Friday, April 8, 2011

The End is the Beginning . . .

" . . . wir haben wichtige Entdeckungen zu machen. Ich werde mit der Kanone der Wahrheit hervorbrechen und meine Feinde zermalmen. Eines Tages wird man die Wahrheit erkennen. Aber ich sage euch: Nach dem Tod ist vor dem Leben. Das Ende der Utopie ist der Anfang der Utopie."


" . . . we have important discoveries to make. I'll break out with the canon of truth and crush my enemies. One day the truth will be recognized. But I tell you all: after death is before life. The end of utopia is the beginning of utopia . . . "


Two weeks in Berlin passed in a haze like an evening in a smoky cafe. Lots of quality time spent with old friends, and more than a few poker evenings with the boys up in Prenzlauer Berg:

My friend Katja and I had lots of post brunch wanderings through the streets of MItte, and occasionally stepping in to a galerie in Auguststrasse. My favorite of these moments was checking out some pen & ink drawings in said gallery, and meeting the owner's son Florian, himself already a solid art critic at the ripe old age of 3 yrs. There was an installation in the galerie with a television showing a two minute clip from Fritz Lang's Metropolis on loop. And Florian was only too happy to explain to us what was happening in his refined Baby-Deutsch:

"Ja, ja . . .und dann kommt die Maria, und sie, und sie, und sie ist eine Frau, und sie liegt da, und dann kommt der Mann und der Hebel, und dann . . .BOOM! . . .und Maria sie schläft, und dann, warte, und dann . . . "

"Yeah, yeah, . . . and then Maria comes and she, and she, and she is a woman, and she's laying there and then the man comes and the lever and then . . . BOOM! . . . and Maria, she's sleeping and then, wait, and then . . . ."

Just about the most adorable thing ever. And I can only wonder what this kid-who hangs out in a mega-hip gallery watching Frizt Lang on loop will turn out to be like in fifteen years.

I also spent a solid three days touring the museums on Museum Island. Back when I was living in Berlin, every Thursday night from 6-10 the three main museums were free. My friends and I would meet there all the time, wander the hallowed halls and try to solve all the world's problems before heading out to eat and drink the night away. These days, with the 11% increase in tourism in just three years in Berlin, there are no more free Museum evenings. Add on that the last two museums, the Bode Museum and the New Museum (both of which had been closed since the war or the wall) had reopened, completely restored, and not only do you have to pay for these attractions, you have to have a time-sensitive ticket and can only enter during a particular window during the day in order to facilitate the huge demand. Sleepy old Berlin is finally waking up to the world. And there was good reason to wait in line and shell out some euros for the admission:

New Museum

Nefertiti has her new home here, and although you cannot take pictures in her chamber (a lady needs her privacy after all), I can certainly say the new digs are apropos for a woman of her stature.

Bode Museum

The museum itself with its sweeping halls and luxurious furnishings was actually more impressive than the collection.

I saw plenty more theatre in my second week, the highlight of which was certainly Moliere's Misanthrope at the Schaubühne (dir: Ivo van Hove) starring the incomparable Lars Eidinger. He's pretty much the hottest actor in Berlin at the moment, starring in almost all of the Schaubühne's shows, and rightfully so. As the titular character in Moliere's play, he was absolutely brilliant and kept the action soaring right until the end. One of the best parts about watching Eidinger perform is that he has no trouble dropping in and out of character at the flick of a switch. At one point, 3/4 of the way through the show, he was launching into a monologue (and its Moliere so all of it is heightened, poetic, rhyming couplets) and his scene partner had not made it on stage yet. He waited for what seemed like about 40 seconds. Finally he dropped character, said:

"Ist sie auf's klo gegangen oder was?"
"Where'd she go, to the bathroom or what?"

(offstage) "Ich komme!
"I'm coming!"

"Lass dir Zeit!"
"take your time"

. . . then she rushes on stage and as soon as she appears, Eidinger launches ferociously back into the tirade he was delivering a minute before, without missing a beat. Incredible. Also incredible to think that the night before he had performed a two hour one-man show, and a few days before that had played Hamlet. Seeing an actor working in repertory at the top of his game is really inspiring.

Der Menschenfeind by Moliere at the Schaubühne

By far the highlight of my trip was a dinner party at Moss' house last Friday night. He invited colleagues old and new from the English Theatre, and we made a feast of eggplant parmesan, salad, and antipasti. I brought along a very nice bottle of Gewürtztraminer from Alsace, a gift from my Tübinger friends Julian & Sigrun. They had given it to me with the proviso that I drink it with a good meal and good friends. Mission accomplished. We ate and drank and philosophized long into the night, Moss playing piano. Lovely, lovely.

Then last Wednesday it was goodbye to Berlin, though only for a while. I'll be returning in May to take part in the international theatre forum, and it was a good feeling to know that I would coming back again very soon. I trained it back down to Stuttgart, and was able to catch Dantons Tod one last time that evening. It was great to see all my colleagues at the theatre and to see that the show had evolved and settled in over time.

I said goodbye to my roommate Rahel who was heading to Konstanz for the weekend, and had the place to myself for my final 24 in Stuttgart. On my final evening in town, I went to the local corner restaurant to indulge one last time in some Swabian delicacies. A mountain of pork cutlets, Spätzle, and Gemütlichkeit awaited me, washed down with cold crisp beer. Wunderbar.

The trip back was uneventful and before I knew it we were making our descent into Chicago. The last three months had passed like a dream and I was back in the Midwest, finishing one adventure and preparing to start another. Thanks to all of you, dear readers, for accompanying me on this journey. Hope it has been half as interesting to hear about as to experience. I'm signing off, wishing you a beautiful start to your spring full of new beginnings and possibilities.

All Good Things,


" . . . daß diese Furcht zu irren schon der Irrtum selbst ist."


" . . . that this fear of erring is itself the very error."



Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Berlin Calling . . .

"Ich hab’ noch einen Koffer in Berlin
Deswegen muss ich nächstens wieder hin.
Die Seligkeiten vergang’ner Zeiten
Sind alle noch in meinem kleinen Koffer drin."

"I still have a suitcase in Berlin
That's why I must go there again
The memories last, of days gone past,
In my suitcase are buried within"

After the cleanliness, orderliness, and all around wealth of Stuttgart, the overwhelming scale and dirtiness and graffiti of Berlin were really shocking to me upon my arrival--despite my having lived her for two years. Its incredible how quickly one city can impress itself upon you. Also incredible how different Berlin seems while in Stuttgart; the way people talk about it as 'the capitol" where all the famous people and artists and 'the scene' is. I suppose that's part of living in the provinces.

I had also forgotten what an unforgettable atmosphere Berlin has: a combination of ever-permeating dampness, smoke, sand, and the constantly changing sky. The Berliner Luft, the air in this city is another quality that is like no other place I've ever been. It has a distinct smell, sometimes swampy, sometimes smoky, sometimes just wet, often a combination of all three. The weather was typical upon arrival: cold, wet, and grey. After a few days it lightened up and the vast avenues and monumental scale of the architecture opened itself up again.

Some impressions from the last six days:

Staying with my Irish friend Moss in Kreuzberg, an area of the city I heretofore haven't known very well. Its lovely getting to know a new area:

Der Kaukausische Kreidekreis at the Berliner Ensemble: Brecht's play, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, performed at the theater he founded in the fifties. Heralded as the premiere center of Brecht's work in the world, it has unfortunately become something of a museum. The piece was klunky, slow, and looked like it was staged in 1976. Claus Peymann, the artistic director of the theater is regarded politically as a socialist firebrand, and artistically as a conservative brontosaurus belonging to another time. Everyone is waiting for him to be shipped off after his contract ends in 2014, so that the BE can finally get back to making theatre that the Berliners and not just the tourists want to see.

The Weavers by Gerhart Hauptmann at the Deutsches Theater: directed by Michael Thalheimer, my personal hero and favorite director in the world, this piece about the weaver's revolution in the 1840's was another excellent example of Thalheimer's mastery of contemporizing classic pieces. It played on a giant staircase, an absurd exaggeration of the social ladder. The actors ran up and down this steep staircase the entire show, and their incredibly physical acting work as well as detailed gestures and exaggeration/repetition made this evening in the DT an absolute delight. Also, the piece is written in the Silesian dialect, an area of western Poland that used to belong to Germany, and the dialect has since died out. Its pretty incredible to hear the actors bring the dialect to life. Pictures here.

Herr Puntila & Sein Knecht Matti by Bertolt Brecht at Deutsches Theater: Another of Thalheimer's productions, this time a little-known piece by Brecht. It was again excellently done, with the repetition of gestures/scenes really pushing the limit of what's possible on stage. The speed at which the actors speak and the absolute minimalism & economy of design and staging were astounding. Pictures here.

Over the weekend I met up with Carlos & Stefan, two very good friends of mine from my tour guiding-days back in 2006. They are both doing very well and we had a great night out on the town.

And on Sunday I met up with the boys again, this time at the Brandenburg Gate, our old stomping grounds, to participate in a flash mob: the world's largest pillow fight:

Still have feathers all over my clothes, my coat, in my bag, probably in my stomach as well. So it goes. Totally worth it. Videos of the pillow fight, or Kissenschlacht, here.

In the midst of exploring new neighborhoods and meeting up with friends, also having meetings with some theaters. And I found out today that I received another grant from the Goethe Institute & Pro Helvetia (the swiss cultural foundation) to participate in a 2-week conference in Berlin in May as a part of the theatre festival here! So I'll be heading back this way before too long.

In the meantime here's a look at the short film I put together for our cabaret last Monday in Chicago, with some lovely views of Stuttgart and a little social commentary:

In Vino Veritas March 2011

Hoping this finds you likewise enjoying the moment,


Monday, March 14, 2011


"Wenn man nur wüsste, wie die Welt morgen aussehen wird? Unsere Gesellschaft is löchrig, die Seelen der Menschen zerissen. Aber was wir getan haben, haben wir für das Wohl unseres Landes getan. Man schickt uns aufs Schaffot; wir werden nicht stolpern."


"If we only knew how the world would look tomorrow? Our society is penetrated, the people's souls are torn. But what we have done, we did for the good of our country. They can send us to the scaffold; we will not stumble."


We've done it! The show is open, the Premiere was celebrated, the reviews are in . . . but nothing comes without a price as they say. This last week was one of the most turbulent tech weeks I've ever been through. It began last Monday with our first dress rehearsal, called the Hauptprobe 1, or HP1 for short. Since so many actors had been sick the week before, this was really the first time that the entire company was together with lights, costumes, set and such.

The theater's artistic leadership sat down with Nuran after the run, while the actors got out of costume and the rest of us waited in the foyer. After about twenty minutes, the actors came out and joined us. After another twenty minutes, we all ordered a beer. And once an hour had gone by, everyone started to get nervous about what was coming. Finally, about seventy minutes after the show ended, the artistic director and chief dramaturg left the theater. Nuran followed a few minutes later and we all convened in the club, where we were going to receive notes.

Needless to say, when the director gets an hour + worth of notes from the producer, things are not in good shape. He said we would start the following morning by going through all of the Dantonists scenes and completely re-imagining them.

This obviously came as a blow to the actors who had been trying to make sense out of the media collage and the hyper-contemporary setting their 18th century characters had found themselves in.

Tuesday was probably the longest day of rehearsal we had had so far. We reworked every scene and then worked it again. By the end of it a lot of progress had been made. But whether or not that made the story any less convoluted . . .

Wednesday! HP2. Our second dress rehearsal was slated for that evening, and it was open to the public. My friend Julian & Sigrun, as well as Janne, Lars and their daughter were all coming from Tübingen to check the show out. The house was half full, (a solid 200 people), which made quite a difference for the actors of course.

Unfortunately, actors cannot save a piece of theatre through their own energy. I met up with Julian & Sigrun afterward. They found a lot of the visual images on stage very strong, but generally had a hard time making sense out of the production. It was great to see them, and after saying goodbye, I headed with the rest of the team to the club to hear the critique from Nuran.

The critique that night was certainly the low point of the production. It started out with Nuran disappointed with the performance as a whole, then moved on to individual notes for actors, which were retorted and then became personal attacks between actor-actor, actor-director, director-everyone else, actor-everyone else; and it only went downhill from there.

Rarely have I seen an ensemble so completely downtrodden. Andreas and I finished the evening off with a beer or three, in order to banish the bad karma from the room.

The next morning, we all showed up for rehearsal, tentative about what the day would bring. But the main players seemed to have cooled off over night, no more shouting match. The tension however was thick enough to wade through. Everyone remained professional and made it through the day. The Generalprobe that night, our final dress, was consistent if not exactly breathtaking. No critique afterward.

We met up on Friday at noon for a quick two=hour rehearsal to go over notes from the night before. Already you could tell that the Premiere energy was permeating the room. Everyone was in a great mood and joking with one another. The rehearsal did not really amount to much (I don't think anything actually changed) but it was good to get everyone in the room together before the big night.

6:30 pm: the halls and dressing rooms and backstage were a-flurry with smiles and hugs and Toi Toi Toi's and cards and well wishes. Its a tradition here in Germany that every member of the production, from the stage manager to the artistic director to the interns must say "Toi Toi Toi" to every other member of the production while hugging them, in order to ensure good luck. The energy that this simple gesture creates in the theatre is astronomical. After a half hour of hugging and Toi Toi Toi-ing fifty other people, the whole room is ready to burst with excitement . . .

And the show went very well:

A sold-out house and a home crowd, with lots of friends and loved-ones coming in from all over the country to check it out. The party afterwards went long into the night and all the pent-up energy from the rocky week of tech was vented in the streets and clubs of Stuttgart.

When I finally made it out of bed Saturday afternoon sometime, I was greeted by a grey and rainy sky, and of course the distressing news about Japan. I quickly contacted my cousin Nick, who lives in Tokyo, and who was shaken but not hurt by the earthquake. I headed into the city center, and upon my arrival found a huge demonstration, 60,000 strong, against Nuclear Power Reactors in Germany. The demonstration had been planned months in advance, but could not have found a more appropriate Saturday on which to take to the streets. With the nuclear scare at Fukishima, the politicians in Europe are now talking about the complete abandonment of nuclear power. We'll see where it leads.

One of my favorite moments from the protest was the eight foot tall Mr. Burns puppet, corrupt capitalist and nuclear power lover par excellence:

Another small victory was my ability to finally understand some Schwäbisch. I saw this sign:

Which eight weeks ago would have been completely unintelligible for me. I would have thought it was Dutch. Proper Hochdeutsch would read: "Nicht bloss schwätzen, abschalten." "Don't just blab about it, turn it off (the reactors)". Folks, we've come a long way. :)

That night I was laying down around seven o'clock, watching youtube videos in my room. I had just gone grocery shopping and was looking forward to a relaxing evening at home, still recovering from the night, and the week before. At 7:16 my cell phone rang, it was Janek, the assistant director. He asked if I happened to be in the city somewhere, not far from the theater. No, I replied, I'm at home. Why? He went on to say that one of the supernumeraries, the actors who play the camera team in the show, had not shown up. Could I possibly come and take his place? The show starts in fourteen minutes.

So I threw on some black clothing, hailed a cab and in twenty five minutes, was on stage at the Staatstheater Stuttgart, performing as the cableman for the video team. Since I had been running the camera throughout rehearsal up until the last week or so, I knew all of the scenes and positions, and it was no problem. So it was that two hours later I found myself bowing on stage with the other actors after having successfully made it through. Just goes to show, it really ain't over till its' over.

And it ain't over yet! On Wednesday I travel to Berlin, to see old friends and lots of new theatre.

Ridiculously Excited,


"If you can't please everyone with your deeds and art, please just a few; there is no virtue in pleasing the crowd."

-Friedrich Schiller

Sunday, March 6, 2011


"Die Elenden welche mich anklagen mögen hier erscheinen, und ich werde sie mit Schande bedecken. Von einem Revolutionär wie ich darf man keine kalte Verteidigung erwarten. Männer meines Schlages sind in Revolutionen unschätzbar, auf ihrer Stirne schwebt das Genie der Freiheit . . .meine Stimme war der Orkan!!!!"


"Should the wretches that accuse me appear, I'll disgrace them. From a revolutionary like me you can expect no calm defense. Men like me are invaluable in a revolution, the genius of freedom hangs upon my brow . . . my voice was the hurricane!!!

(Rehearsal pic published in the Staatstheater Journal this month)

Tech week in Stuttgart got off to a lurching start, as Mike, one of the eight actors was sick for the first two days. When you are producing a play with two very close-knit groups (the Dantonists and the Robespierre-folks) struggling against one another, and 25% of one of those groups is missing, it makes it awfully difficult to move forward. So it was with fits and starts that we plowed ahead into the technical rehearsals, which of course are overloaded by the confounding amount of technical gadgetry that is going into this production. Taking into account the two flatscreens, the two projection screens, the three projectors and four live cameras on stage, not to mention the countless microphones and cables, its a wonder anything works at all. Adding on the multiple pre-recorded clips that we've been splicing together over the last few weeks, and it came as no surprise that the first two days of tech were an utter train wreck.

As if that was not enough, Nuran decided we needed to film one more segment to complete the news-reel portion of the evening. This consisted of a pseudo-terrorist training video that he wanted to shoot in a natural environment, as if the revolting masses were gathering themselves outside the city. And so I found myself on Thursday afternoon in a very official looking white mercedes van:

. . . stuffed with prop weapons, ski masks and trench coats (not to mention a dozen actors and a ridiculously over-excited director) towards the forest on the edge of Stuttgart where we would spend the next two hours filming our pseudo-terrorist training video for the play.

(The cast as 'terrorists' and Nuran playing the role of the reporter)

For the occasion, Andreas had created a sign with the words "Brigade LEF" (Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, natsch) especially for the video. We all had a blast running through the forest acting like a terror group. Though its a wonder the police weren't called, since we were sharing the forest with joggers, and riders on horseback. Ah well, I suppose we gave the Stuttgarters something to talk about.

Outside of regular rehearsals this week we also had lighting focus rehearsals, where I was needed as a warm body to stand under the lights and make sure everything looked right. I was of course only too happy to help, and was delighted to meet Hannah, a lovely woman in her early seventies who was working as a Beleuchtungsstatist. This word can loosely be translated as a "Lighting Extra", or someone who gets paid a small fee to come and stand around on stage in place of the actors during the lighting rehearsal or focus. I asked Hannah if she had done this before and she responded with a laugh saying she had been an extra at the Staatstheater since she was a little girl. She had never acted herself, but had often participated as a supernumerary or extra or chorus memeber whenever the theatre needed her. She went on to say she had worked at a bank for forty years and was now retired. And her entire life she had always been peripherally involved in the theater. She complained a bit about how they did not really want her on stage any more, that they opted for younger, blonder, better looking extras/chorus members these days. But that did not seem to bother Hannah. At the end of the day, she said, "Theaterluft ist Theaterluft." Theatre air is theatre air, i.e. the atmosphere in the theatre is enough. Its really humbling to think that the job we work at every day is so exciting for other people that they would spend their free time as a 'lighting extra' just to be around the theatre and its atmosphere. And that people like Hannah have been happy to be a part of things, however minimally, for her entire life. The magic of theatre indeed.

On Saturday we had our First Tech, which here is called the AMA (Alles mit Allem, or everything at once), in which we had costumes, makeup, and all technical elements for the first time. As expected, it was a train wreck, but just the right type of train wreck since we really needed to see all of this stuff on stage together. Hasko Weber, the Intendant (Artistc Director) of the theater and the dramaturgical staff were there as well as many other staff members, and it was exciting to share our work with the rest of the theater for the first time. Of course, the artistic staff had plenty of notes for Nuran after the run, and he in turn had plenty for us as well, which was all to be expected.

Saturday evening, Andreas and I went to check out a puppet theater festival that was going on across town. There we saw a piece called "Congo, My Body" which was a mixture of tanztheater and puppet/figure theater from the Congo. I had picked the piece out because it sounded like my kind of action. We arrived, and as soon as the piece began I quickly established that all of the text was in French, without translation. But while I may not have picked up all of the nuances of the story, the storytelling was certainly clear enough. The three actors used a combination of singing (chanting/Congolese music), movement and hand puppets to tell the story of the civil war in their country. The physical control of the actors as well as the images they were able to create with their bodies and the dozen puppets on stage was incredible.

Afterward Andreas (who speaks French) leaned over to me and said: "So, you didn't understand a word did you?" He was right. But I could confidently say I understood the piece. That's what I call good theatre.

And so the week came to an end. Today was spent in the movies, taking a break from the theatre. I saw a documentary called "The Green Wave", about the protests in Iran in 2009. It was created using live interviews, and cell-phone video footage from the uprising (no other media was allowed) as well as eye-witness accounts. Everything else was filled in with hand-drawn likenesses of the individuals who took part. Its a really powerful technique, filling in the details with comic-book-esque sequences where there was no actual video. The protests of course ended badly for the people. But the film, with its Ralph Bakshi-style animation and first-hand look at the events certainly gives one a stronger perspective of what's going on in the country. Highly recommended!

Also highly recommended is a monologue from Danton's Death. This one's for you ladies: Marion's monologue, act 1 scene 5. Its widely regarded here in Germany as one of the best audition pieces for women in the classical canon. Pretty much unheard of on our side of the pond, which means it would be a great one to check out. Marion talks about her journey from innocence to sexual awakening. Great stuff.

We are steeling ourselves for the final push to the Premiere on Friday!



"A poet's work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep."

-Salman Rushdie

Monday, February 28, 2011


"Der Revolutionär sagt: Herr wo habt Ihr Euren Rock her? Der Reiche antwortet: Arbeit, Arbeit! Der Revolutionär fragt, Herr, warum habt Ihr gearbeitet? Der Reiche antwortet: Idiot, um diesen Rock zu haben. Der Revoltionär sagt: Ihr habt Euch gequält, um einen Genuss zu haben; denn so ein Rock is ein Genuss, aber er verändert nicht die Welt. Ich bin bekleidet mit Lumpen, aber meine Gedanken sind Goldmünzen, mit denen ich den Wandel hervorbringe . . ."

-St. Just

"The Revolutionary says: Sir, where did you get your nice clothes? The Rich Man answers: work, work! The Revolutionary asks: Sir, why did you work? The Rich Man answers: idiot, in order to have these clothes. The Revolutionary says: you went to all that trouble for an indulgence; because those clothes are an indulgence, but they don't change the world. I'm clothed in rags, but my thoughts are worth solid gold and with them I bring change . . ."

Welcome to the big time! We've arrived in the big house, the main stage, the epicentre of Staatstheater Stuttgart! But of course, not before bidding adieu to our beloved Probebühne. We had our last full rehearsal there on Wednesday, and for once, we didn't have to clean up the mess after the barricades were stormed. It was a great feeling.

Our first day in the new space started leisurely, with another film shoot. We turned the black box theater into a studio again, and shot a short segment with Robespierre.

(Blue screen awesomeness)

Nuran wanted to shoot it twice, once with wigs, once without. See the wigs had been added two weeks ago, on top of the very modern dress costumes, to give the piece a bit of 1789 revolutionary flare. But the design team had not brought the wigs with us from the rehearsal space, because they didn't think we would need them first thing. But what the director wants, the director gets. So I was sent to fetch the wigs. But Janek said it would take far too long if I used the public transit . . . so he sent me to the gatekeeper at the front of the building, where they keep a couple of motor bikes for just such an occasion. They are basically bicycles that have a built in motor, like a moped. The motor engages when you start pedaling. Its like cycling, but waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay faster. And with the extra power, I barely noticed the hills. So awesome. And such a smart idea to keep a few bikes around in case errands need to be run.

Ladies & Gentlemen, the Wig Express:

So we got the wigs in no time and rocked out the film shoot. Afterward Nuran invited us all for coffee. This is a recent pleasure for us, since there was no canteen at the rehearsal space. The foyer of the main theatre is a giant open room between the different theaters, with a full bar and food service. Its incredible what a difference this atmosphere makes during rehearsals. We get to sit an enjoy a cappucino or lunch or whatever on breaks instead of being at the mercy of the drink machine.

Rehearsals are rolling right along, and we got our first glimpse of the set as well as the army of technicians that are putting everything together

Unbeknownst to me, there is an enormous real-life painting of the Stuttgart palace as a backdrop for our show. Its really breathtaking, not to mention the extra flatscreen tvs and projectors. We're taking this game to a whole new level.

The highlight of the week though, by far was getting to go to the Stuttgarter premiere of Wim Wenders' new film "Pina" about Pina Bausch, the world-famous choreographer and Tanztheater pioneer who unexpectedly died in 2009. But the coolest part, is that Wenders himself came to the opening to introduce the film!!!!! Ever since seeing Der Himmel Über Berlin years ago, I've been an enormous fan of his work. So I made sure to secure a ticket and bring my camera along:

Wenders was a longtime friend of Bausch and had been wanting to create this film with her for many years. He told us how it became sort of an inside joke between the two of them, that they wanted to do this project but he did not know how to film her dancers in a way that would begin to do them justice. Then after seeing the U2 3D shortfilm at Cannes in 2007 he immediately called Pina and said he had found the right way to portray her work. They began working on a concept for the film, and planned the four pieces of hers that she wanted to show for the fall 2009 season. That way they would be freshly rehearsed and in the repertoire so Wenders could film them.

Unfortunately Pina died five days after being diagnosed with cancer in June of 2009. The entire company was completely devastated as was Wenders who decided not to make the film. But after a few months, the dancers in Pina's company at Tanztheater Wuppertal convinced him they should make the film in her honor.

And so they commenced to create what is one of the most extraordinary pieces of filmmaking I've ever seen. The dancers are so incredibly powerful, and the images they create are lyrical, majestic, hectic, personal, evocative, transcendant. Add on top of that the incredible depth of the 3-D cameras (Wenders also mentioned he didn't want any 'theatrical' 3-D special effects, nothing jumping out at you. Just the depth and immersion in the work of the dancers), as well as the incredible locations in and around Wuppertal that were used as a backdrop for the dance pieces. It is a mind-blowing, inspiring, overwhelming two hours.

Throughout the film, members of the ensemble recall their relationships with Pina and their work over the years. Wenders also intersperses old rehearsal footage and performance clips of Pina herself as well as voice overs of her giving direction in rehearsals. The result is an ode to this woman, her mastery of the art form, and the strength of her spirit. I cannot recommend this film highly enough.

(The Tanztheater Wuppertal-Pina Bausch Ensemble)



"Tanzt, tanzt, sonst sind wir verloren." (Dance, dance, otherwise we're lost.)

-Pina Bausch