Saturday, January 14, 2012


Saturday afternoon at my house. A nice Berlin, winter sunshine going through the apartment. Time for some reflection on a big week and an amazing month.

We have been reshaping and refining our piece throughout this week. Trial and error.

What we have: a storytelling of THE SEAGULL by Anton Chekhov, told and facilitated by six performers. They sit next to each other on chairs, swopping and exchanging the roles of Konstantin, Nina, Arkadina and Trigorin. Carried and connected by a chorus framework, orginally written by Thomas Eason (inspired by the company Dood Paard). The audience is invited in the space, the performers warm them up for the event, they ask questions. And then the next stage, in which the community is guided through the major scenes of THE SEAGULL. The performers play with, honour and inhabit the dramatic situations, as well as operating as an ever-present chorus. The company invites the audience to participate by giving them a voice in scenes and characters. The performers include verbatim stories in fragments of THE SEAGULL. Man play women, women play men. Chekhov in Berlin. Storytelling happening in the present moment. A co-creation of audience and the collective. 

After our two showings at the Brotfabrik, we moved again, for the final time, to the Heinz studio of drama school Ernst Busch. The home of our company member Runa Schaefer. Runa, a fourth year acting student at the school, showed us around. Lots of studio spaces for rehearsals and classes, voice rooms where students meet with their individual voice tutors, a library, movement spaces, male and female locker rooms, an impressive costume room, a canteen area that serves warm meals and a foyer showcasing pictures of the final year acting students of the school. In one hallway, auditionees for the next year intake were waiting to do their monologues, song and poem for the panel. Apparantly this happens every thursday for a half year. Around 2000 people try out to get into the school.

So here were are. Thursday, 12 February. A grungy, old building, located in the former east Berlin (DDR). The school trained many of the most famous and renowned actors in the German speaking region. You can feel a history of hard work. It is an honour to get the chance of performing here and to leave a little mark in this environment.

After the generous warm up of Runa's voice tutor, we were ready to meet the audience at 4pm. Nervous but also excited to share our work, we had a room full of teachers and first and second year students of the school.

I sat as an audience member in the back of the space and experienced how quickly this gathering became a warm encounter. Ease, elegance, playfullness and generosity in the room. For me it was exciting to witness how the 'natural' strength of the company to connect was showcased next to strong precision, rigour, craft, leadership and focus. Charm can never be an excuse to hide or not taking risks.

Investing in the two territories meant that the collective created trust in the room, which was essential for the audience participation and involvement to work.

I became interested in how the whole community can learn from each other by setting up an honest 'game'. I realized how we have created a set structure with performance variables that are dependant on the actual encounter between collective and audience. One being that at the start performers would ask questions ('What is your favourite writer?' ' What was it like to perform a play at your primary school?') and the audience's answers would be put in the monologues of the various characters at different points throughout the showing. This worked very well, and created an instant relationship between the story and the community in the room. How could we design more of these variables?

The audience was with us, slowly a dialogue and conversation started to manifest itself in the space. I do not think people were thinking about judging us anymore, thinking in terms of good or bad acting, but just related to what was happening around them.

The forum touched on various research topics of our workshop and gave an insight in the training a lot of us had at Toi Whakaari. The task of finding Chekhov in Berlin (and the different stages of doing so), the inspiration from company models Dood Paard & Gob Squad in our process, the performer as facilitator and storyteller, the journey of an event, building of a community by audience participation, and collaboration from different cultural perspectives. The audience was very responsive and there was a true discussion. Even when people questioned our approach of warming the audience & inviting audience participation, these people did feel like they cared about what they experienced. A good thing.

It is important for us to consider in what context a company meets an audience and how to design the right opening according to this situation. In the Brotfabrik we met a group of people who were strangers to each other, here at Ernst Busch we encountered a group that was already a community in itself. The opening is then foremost geared to making us part of the community. What this means for the actual event is then less about connecting them as strangers, but instead letting the community see each other in a different way. I think this happened as well. All of a sudden, students spoke the Chekhov texts through the filter of a headphone instead of having 'to act' on a big stage in front of their peers. People started to engage with each other with different eyes. More as human beings and less within the role of a student actor (and the expectations attached to this).

We did a mihi for the lovely Runa and sang for the school. And that was it. Around 6pm we ended our adventure at Ernst Busch.

All of us were buzzing afterwards. We actually did leave a mark in this place. We celebrated the warmth of our collective, using the story of THE SEAGULL as a TOOL to connect and relate to an existing community. I had never felt the power of doing that with a classic text to such a degree.

Yesterday we came together for our debrief. It highlighted again how we all have shifted in terms of our thinking and experiences of performance, community and audience participation. I am still reflecting and making sense of a rollercoaster month, but am sure that this all will seed into my future work. Like it will with many others of the collective.

Thanks collaborators for working and learning with you.

(BUT I AM 72)


Transistor Collective...

Voice warm up before the showing with Runa's voice teacher from Ernst Busch...

The showing...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


2 days to make a one hour show
Means learning a lot of lines
Dood Paard
Chorus storytelling of THE SEAGULL
Thomas Eason finds a writing voice
Intelligent and moving
Flapping in the wind
Runa is still confused
But happy
Performer - Performer - Audience relationship
Storyteller always present, also in the dramatic context
Especially in 'intense' moments
Character and gender swopping
Andrew, Ben and Tom play Arkadina at the same time
Jaci knows how to be with an audience
Ben feels maternal when rubbing his belly
Casting ourselves, the space and the audience
Warming the audience as part of the event
Real people
Three audience members helping us to tell the story
(they do not ACT ACT ACT ACT ACT)
Ingo is Trigorin, Tai is Nina and gives him a medaillon
Nina is not acting yet
I have never acted in a play of that description
Tonight second night
4pm start - LEARNING THE LINES to play with rhythm
Incorporating verbatim stories
Our last days together
Our days are passing
Not over yet
Was tired
Now ready


(SOME PHOTOS, by Christian Haase)


Sorry blog, its been a while and a lot has happened. We have been busy.

4 days in Spandau working site specific.

We left you with the notion that we were going to work with the space, challenging as it would be. Bright colours, planets on the wall, windows that look out on the street, three separate compartments, 'a little stage'.

We focused on how we can tell the first act of THE SEAGULL in this space. Konstantin's play would be performed in the 'other' room, a place we would never reveal but only hint to with sound. The audience of our showing is invited to have a peak in the private space of a green room in which a group of performers/artists & hangers on gear themselves up for the big event, the premiere of Konstantin's masterpiece.

Creating compositions and material, adapting the script (scenes and characters) and discovering the space and its opportunities/limits as we went along. It reminded me a lot of two site specific piece I made before - DELICATES (in a laundrette) and ANTIGONE (at an abandoned beach site) - and how to work WITH the space and not AGAINST the space.

The biggest change from our previous showing was how to go from direct address and acknowledging the audience throughout, to using them as a voyeur/a fly on the wall, creating a fourth wall. In this site specific chapter of ICH WARTE (around 40 minutes) it was exciting to witness how this concept resulted in a very special and unique chance to get a feel of a very sacred moment of the artist's life - very much in line whith what the first act of THE SEAGULL is about.

Filmic and naturalistic, but how to work sometimes against the rhythm of a space, how to incorporate a surreal/abstract language that highlights moments surrounded by the mundane. To magnify its beauty, to expose secrets, hidden layers? We found several ways of doing so. Sequences where the performers were in silence and slowly picked up on each other gestures, making it part of their own activities (hands, feet, breath). The framing device of Masha, unnoticed and ignored by everyone else, but a constant reference point for the audience. Masha exploring the space with the audience at the start, secretly rehearsing Konstantin's play, staying in touch with the audience whilst other characters are not aware of our presence, inviting the audience to look through the window out to the street where the future events of THE SEAGULL are played out (in abstracted images; Thomas carrying a paper seagull, Nina rehearsing her lines and creating a little stage next to a tree, Konstantin hanging himself with a scarf at the pedestrian crossing lights, Tai embodying arrival & goodbye, Ben working with a summer picnic in the Berlin cold).

Sound was very much also part of this surreal language and the illusion of somewhere else. Thomas Press created in another room the atmosphere (with distortions) of a large theatre where Arkadina, Trigorin and their entourage arrive and create pressure/influence on the events in the green room. Some strong moments when the performers go 'on stage', the play is happening and Konstantin is listening to his creation from the green room (and ultimately hears how this is sabotaged by his own mother). Thomas showed his expertise in creating a beautiful dream sound sequence with quotes out of act 2, 3 and 4, which was accompanied by the horror montage happening on the street. You can listen to this in one of our previous posts.

We work fast. The collective has rigour and does not feel precious about adapting, enriching or even throwing away. We keep ourselves on task.

Again we had a nice intimate audience to play with, this time the second language factor became a big barrier in our way of staging the event. A lot of text, and then we noticed how an audience needs to work from their brain to comprehend this all. Hard to get them fully relating to the work, images/visual language works better. A simple image of Masha standing on the chellar staircase told so much more than a whole dialogue of a Chekhov scene. Other questions, how to expose yourself in the space, rather than hiding in it? Creating individual patterns and movements in the space, choreography and mapping the traffic was our first stage in creating this work.

It was a rough piece, asking us to refine and investigate further from the first audience encounter. I think we slowly warmed up to the genre of sitcom mixed with David Lynch surrealist techniques, that is where I would like to push the work further. Maybe even throwing away all text, or starting from silence and only incorporating text when we really need to.

But we have to go. We have to go 'back' to Berlin, to the black box. And some exciting plans have been crockpotted for our last adventure of the project.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

4th January SPANDAU

10:37: Play reading of the seagull commenced. 
12:11: Seagull play down 
5 minute break 
12:16: Discussion around themes and characters. Boom! Structure, scenes and casting for next week’s performance down. And manage to discuss what to do with Fridays showing that can bring elements of what we learnt from our last showing while aiding us toward the future. Ladies and gentlemen we are on fire! 
1:10: Lunch time. Discover eftpos is impossible to find in Berlin, manage to stand in poo. 
2:00: Lunch time over the contagious Runa joins us. Note: very impressed with our progress. 
2-5: Using long form improv we look at creating the space as a green room we create some scenes and get the script. Spandau here we come.
Colourful is sexy

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Masha's Dream of the Seagull

Link to audio excerpt from Transistor Collective workshop presentation in Spandau Friday 6th January