Tuesday, September 18, 2007

bis später

I am still in Berlin. No surprise there, really, as my friend and colleague, dramaturg Laura Berman, can attest. Laura and I worked together three years ago at the San Francisco Opera under the direction of Thomas Langhoff in Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust.

Here is a rather comically unflattering review of the production. I was part of the "corp de bondage" among other things.

and another (comedy orgy! yay!)

But I didn't write this post just to unearth critical reviews of a four-year-old opera during which, it must be said, I only got to perform in ... one or two public performances because of my little ACL incident...

Here's what I want to say: Laura predicted then that I would move to Europe. You're only 23, she said, but you'll figure it out, you belong (t)here. And (t)here I am with her, four years later, contemplating whether I will turn up on her doorstep when I have to start paying rent in NYC.

Many, many projects are in the works here. I will wait a bit before publicly scribbling about them on the internet.

In the meantime, I have seen a lot of performance. I saw several shows in the Tanz im August festival, Georg Tabori's final, profoundly Beckett-like production at the Berliner Ensemble, Ein Sommernachtstraum and Emilia Galotti at the Deutsches Theater, Luc Peceval's Moliere at the Schaubühne, and the German premiere of the gorgeous, wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am Medea directed by Sasha Waltz at the Staatsoper. I'm looking forward to Jess Curtis's upcoming show in Berlin and the Robert Wilson Dreigroschenoper at the Berliner Ensemble.

I have begun to identify some of the cliches of contemporary institutional German theater ... much of which is evidently a lot less formalistic than its predecessors (though to most Americans, I suspect, it would appear highly stylized and non-naturalistic). There is always a point, for instance, when actors start to shout at the top of their lungs...unfortunately, that is also often the point when previous attention to physical specificity seems to fly out the window or down the trap and it becomes virtually impossible to hear and understand what they're actually saying (such as I can understand things anyway...I estimate my verbal comprehension at somewhere around 20-30%). There may be an effort to adhere to a very strict tempo of line delivery or a certain technical device or repetition of gestures, there is often a very dramatic, forced-perspective, raked stage, a kind of box within the proscenium (which means, incidentally, if you happen to sit at orchestra/ "parkett" level and you're on the side, you're pretty well and truly fucked for anything that happens upstage on that side...in Emilia Galotti, for instance, I couldn't see a single entrance or exit, which I suspect in this show were pretty exciting). This sort of design was pioneered in part by Jürgen Rose, the designer for the Faust production at the SFO.

In any case, I can understand how many of these conventions become tedious...just as all cliches become tiresome...but I think they are, by and large, far more desirable than their American analogs because they all start from the notion that theater is something other than every day life...so that the fallback may be contrived, bizarre, extreme, or even quite cold and dead; but what it seems quite infrequently to be is a fallback to naturalism or familiarity...

And I've been blessed to attend many of these performances with Enrico, Alec, and Netti - three fabulous young German actors, all working in different contexts (Enrico is newly arrived in Berlin after several years in the stadttheater system, Alec is currently working at the stadttheater in Heilbronn, and Netti is working on a new ER-style television series).

I've been dancing - ballet and samba at Tangara Studio near Hermannplatz - and practicing yoga at City Yoga Berlin and Spirit Yoga in Mitte, and an Iyengar studio near Oranienplatz. There are some contemporary classes at Marameo that I want to check out when I return to Berlin. I found a super posh gym with a discounted membership near my flat in Neukölln. It didn't take long for me to figure out how and where I needed to be here to keep myself in shape and receptive. I also found a phenomenal massage therapist, by accident, when I was eating Vietnamese food one day and having my daily Grammatikskampf (grammar struggle), poring over a rather lackluster German textbook.

I've had one audition, many wonderful discussions, and a fantastic time.

I will return to NY on the 28th and prepare to perform in Zen Cabaret in the New York International Clown Theatre Festival at The Brick in Williamsburg.

Performance Dates: Sat., Oct. 6th 2pm, Sun., Oct. 7th 7pm, Thurs., Oct. 11th, 7pm, Sun., Oct. 14th 8:30pm

I am looking forward to my return to NY. And I am also looking forward to my return to Berlin.


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