Monday, February 14, 2011


Robespierre: "Das Laster muss bestraft werden."

Danton: "Du mit deiner Tugend, Robespierre! Ich weiß - du has kein Geld genommen, du hast keine Schulden gemacht, du hast bei keinem Weibe geschlafen und dich nie betrunken . . . ist denn nichts in dir, was dir nicht manchmal ganz leise, heimlich sagte: du lügst, du lügst?

Robespierre: "Vice must be punished."

Danton: "You with your virtue, Robespierre! I get it - you've never taken money, you have no debts, you've never slept with a woman and you've never been drunk . . . is there not something in you that sometimes, quietly, softly, whispers: you lie, you lie?

*WARNING! This blog contains elaborate descriptions of various European culinary delicacies. Do not read if hungry!

The quality of the silence in Stuttgart is so completely different from that of Chicago there should be a different word for it. Or maybe its just the fact that there is no such thing as silence in the Windy City. It probably also has to do with the cleanliness of Stuttgart, but whatever the reason, I can tell you that at night this city is completely tranquil.

The electric buses and trams whisper along the streets, and you can hear snatches of a conversation two blocks down because there is so little ambient noise. The twilight in Stuttgart is also a different beast altogether. Being used to the sudden dramatic shift of the Midwest skyline and the stark contrast of skyscrapers against it, the twilight here constantly takes me by surprise. The city, with its plazas and parks and many-terraced hills becomes awash with elegantly accented facades. And topping it all from the height of the main train station is the revolving Mercedes logo, keeping its Batman-like vigil over the city.

Another way in which Stuttgart significantly differs from Chicago is the topography: namely that from the city center there are hills in every direction. I live in the eastern part of the city, and after my first night out a few weekends ago I became intimately acquainted with the hills in my part of town. I had gone out drinking with my friend Andreas (this will become a theme throughout the blog) and found out upon my semi-sober arrival at the train station that the bus line I normally take home only runs until 12:30 am. So it was either wait 45 minutes on the night bus, or walk the four stations home to my apartment. The weather was mild so i figured I'd walk it.

Cut to a scene of Brian barely clearing the second hill (of five) before slumping down on a bench and cursing the silent landscape. It only took about twenty minutes to walk home, but the walk was straight up, and my muscles were not pleased with my decision. Well lesson learned, thought I; next time I'll figure out a smarter way home. Or take a taxi.

The week went quite well, with two long days of rehearsing on Monday and Tuesday. Its been a struggle so far to get all eight of the actors in the same room on the same day, since so many of them are performing elsewhere in the repertoire, or because of tv and radio appointments or because half of them were sick on and off for the first two weeks. So Nuran wanted to plow through acts 4 and 5 at the beginning of the week to make sure we made it through the entire play once as a cast.

Food Aside #1: Part of my coping strategy for our long rehearsal days has been to indulge in the Stuttgarter specialty of fresh-baked pretzels. There are pretzel stands EVERYWHERE in this city, and as in all German cities a bakery on every corner. Literally, every corner. The bread here is unbeatable, and the fresh-baked soft pretzels for .40 cents each are a daily ritual for me. So. Delicious.

And having accomplished that, Tuesday evening was our company's Bergfest. This tradition was new to me, and I fully intend to implement it from now on wherever I go:

Berg- Mountain, Fest- Party; the idea being that you've reached the top of the mountain (the halfway point of the production) and so you should celebrate.

I mean, why not right?

So Beate, (the dramaturg) and Sebastian (Robespierre) hosted a lovely dinner party at their house. We had gnocchi and salad and cucumber soup and all sorts of antipasti. Everyone was supposed to bring something, so Andreas and I teamed up to bake home-made focaccia.

Andreas you see is Swiss. He's the only other foreigner involved in the production, and since we are both part of the directing team (he's the assistant set designer) we've been getting along like two peas in a pod. His mother is also originally from Genoa, so he knows a thing or two about focaccia.

Food Aside #2: Evidently focaccia in Genoa is as common as pretzels in Stuttgart. So we bought some ingredients and took them back to my place to make focaccia. I asked Andreas if we needed a recipe, he chuckled and said: "No, no, I've done this a million times. Its just flour, oil and yeast." An hour and a half later we had two pans full of some of the best-tasting bread I had ever had. Minus the half a loaf that disappeared between Andreas and I while cooking. La dolce vita!

So we showed up a little late to the party, but with focaccia in tow which was a big hit. Thankfully Beate & Sebastian's apartment is just around the corner from mine, so no hill hike at the end of the evening.

The next morning was a slow start, and even though rehearsal was not slated until 11:00 am, people came trickling slowly in. That I suppose it what happens when you have a huge dinner party in the middle of the week. Nuran however was not pleased, and after the fourth actor came in late (and presumably hung over) he gave a general note about punctuality and how displeased he was with the lack of rehearsal time that they had left. Then, after looking at the rehearsal schedule he realized that after the next three weeks of rehearsal we would still have twenty-three rehearsals on stage before previews.


At that, Nuran's fears were assuaged and we continued as normal. Don't get me wrong, we'll need all of those with the diverse tech elements we are incorporating. But still, I'm not over the fact that time is really not an issue here. Incredible.

(post rehearsal drinks in the foyer bar at the rehearsal hall; Svenja, Janek, & Andreas)

I found out from Andreas that his favorite American dining peculiarity is beer in pitchers. I also happened to find a beer hall here in Stuttgart that serves pitchers and American hamburgers on Friday nights. So after rehearsal Friday, we headed to Sophie's Brauhaus to try out the American fare. The beer was cold and the burgers were served with a 'Berg' of fries==which made for two very happy foreigners in Germany.

Since we were already downtown we went ahead and made a night of it, hitting all the watering holes we had discovered previously. And of course, we rounded our pub crawl off with my most favorite of European treats: a Döner.

Food Aside #3: Ahh yes, a Döner. Turkish speciality kebab. Start with flatbread, pile on the lamb/beef, add red & white cabbage (its Germany after all), cucumbers, tomatoes and chili flakes, with tzadiki sauce all over the top. Its a mountain of food, incredibly delicious and at 3.5 Euros apiece, the best deal in town. When I was in Berlin I practically lived on the things, and somehow no other kebab even comes close. One thing though I know for sure: Döner + Beer = HAPPY BRIAN!!!

But what does not make a happy Brian is staying out too late, missing my bus and having to walk home up the mountain. Again!

But at least the nights are mild, pleasant, and quiet as a half-remembered dream.

Sleep well, and wake . . .


1 comment:

  1. i'm guessing it was the kebab place just below sophies brauhaus...? i hope so, one of my favorites.

    i also have made those mountain treks late at night...i love the benches placed just when you need them...