Directing in German Theatre...

July 20, 2013
I wrote this Facebook Post last week, aghast after a performance of graduating students at the ADK in Ludwigsburg, at the spectacle set on stage by their director, who I shall not name (the information is naturally available in the public domain, if people are sufficiently interested).
Leaving Ludwigsburg. Bachelor performance at the end of three years' study. So much talent on stage, so much heart and energy given out; unstinting courage and amazing stamina. All in service of yet another piece of lazy, inarticulate, undisciplined "Regie" from a Wunderkind with zero interest in giving his audience anything to take home other than their own exhaustion. Nothing, either of beauty or of substance, to give pause or reflection on the Nature of Things. It was in every sense " a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." This was despite the fact that the source for this fractured sequence of impressions was Dostoyevsky. For God's sake!

It is the great misnomer of the moment that German theatre is "too intellectual". It is more than a misnomer: it is a pretence, a fraud, perpetrated upon the public by a body of practitioners who only wish they were intellectual. If more of the Regie which we see were actually intellectual, it would have greater unity of thought and of expression. It would have more rigour. Its forms and mechanisms would work together, in conscious and unconscious flow, to deliver an experience on which the spectator could satisfactorily chew, perhaps for days or years after the event. It would make the audience THINK. About SOMETHING. Instead, like a childish, naked Emperor, many directors feel compelled to bully and scream at their actors (and by extension, their audience) if they fail to perceive the marvellous texture and weave of the golden clothes. It is a brave actor who elects to say, "Emperor, you have no clothes."

It is a rigorous philosophical position to say, "a person should retain in one's house ONLY those objects which have in themselves inherent beauty or which serve a unique and useful purpose." Would that this precept were applied to theatre. How little, either of real purpose or true beauty, do we honestly witness?

But as far as I can see, in German theatre, it is purpose which is mostly lacking. After all, if you have nothing really to say to anyone, and like so many directors you resolutely refuse any hint of "psychologising" your work, then what purpose does ANY part of your work serve? What we witness instead is a child furiously assembling an assortment of lego pieces (scenery, sound, light, text, actors), according to no real principle, and with zero regard for what we call Konsequenz in Germany. The guiding idea, if there is one, is that the director must exercise a free reign over these elements in order to attain an unconstrained artistic expression. By unconstrained, what is meant is that the means of expression should be unlimited, whether by finance or by tradition or taste or logic. In particular it seems to mean that the end result should not have to mean anything at all. This is very convenient, since under these circumstances no director has ever to justify his or her choices. Even the usual barometer of audience reaction has no weight in this rarified aesthetic. When audiences complain at the abuses they are so often forced to witness, these complaints are seen as a badge of honour, not as a wake-up call. Communication of a distinct idea seems to be the least interesting concept to German directors. What is appalling, (perhaps especially to an Anglo-Saxon theatre maker, keenly aware of the extent of public money made available to support performing arts here) is the waste of energy and resources dispensed in service of this dismissive position. And, for me, worst of all, the exploitation of the actor as the principal "Mittel" or seller of the director's "vision". The worst thing about the director's lack of discipline, or artistic coherence in their work, is the tendency to use the actor to compensate for these lacks. 

In the case of this performance of Der Spieler "nach" Dostoyevsky (what a world of meretricious crap that get-out clause justifies), there was so little personal investment in the project, that after the short burst of choleric "work" which directors call "Rehearsals" he felt able to leave the building without even attending his own Premiere, or any subsequent performances.

And so these actors, who have laboured to grasp what their five-year old tyrant wanted to do but could not communicate; these actors, who must now go out on stage in front of a paying audience, naked and unaccompanied; THESE fabulous young warriors are the only ones doing anything of true worth. Why? Because they are present. Because they are giving their humanity to a shared moment, even when they have not the least clue what it is they are supposed to be sharing. Because they, unlike the director, are prepared to take the risk of contact with the audience. And they pour out all this energy, for what? An eggshell. They "fight for a plot whereon the numbers cannot try the cause, which is not tomb enough or continent to hide the slain."

January 18th 2013

January 18, 2013
Congratulations to Actors-Space Director/Tutor Athanasios Karanikolas for his entry in the Berlinale International Film Festival nest month! Details below!

ECHOLOT opens worldwide in the 63. Berlinale FORUM!

The Screenings are:

12.02.13 21:30 Delphi-Filmpalast (Worldpremiere)

14.02.13 21:30 CineStar 8

16.02.13 17:30 Arsenal

17.02.13 20:00 Colosseum 1

We would be very pleased to be meet you in one of the screenings!

The ECHOLOT Crew and Cast.


Franz’ friends cannot ...

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November News Actors-Space Berlin

November 9, 2011

November News from the Actors-Space Berlin

November 2, 2011
It's been an astonishingly, and sometimes drainingly, busy summer at the Actors-Space Berlin. The end of our first Year-Long programme, culminating in a public sharing of scenes at the Heimathafen Theatre in Kreuzberg, and then the five week intensive summer programme..

In addition, here are up to the minute offerings at the Space this month:
I start a weekly text / scene class this week. We will be going into the fundame...

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Weekend Return to Vienna

July 6, 2011
Heading for Vienna for a final weekend's work with the actors at EUXXL Forum for Film. Meeting them in their first week of this ambitious seminar/workshop back in March, I am now wondering, somewhat expectantly, how they will have changed over the three months or so. They only had a small input from me, with an eight day intensive introduction to the basics in the Meisner Technique, but it was, as ever, an eye-opening week, and they have had so much more input since then, from Dieter Berner a...
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Archive Blog from the Actors-Space Berlin

July 6, 2011
12th April 2010

Bill Esper is coming to Berlin! From June 21st to 26th, he and his wife Suzanne will teach a full six day workshop, taking actors through the fundamentals of the Meisner Technique, and into Scenework...

Bill runs one of the most highly regarded acting schools in the United States, and prior to that, spent 17 years working alongside Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse.

Following my visit to his studio in New York last December, we have been working to find a time ...

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