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,


1 comment:

  1. Brian,
    Love the video. Am struck by the wide open pedways and lack of cars.

    Have you checked out the Wild Pig Tails blog I linked you to a bit ago? I'm also struck by how often you are stumbling upon public happenings/events that reinforce our sense of the social and create opportunity for one to identify with a Place (the premise of your video, yes?).

    Cool stuff.