatre scene. Let us hope she is striking the balance between a black and white representation and finds a way to unite a multicultural ensemble that overcomes the significance of ethnicity as a stage symbol. [Notes] [1] The Guardian. [2] Statistic Berlin-Brandenburg 2012. [3] Radio interveiw with Bailey. [4] Kalu, Joy Kristin. ‘On the Myth of Authentic Representation: Blackface as Reenactment’ p., 3. [5] Ibid., p. 1-5. [6] André Schmitz, DIE ZEIT, 24.05.2012, p. 7. [7] Kalu, Joy Kristin, p., 7. 40


Responsibility Interviewing Marianna Salzmann

Her plays receive international reception and are staged across Europe. In this interview, the author and director talks about the importance of political theatre and her personal responsibility to issue political matters.

Marianna Salzmann is a Russian born writer and director. She studied scenic writing at the ‘Universität der Künste’ in Berlin, Germany. She is co-editor of the culture and society magazine ‘freitexte’. Her plays are nationally and internationally recognised and staged. Her play ‘Weißbrotmusik’ won the IKARUS Award in 2012.

41

Daniel Austerfield (for theatrama): Marianna, I have been following your work for quite some time now and want to congratulate you for the positive reception your plays receive. Striking about this is that it seems to always revolve around a form of political work. Why is that so important for you? Marianna Salzmann: For me, theatre is a political moment: a minority speaks to a majority with a concern. Concerns I had many and thought – that would be my medium to communicate them. I knew that I wanted to make some form of the political process my profession. After school I came to the theatre and was inspired by what they were doing. I wanted to become a director. And I started writing dialogues. Thereby I discovered that I could get to the heart of things better in writing plays for theatre and moreover touch people with it. I believe that a political message gets heard only when resonates emotionally also.


theatrama: So your stories always also are of personal concern? Salzmann: There is no other way. I think that it is an important political act to also reflect about ourselves when we are working on our plays. Working on us when working on our plays, if you like. When I talk about social wrongs in Europe I always talk from a western European point of view. And since my horizon is limited I want to go out and talk to people. I understand myself in a different context. My questions relate to things that may be new to me, but I must never abstract myself from it, my perspective remains solely mine. theatrama: Is the search for those different contexts the reason for you travelling so much? Salzmann: Yes, partly. Because I always hope that the city I enter will change me, make myself somebody different. Istanbul for example changed me a lot. The people, the way of living, the way of thinking, I breathed in as much as I could. That is the way I want to live and write: I go somewhere and want my perspective to be changed. I am open for the realisation that I may have seen everything completely wrong or was walking around with prejudices – which I always assume. If I go to Istanbul as a western European – which I am not but stilly my perspective has been socialised that way – of course I have certain filters. But I want to abandon them. And with writing it is the same. This is how I want to be inspired. I do not want to again draw only from what constantly surrounds me. theatrama: So it is the personal process on the one hand, and this alien on the other that keep pushing you. And is it this personal process you will then put on stage? Salzmann: Usually my starting point is when a

situation, a person, or circumstances – to be honest, mostly in a negative way – agitate me. Then I try to find out why this anger could be important also for the world outside in order not to remain writing diary entries. Yet, at the same time I think attaching my work to my person is precarious, because it reduces the message. I do not talk about my personal problems and do not have the right to address topics more or less than anybody else. And I wish that all my colleagues did not wait for an alleged authorisation for topics by origin etc. One time, I was called by a journalist to participate in a German political talk show (Anne Will) and was asked to comment on the election and the situation in Russia. So I had to clarify a couple of things beforehand. First, I was going to be used: ‘Oh yes, she is Russian so she must know’ – (laughs) what is that supposed to mean? Plus, I have been living in Germany for 17 years by now, so what can I say about Russia? I was so mad at this whole abusiveness, this alibi search at the supposedly foreign. I thought that people are interested in Russia at the moment and look for somebody to exhibit Russia’s flaws to a specific part of the German audience. Showing another country up always comes along with an upgrade of your own image. But why don’t we stick at Germany? Hence I made my play ROT WERDEN. Superficially seen, it is about Russia and indeed connected to experiences I made there, but from a German perspective. And, actually, the topic is Germany. Of which I hold the passport. theatrama: Yet, ROT WERDEN is not about a clear-cut political statement, but about laying open the process of personal development that lays ground to the play. What role does the audience have here? Salzmann: The political statement would be: We western Europeans, let us please stop looking for the ‘uncivilised’ around the world and 42


Award-winning ‘Weißbrotmusik’ at ‘THEATER STRAHL’, Berlin.


to put them in the pillory. There is enough work to do in our own countries. Cue: You want to talk about Putin while the Wulff Affair blows? I want that we question our sense of mission. We are children of this society and run around with its normatives. What we do not understand we call wrong. You can make good comedies about that, like you saw with ROT WERDEN. After all, humour is the key to everything: processing, elucidation, reflection. With Muttersprache Mameloschn I wanted to make an experiment: How does the audience take controversial topics such as the holocaust, former East Germany, or mother-daughter conflicts what they have to laugh about it all the time. Reactions were fascinating: ‘Am I allowed to laugh? Isn’t this a taboo topic? Has she really just said that?’ The only sad thing about it was that the audience was sure to be allowed to laugh only because I am Jewish and myself joke about Jews. I want to burst that open. I want people to be able to talk about anything, as long as they keep reflecting about themselves in doing so. theatrama: And this form of reflecting about one’s sense of mission can help to burst this tabooing open? Salzmann: Still, with all the liberty you have in art, you have to watch out not to speak for others, practise othering. I cannot imagine writing from a black woman’s point of view. That does not mean that I must not write black characters. It means to be aware of your own stereotypes and prejudices. In my plays I sometimes write lines, which may be controversial, and hopefully people will tell me. I want to issue concrete wrongs I see, specific topics – but from perspective and my responsibility, because I have a responsibility. Whether it is the National Socialist Underground (in my play Fahrräder könnten eine Rolle spielen), Germany’s foreign minister Guido 45

Westerwelle (SATT), or the debate on the socalled migrant background (Weißbrotmusik). I have a responsibility for what happens in the country I live in. theatrama: So your plays shall be an occasion for the spectators to reflect about their sense of mission. A decent but difficult goal. Salzmann: I keep it with Aeschylus: doing, suffering, learning. Knowledge comes by through painful processes, not through velvet gloves and political correctness. And that sounds just like I want to torture my audience. Or teach them – even worse. But I too do not know the right answers. I am only searching. I want to churn up, just like I want to be churned up by topics. Then those thinking processes I speak of start. Of course it pains you to realise all of a sudden that you cannot deny your responsibility. But that is essentially for theatre that we all – makers and spectators – do not sit back and talk about ‘others’. And it gets more difficult because theatre is such an elitist event. It starts already with the architecture and ticket prices – already here many feel uninvited. I think it’s difficult, albeit vital to practise inclusion. At all levels. theatrama: I can understand that you travel so much. If you want to inspire a process of reflection, you have to expose yourself, prepare yourself and your play for this diversity. Salzmann: That’s right. I am looking for revolutionary potential, even though it may sound silly in German ears. And here I believe in young people. If we are able to deal with topics important to them and to relate them properly – and precisely not try to give them an answer – what’s more revolutionary potential than them? I would like to start off where people want something ant that counts for the audience as much as for theatre makers. I believe that art can change things. But in


order to do so we have to reform ourselves. We cannot assume that the non-white part of Germany beat a path to our door when the artistic directors keep on choosing plays that discriminate or exclude those people. theatrama: So it is important to find a fit between audience, place, and play. You travel a lot in order to find out more about the context of your audience and you are very careful in choosing the place and the stage for the production. Yet, what does that mean for the choice of the play with reference to your audience? Salzmann: With the stories, the spectators have to mirror themselves. That counts for every community, for every majority and minority. That is the outer frame that however does not say anything about the content. You may start from assuming that the audience has certain background knowledge of some stereotypes or commonly shared problems. I search for the crises of society in society and try to focus on them. Concretely, that means: For Istanbul I do not write about prostitution in German roadhouses. And for Germany I do not write about how bad it is in Russia. That would be exposing so that one group could shake their heads about the other. With all specific topics, the characters have to be able to be understood universally. And that is not easy if you are issuing concrete cases. So it is necessary to surprise people, to get them at a point where they thought to actually have a clear understanding of the world – and to go into it. theatrama: To provide the audience with emotional access in order to set a process of reflection in motion. Is that your approach against intellectual transfiguration? Salzmann: Intellectual discourse away from the people very often leads to a paralysis instead of reflection. The arts are full of smart

and talented, yet paralysed heads. Relying on theory too much does not work. Experience shows that repeatedly. We have to be careful with what we consider great achievements of our minds. For me, it is not about a fixed statement or a final product, but about the way: processes, thinking processes, emotional processes. That is the kind of change I believe in. It is no use to sit there smart but depressed and to know that you do not know anything. It is about further questioning, continue searching. We need concrete examples for the fact that small deeds can have a tremendous power, globally seen. Of course, you have to believe in this beforehand. theatrama: Just like your political interest is not in presenting a clear-cut image of how things work at the end of your plays. You want to inspire a process of reflection. So is it about the relation between individual and political? Salzmann: Theatre was born from the conflict between the individual and the masses, the choir. Those were the first dialogues to be written down. There is no help but to carry this basic original conflict further into theatre history. Furthermore I think that it underlies everything we negotiate. How do I relate to the world and how does the world relate to me?

Marianna Salzmann recommends: “Why the Child Is Cooking in the Polenta” (by Aglaja Veteranyi); “Living my Life” (Emma Goldman); “Plexus” (Henry Miller) 46


Fließtext

Fließtext


Amsterdam by Mariana Ćosić page 17-19

Ljuba:

-­ Hello, my name is Ljuba, and this is Bojan, we are...

Jolanda shakes his hand with great pleasure and laughs heartily. Jolanda: (very excited) – Oooohohooo, foreigners! Uhuh, lovely, wonderful! Are you two boys from Amsterdam? Ljuba and Bojan look at each other confused. Bojan leans to Ljuba and whispers: Bojan: -­Told ya we look worldly. Ljuba: (sourly whispers back)- Everybody who wanders into this wilderness looks worldly to these natives. Jolanda: (carrying, joyfully) – Oh, you must be lost! Many people are coming and going to our little village lately... do you need any help? Are you looking for Superman? Bojan slaps Ljuba on his back. Bojan: -­Look how horny she got. Told ya, man! She ain’t a bad milf either, nice... Auch! (Ljuba slaps the back of his head) Ljuba: (cleares his throat, heavy accent) -­ Erm, we are not from Amsterdam, but from Serbia and we, erm... Jolanda: (chirps) – Excuse me? Where from? Syria you say? Ljuba: -­Serbia... Bojan: (proudly) – SRBIJA! Ljuba: -­You know, the Balkans... Belgrade... Serbia! Jolanda: (figures) – Aaaaah-­ aah! Oh Jezus Mina, I was in your wonderful, wonderful country! Lovely mountains! Not to mention how great Dubrovnik is, Rovigno, hmmmm! It is such a pleasure to... well, first things first, my name is Jolanda van de Wild. (shakes hands)


The Emphasis on Character Marijana Ćosić

Marijana Verhoef Ćosić is an up-and-coming European playwright and screenwriter born in Belgrade, Serbia. Marijana’s writing is both provocative and playful, built out of strong, many-layered characters. With an edgy, black sense of humour she confronts today’s social and political issues, such as cultural differences, multiple identities, intolerance, and discrimination. 49

My playwriting professor once told me that every play is political, even the most innocent one dedicated to children. This made me wonder about the inherent significance attached to every sort of writing. Some years later I realised that politics is always an undeniable aspect of culture as such. However, to understand what that really means, I committed myself to the works of a long gone past. I think I will never lose the feeling of amazement how ancient playwrights mirror contemporary history and political mechanisms, even though their works have been written over 2500 years ago. Especially the powerful iron ladies had a tremendous impact on me, such as Euripides’s Clytemnestra and Medea. Even back then, they were fully emancipated female individuals who took initiative, ruled kingdoms and made their men pay in blood when they got betrayed. Through the studies of the ancient tragedies I have learned about the essence of critical observation of society. However, as the first assignment at the screenplay department of the university of Arts, I had to watch Peter Jackson’s Braindead (to my biggest surprise). ‘How could this splatter-horror be of any concern to a young, developing writer?’, I wondered. And, in retrospect, how could this have become a defining starting point in approaching my fu-


ture writings? I watched it being highly skeptical but I secretly enjoyed it, considering it as a guilty pleasure. When my intimidating professor noticed my hesitation to accept the quality of Braindead, he made me watch it again and added the entire repertoire of B-production movies. This was even more confusing, especially because I stubbornly believed I was able to distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cinematography. After having seen Braindead for the fourth time, my professor asked me what I thought of it now. I told him that it was amazing to see in how many creative ways a zombie can be killed. But my professor proceeded ‘And what else? What is this movie about?’, he asked, raising his thick eyebrows, which always reminded me of Toshiro Mifune in his samurai outfit. ‘About…killing zombies?’, I said uncertain and afraid of him using his verbal katana to cut me down. Instead he said ‘No, Marijana, it is a great love story, about a guy who stood up for himself and about his relationship with his oppressive, dominant mother’. [Different Cultures and Perspectives] This particular statement carved into my mind and made me start observing arts through the eyes of others, especially makers. Also, being educated and raised in two different cultures, Serbian and Dutch, made me think how essential it is for an author to be able to consciously experience different perspectives how people think and handle in various situations. On the other hand, being born in three countries at the same time, namely Yugoslavia, Serbia and Montenegro and, at the end, Serbia, left a deep and inevitable feeling of being torn. During these ongoing transitions, I was served a thick, political cocktail, a strange mixture of communism, despotism, democracy and nationalism which did not make my life very easy but gave me an awful lot to write about. As a teenager I moved to the Netherlands, where I discovered an open space where indi-

duals could express their thoughts and could be heard, regardless of being right or wrong. For the first time I was able to accept speaking and writing about politics as something useful and not just something being used for the purpose of corruption or nationalist propaganda. So, it was not at all strange for me, after being constantly culturally and politically confronted by my surroundings, to write Amsterdam. [Amsterdam, a play about the clash of cultures:] Amsterdam is a story about two young men from Serbia who travel outside their country for the first time in their lives. They are assigned to find Superman in a small Dutch village and write an article about it. On their road trip, they have to face their cultural prejudices, encountering the Dutch villagers, and their influence on them. For instance, when the protagonists Ljuba and Bojan meet the bored Dutch girl Merel, leaning on her cheese stand, their palette of almost holy prejudices towards the Dutch gets confronted with equally discriminating presumptions from the Dutch girl. However, when Merels adopted brother Bobo, originally from Indonesia (a former Dutch colony), enters the scene, Ljuba and Bojan cannot stop but frown. They wonder out loud whether adopting Bobo was done to soothe a guilty conscience, pointing out that Bobo must feel extremely misplaced in society. This politically incorrect example in my play stems from a conversation I had in Belgrade when I took my dog for a walk. On our way to the park I met my neighbour, a law student, also out for hairy business. So, while our furry companions were playing, our conversation took a sudden turn, addressing the issue of adopting a child of a different skin colour. I supported that idea, while my neighbour had to disagree, highlighting the ‘child’s interest’. She explained that if white parents adopted a black child. The child would get 50


bullied at school and eventually be dismissed by society for being ‘different’. The Dutch inhabitants represented in my play are not without flaws either. When the Hells Angel member Arie, father of Merel and Bobo, meets the Serbian boys, he thinks automatically they are like terminators, a hundred times more brutal than Russians. Without contemplation, he asks them to work for him as guards on his marijuana farm. The personal experience that led to this particular scene happened in the year 2001, when I felt like an outsider in the Dutch society. Considering the Balkan Wars, Serbians were mainly portrayed as the new Nazis. This stigma stuck to me like a tattoo, confronting me with my origins on a daily basis. Quite often, Dutch friends would ask: ‘Well? Did you shoot anyone lately?’, thinking they were being funny. In my search for an attitude towards this kind of humour, I found a certain comfort within these words: ‘A man should deal with politics; otherwise politics will deal with him.’ [A man should deal with politics; otherwise politics will deal with him] With the former in mind, I set out to create a play that reflected my personal revolt against the split political identity of Serbia, a play that should resemble the nothing less than a punch in the gut. So I wrote Playboy, a story about the integration of psychopaths into our societies. The play tells the ego-tripping story of a successful, fearless psychopath called Playboy, who has trapped everybody around him in constant state of the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’. Led by his ambition he humiliates and tortures his peers. Playboy is not charming and does not resemble an attractive way of being evil – he is blunt, brutal, rebellious and coldhearted. The reader is exposed to his verbal violence, being forced to experience what we, as a society, have allowed to become an essential part of our culture by just being passive. 51

The play points to a paradoxical code of conduct ‘approved’ by some societies. Ironically, Playboy is condemned for his secret sexual fetish. He likes to dress up as a giant bunny and consequentially make love with a furry fox, an escort / party girl who likes to experiment. This sexual fetish makes him perverse, deviant and despicable, while his openly exposed violent anti-social behaviour is accepted and wrapped in an aura of ambition, success and perseverance. In conclusion, I have to admit that at first, I did not see myself as a political writer. But I have always written stories, which address issues with strong social engagement. Even though I am not explicitly trying to deal with overtly political themes in my plays, I cannot avoid them. To me, the vividness of storytelling, the detailed and coherent development of my characters has always been a priority. The political aspect is something that develops along the way. What I always do try to achieve, when writing, is to create different microcosms, which are driven by the strongly developed individuals. Ergo, my characters are not having great philosophical conversations but internal and intimate dialogues, which indirectly transmit their system of belief behind it.

Marijana Cosic recommends: ‘Firmin’ (by Sam Savage), ‘Flow my tears, the policeman said’ ( by Philip K. Dick), ‘The man who fell to Earth ‘ (by Walter Tevis)


Die Zeit ist das Loch in der Schöpfung, die ganze Menschheit passt hinein.

(aus: Quartett)

HEINER MÜLLER 2013 – 2014 (Auswahl)

Books

+++ 24.04.2014: Die Hamletmaschine Minor Latham Playhouse, New York / USA +++ 21.01.2014: Quartett Fondazione del Teatro Stabile, Turin / Italien, Regie Valter Malosti +++ 17.01.2014: Quartett Toneelgroep Oostpool, Municipal Theatre Arnheim / Niederlande, Regie Marcus Azzini +++ 11.10.2013: Quartett Stadttheater Darmstadt / Deutschland, Regie Patricia Benecke +++ 05.05.2013: Zement Bayerisches Staatsschauspiel, München / Deutschland, Regie Dimiter Gotscheff +++ 04.07.2013: Quartett Teatro de la Universidad Finis Terrae, Santiago de Chile / Chile, Regie Jamie Mc Manus Menuel +++ 24.04.2013: Medeamaterial Teatro en movimento, Sao Paulo / Brasilien, Regie André Silva dos Santos +++ 05.04.2013: Die Hamletmaschine Firehouse Creative Productions, Theatre503, London / Großbritannien +++ 22.03.2013: Quartett Staatstheater Kassel / Deutschland, Regie Maik Priebe +++ 07.03.2013: Die Schlacht Centraltheater Leipzig / Deutschland, Regie Thomas Thieme +++ 05.03.2013: Quartett Urland / Tournee: Belgien, Niederlande, Regie Marijn de Jong +++ 01.03.2013: Medeamaterial Foro Shakespeare, Mexiko D.F. / Mexiko +++ 24.02.2013: Leeres Theater Thalia Theater, Hamburg / Deutschland, Regie Dimiter Gotscheff +++ 23.02.2013: Der Auftrag bat, Berlin / Deutschland, Regie Magali Tosato +++ 04.02.2013: Quartett Teatro Solis, Montevideo / Uruguay, Regie Eduardo Schinca +++ 19.01.2013: Die Hamletmaschine deviant gaze, Athen / Griechenland, Regie Giorgos Zamboulakis +++ 15.01.2013: Die Hamletmaschine Teatr LA M.ORT (Polen), Thrissur / Indien

henschel SCHAUSPIEL Theaterverlag Berlin GmbH | Alte Jakobstraße 85/86 | 10179 Berlin | Tel: +49 30 44318888 | www.henschel-schauspiel.de | www.heinermueller.de


Imprint

Publisher: Sonfield Verlag (/- Atelier), Emser Straße 12, D-12051 Berlin Editor (responsible): Daniel Austerfield (Daniel.Austerfield@sonfield-verlag.de) Final Editing: Katharina Herold (Katharina.Herold@sonfield-verlag.de), Daniel Austerfield (Daniel.Austerfield@sonfield-verlag.de) Layout: Katharina Obletter (nobletter@aol.com) Photo Editors: Katharina Herold, Daniel Austerfield Photos/Illustrations: Christof Wolff (Cover), Luke Adam (Editorial), Sebatian Blasius (Sebastian Blasius), Mischa Twitchin (Mischa Twitchin), EGfKA (T/A/T), Charlotte Lensing (Ana Zirner), Stefan Köhler (Marianna Salzmann), Jan Joost Verhoef (Mariana Ćosić, p. 47), EGfKA (p. 7, 22-25), Viktoria Burkert (p. 9),Fabian Stürtz (p. 11), The Shunt (p. 16), Christian Stimming (p. 20), Satellit Produktion (p. 30-33), Katharina Herold (p. 36), Brett Bailey (p. 38), Joerg Metzner (43-44), Daniel Austerfield (p. 54) Authors: Sabrina Apitz, Sebastian Blasius, Marijana Ćosić, Katharina Herold, Marianna Salzmann, Florian Thamer, Tina Turnheim, Mischa Twitchin, Ana Zirner Technical Realisation: Phillip Austerfield (Phillip.Austerfield@sonfield-verlag.de) Internet: www.theatrama.com Publishing House: Sonfield Verlag (/- Atelier), Emser Straße 12, D-12051 Berlin Place of jurisdiction and place of fulfilment: Berlin, Germany

53


Profile for Daniel Austerfield

Theatrama issue 1 060613  

The first issue of 'theatrama' is dedicated to political theatre. Read on to find out about the work and perspectives of theatre makers, who...

Theatrama issue 1 060613  

The first issue of 'theatrama' is dedicated to political theatre. Read on to find out about the work and perspectives of theatre makers, who...

Profile for sonfield
Advertisement