A Town Dances the Rite of Spring

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Huddled together like a pack of penguins in a small side chamber stand several dozen people. They are all dressed in suits with plain T-shirts underneath. They all look in one direction: A door leading out onto a stage, before whichsits an anticipating audience. hile these people look uniform, their backgrounds are intrinsically different in a great many respects. There is a lorry driver, a doctor, 6a salesperson, a teacher, an architect, an unemployed, an independent, a pensioner, a child… What unites them are two things: First, they are all from Hoyerswerda, a deprived town in the formerly socialist east of Germany, suffering from an ageing population and the decline of the coal industry. Second, each one of them has made sacrifices for some greater good.

1This sacrifice, this putting oneself back   – sometimes to the brink of despair or illness – for one’s career, children, some obligation or just to fit in, is the main issue to be artistically deconstructed in this year’s theatre dance project by the Kultur Fabrik Hoyerswerda. The idea that in a world that follows the rules of competitiveness and the threat of career redundancy, sacrifices are made in order to withstand the pressure put on oneself by expectation and fear of social downfall. The proposal put forward by this project is that not all of these sacrifices are justified. Some stand in the way of happiness and health. Furthermore, the process of discussing and dancing this state of affairs is meant to bring about relief and courage.

2The musical accompaniment of this expression is Igor Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre du Printemps”. This timeless masterpiece was written just prior to the Great War in a society fixated on power and multi-national tension. It tells the tale of an ancient tribal society, which sacrifices a young woman from within, o that spring may come again. It asks the question what sacrifice we are willing to make as a society so that the earth can bloom once more. Though what are the wishes of that woman? Is she honoured or terrified? Does she at all desire sacrifice for society over her own path to discovery of a life she just began? Moving forward to today, we inquire as to what we are willing to sacrifice. Will our sacrifices lead to renewal and rebirth or something less sustainable and sinister?

3Every one of those people crammed in that room has asked these questions and reflected upon their own sacrifices and whether they led to any blossoming. Many believe that it did not, that in fact their former selves might not be proud of where they are today. One person barely took part in the raising of his child due to his frequent delivery tours throughout Europe. Another tells of a cloud of death surrounding her medical work, which sometimes becomes so dark that she has trouble calling in the next patient. Some speak of their childhood dreams of being artists, and how circumstances shifted them in new directions. A man just out of school reminisces on his planning a model biography to the liking of potential employers.

7Grey and black business jackets lie on stage. As the light come on, the group of about 70 dancers finds theirs and with the first notes of the music put on this uniform. To the beat of the drums, the sweet strokes of the violins or abrupt brass punches, those dancers teeter, balance, tense and convulse their bodies, which are not all dancers’ figures. Through this performance, which is interleaved with interviews of individual dancers, the audience gains a sense of remission of these sacrifices. At the end, one by one the dancers break formation and declare silently that their willingness to participate in their sacrifices has ended. No jackets are worn at the close.

Prior to this performance stood months of rehearsals including hours and hours of strength and stamina training. Given the diversity of the group, this is a tremendous achievement, thanks for which go to Dirk5 Lienig, who took the group through rehearsals and also Judith Gamm, together with whom he devised the choreography. Speaking to the dancers, one cannot help but notice both the pride they take in making this happen next to work and family, but also how intimate and trusting this strange group of people have become over the course of this project.

4One thing left to mention is that I had the privilege of dancing with them, which has been a magnificent experience and brought me close to more people in Hoyerswerda, than I have known here since moving overseas. Also, dancing together with my mother – a veteran withthis project – has improved an already excellent relationship in my family. For that alone, I am very grateful. Those moments of standing behind a stage with others that are likeminded, anticipating and begin nervous, is a superb sensation. Now that it is over, we are all very saddened. Our bodies may revert to a lesser state of athleticism, though I know that many of us will choose more wisely the sacrifices we make in the future.IMG_0325

The Conductor

While listening to “I Giorni” by Ludovico Einaudi I felt that many universal truths were conveyed as happens often whilst listening to music. What if a deaf man, however, was to visit a musical performance? Would there be any chance of these truths being conveyed to him as well?

I suggest they could through the physicality of an orchestral conductor. This figure does, unlike the theatre director, not merely organise and bundle themes and truths, but channels and projects them onto the audience in an active and present manner. Since the conductor is not a character, he is always authentic and organic. Therefore he has become somewhat of a creative ideal to me.

I wish to exploit this ideal by placing a conductor on a theatre stage. The performance’s aim is not to actually conduct or copy specific movements to indicate volume or speed, but to visualise a musical score with the help of a physical score and thus help to bring about a sense of catharsis. I will use the music piece “Le Sacre du Printemps” by Igor Stravinsky to create this score.

The purpose of stage, lighting and costume will merely be to facilitate and emphasise the physicality of the conductor, as will all other elements of production. The vast amount of people who conduct their own recordings at home indicates to me a strong potential for catharsis embedded in this performance technique.

The Conductor (full version – pdf)

Thomas’ / Marion’s 7th April 1980 – The Holonovel

I believe that the roots of the shrinking demand for theatre in the western world lies in stagnation. After the great insurrection of practitioners in the 20th century like Grotowski, Brecht, Brook or Johnstone, I feel that many local theatres decided to return to a Stanislavski based approach. Now, entering the 21st century, a significant shift in the audience’s perception of what is worth watching can be observed: Instead of only being a spectator, many people like going on Safari trips, bungie jumping or other sorts of activity, which put the spectator into the role of a Protagonist co-writing an own story. Best example is probably reality TV, in which the audience perceives the illusion of having power over who has leave the Big Brother House for instance. As Richard Schechner and Augusto Boal realised there is a tremendous opportunity for theatre unravelling from this phenomenon, since it is the most personal form of art. It has to become possible to enter a theatre and then experience something greater than mere watching and hoping that inner purification is transmitted by good actors. I believe that this Aristotelian idea of catharsis could best be achieved by not just presenting the audience with the possibility of passively interacting with actors as Schechner suggested in his theory of new or environmental theatre, but by providing the opportunity for the audience to feel and write the narrative they enter. My role in this independent project hence became one of a theatre maker.

The Holonovel (full version – pdf)

Yerma Photo Album

During my time in Bosnia, I had the pleasure and privilege to co-direct the theatre play “Yerma” by Lorca. The stage, lighting and costume designers, our guardian Danielle and the wonderful cast together made a piece that really evoked some great awes and left wonderful memories. We had the fortune of all getting along superbly at an extraordinary level of trust. Here I want to share some pictures made during one of the performances.

A Text Seldomly Comes Alone: Why the Timeless Qualities of Athenian Drama are Not Enough.

Should we analyze Athenian plays as responses to the world around, or should we pay more attention to their “timeless” qualities? In this post I argue that we should look primarily at ancient drama as response to the world around. Awareness of contemporary Athenian history can greatly deepen our understanding of drama since it is not only specifically reflected upon in plays, but hidden within each word. A grasp of Greek society can therefore make the meaning of theatre much less opaque which this essay will attempt to show in respect to freedom of speech, religion, reception and the radically different Greek mind.

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On What Medea was Told to Tell Us about Ancient Women’s Lives

gsdg4f3There are only indirect tools for us today to draw conclusions about the lives of women in ancient Athens. Social status, norms or just habits can be reasoned about by looking at Athenian drama. Specifically, Medea’s speech from Euripides (230-51) has a lot of potentially interesting material on this subject. However, we must always consider a specific text in a wider context. Here, I believe that Medea’s special circumstances may be an obstacle to applying it to common Athenian women.

 

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Sicher dass Antigone und Medea von den Göttern Unterstützt Wurden?

‘Wie stark war der Glaube der Griechen an ihre Götter?’ – Man kann annehmen, dass ein Glaubensverhältnis zwischen uns und Hollywood dem zur Zeit Sophokles und Euripides am nächsten kam: Obwohl unsere Anschauungen durch Filme modelliert werden, glauben nur wenige an diese Erzählungen. Genauso wurden damals Mythen erzählt und verschieden interpretiert. Sogar Platon, der für seinen Konservativismus und seine Religiosität bekannt war, räumt in seinem Werk Gesetze ein, dass seit dem minoischen Zeitalter Atheismus, Aberglaube und Glaube an nie eingreifende Götter in Griechenland koexistieren (Law. V. 888c). Dem Autor griechischer Tragödie fällt damit eine wichtige Rolle zu: Zwar muss er Opfergaben erbringen, doch ist freie Meinungsäußerung erlaubt und Tragödien können die Götter nach belieben für Wertdiskussionen benutzen. So hat Aristophanes keine Skrupel den Gott Dionysos in seinem Werk Frösche aus Angst einpullern zu lassen. Sophokles und Euripides zogen ihre dramatische Kraft aus dem Fakt, dass im Publikum kein religiöser Konsens bestand. Die Antwort auf die Frage, wen die Götter in den Werken unterstützen, ist daher essentiell für ein Verständnis der Stücke im Kontext altgriechischer Gesellschaft.

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