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