"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!!!
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.
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