It is important to Theater Anu to also look at its theatre work theoretically. For this reason, there is a section called "Theatre Discourse", where current reflections, lectures or essays by Theater Anu are published.
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Lecture Theatre of Encounters
When I talk about a theatre of encounter in the following, I mean all parts of the theatre that lead to direct encounters between actor and spectator. This can be just a brief glance or a joint action in which spectator and actor get into an intense play with each other. It is a theatre of social interactions. Encounters can last only brief moments or determine the entire course of the 'performance'....
Stefan Behr gave the lecture "Theatre of Encounter" at the 2011 winter conference of the Federal Association for Theatre in Public Spaces in Leipzig.
Anu Dialog # 1-7
Theater Anu invited its players to a first Anu Dialog series in January and February. The company discussed important concepts and themes of their theatre work on seven evenings. The introductory dialogue "Breaking the Fourth Wall" was followed by "The Actor in the Theatre of Encounter", "The Spectator in the Theatre of Encounter", "Atmosphere and Space", "The Hero's Journey and Poetic Dramaturgy", "Repetition" and "Resonance".
The respective theses and thoughts are published here. - For all those who enjoy our theatre discourse.
Anu Dialog # 1 | Breaking the Fourth Wall
12 January 2011 | Berlin
About the uniqueness of theatre and the reason why we want to play
Opinions: "The exchange between people; 'spending' the moment together; the phenomenon of other time: of the moment; the non-reproducible; the unconditional GIVING; the power to build one's own reality; I believe that we can make the world a better place. Theatre can be like a stone dropped into water, which draws its circles. Even if these concentric circles are no longer visible to the eye, the water still 'resonates'. RESONANCE."
On the "unselfishness" of theatre and the inner play instinct
I slip into a role and play an as-if situation. It is the total joy of life, the total freedom. I can be someone I am not at all. Pure imitation of everything I see. I am a child again. I play. I transform myself into everything, I am a princess, a hero or even a pot.
As a child, we play without caring what others think. The bed becomes a raft, the rainwater a witch's potion. The formula "I am..." alone is enough to be everything. To be Winnetou in the game. To be a car in the game. There is no doubt.
The actor has preserved this childhood play. Max Reinhardt writes in his "Speech on the Actor" that the actor has put his childhood in his pocket and set off with it to continue playing until the end of his life. Yet the agreement of theatre is not that actors meet in a certain place at a certain time to play together. Play still has a prefix, the "show(!)". So it is about putting one's play on show. A show always wants to be seen, so it demands an audience.
So does theatre need an audience to be theatre? Yes, at least one. But when was the moment when the purely child's play transformed, when we began to "put it on display"? When does the child begin to crave attention? Is it the moment when it receives praise for the first time?
The thesis is: From the inability of adults to play the "pure game" with their children (competitive, strategic or games of chance are something else), the child becomes a show player. Instead of playing with his parents, he plays something for them and the parents praise him for it. If he enjoys it, he may later take up acting as a profession. The child's play becomes professional acting - hopefully the bag of childhood always within reach to reach into.
The theatre becomes a place where play is relegated to the world of adults. The history of theatre cannot be separated from the history of play.
The play has not only been banished to the theatre, it is trapped on a stage to boot. The audience sits safely and invisibly in their seats in the dark, watching the play. "I don't want to play along," this division signals. "I like to watch, I also like to applaud, but please no more!" This theatre situation reflects the death of "pure children's play" anew every evening. The adults are only good for admiration, unable to get into the play themselves. The children who have grown up play to them on stage, they put themselves on display for them. The theatre is the place where the play dies, because it cannot find new players. If it doesn't find any more spectators either, then it is simply cancelled.
About a new theatre history
Instead of starting with the Greeks and worrying about the dominance of the word until today, a theatre history should be written that is oriented towards the history of the individual actor: Why did I become an actor? What were the decisive moments in my life when I felt I wanted to be an actor, to become an actor?
This would become a very colourful theatre story that puts the actor back in the focus of theatre. What interests me in theatre? What longing do I satisfy by acting? What legacy am I fulfilling? If I could meet my child in my pocket, what would he say? Would I tell him what I am doing today as an adult?
So what is the unique thing about theatre? Is it really the drama, the text? Is it really the stage with its condition of a ramp and the division of the space into two connected by it? Is it the applause?
It is the performance. In contrast to the staging, it is the irretrievable event of the performance, which takes place anew every evening. In terms of theatre history, however, text and space (geometric, architectural space) are much easier to describe, analyse and interpret. They have become manifest over time. The performance is ephemeral. Reviews and video recordings alone can attest to them for us. Two media reporting on a third, completely different medium. A medium is always a transmitter. Criticism and video have therefore already transmitted so much that we have an "excess of means" and the actual means - theatre - seems to have become mediocre and superfluous.
Why do we know so much about the Passion Plays of the Middle Ages and relatively little about the secular carnival plays? There were countless of these topical, local plays that were performed everywhere - whether on the inn table, the marketplace or a meadow - independent of the stage set. The first "site specific performances": theme and site specific. Unfortunately, the countless commissioned works and house authors have rarely survived. Their texts were usually not preserved like the passion story or the many other biblical stories of the spiritual play. Produced. Played. Discarded. The performance was the focus, not the (divine) word.
It seems as if this "excess of means" in theatre history causes a feedback on the means, the theatre, itself. How else can it be explained that today's theatre performances increasingly see themselves in competition with multiplex cinemas? Why does Black Space believe it has to unite all media in itself, but not "swallow" them in order to transform them, but rather to adorn itself with them? This is especially true for film. No performance without video projection or live transmission from the dressing room, where the professional actor who has grown up no longer transforms himself into a character before he steps on stage, but deconstructs it in front of the camera until there is nothing left of it and only the profession remains attached to him - like a quality seal sticker in the supermarket. The bag that childhood carries in itself is long gone from this wardrobe, hidden in the costume magazine, dusty and forgotten.
As long as critics raise "film-realistic" productions to the skies and immigrate terms like editing and montage techniques into their theatrical vocabulary, not much will change in the actor's wardrobe. The reality of film has stopped the fantasy and transformation machine that is "theatre".
The question is once again: What is special about theatre? And this does not mean the institution, the representative building, the tradition of our understanding of culture or the values of our civil society, but simply the question of the unique selling point of the MEDIUM theatre! Because if it uses all media and believes it has to be a hybrid medium, then it should finally see itself as such.
What is special is the presence of the actor and the audience. The moment when the actor moves, how he smells and sweats, how he relates to the physical audience. What concentric circles he triggers and what resonance he encounters in every second of his performance.
An actor holds up a mirror in the peep-show stage in a particular scene, in a particular set. The same actor holds up the same mirror in the same scene behind the same set of a film set. What is the difference? In one mirror the audience can see themselves, in the other they cannot.
Theatre as an art form should concentrate again on its primal element, its actual medium: the actor. Theatre as a medium should not forget its counterpart: the audience. For it is the physicality of the spectator that makes theatre come into being. For the actor as well as for the audience. The actor feels himself and his physicality. But the audience must also feel its physical presence - it must experience itself, not intellectually come to terms with it - only then can theatre take place. And theatre history? It should ask itself the question: So how did the child bring himself to the performance?
If she tries to trace this question, then the actor will also no longer be tempted to lose his pocket. Then theatre will transform and find its essence.
In this theatre, there will be no need to talk about breaking a Fourth Wall, because it will never have existed.
Where is the child I was,
does it live in me or is it gone?
Anu Dialog # 2 | The actor in the Theatre of Encounter
19 January 2011 | Berlin
Reverberation Play, Anu Dialogue # 1
In addition to the theatres, the fairground and the sports stadiums, there is now the computer as another location of the "adult game". Is the experience of a computer game comparable to that of other "lived" games? Let us observe how this virtual place of the game triggers a strong mental fixation and a low bodily aliveness in the player. Schiller says: "Man is fully man where he plays..." (On the Aesthetic Education of Man) - would Schiller also have meant computer games?
In the computer game, the player takes on various virtual roles - e.g. the warrior or the racing driver - the child in us thus becomes an avatar, in a (pre-)programmed world, in a pre-programmed shell that always allows only certain options for action. Does this bring the child in us to life or does it only impoverish it even more?
What are the consequences of us adults having locked up the child inside us so deeply? In MoraLand, the Moorts whispered to Ellib, the last queen of MoraLand, "The soul, is the child you once were and who never left you." If this is true, the question arises what consequences this neglected child in us has for our lives....
About the actor and his relationship to his character
Opinions: "A process of INTERPRETATION - the attempt to shed a piece of one's own skin and let the figure come into itself. I AM THE FIGURE; I make the figure into myself; ambivalent, gripping, liberating. The character can act out the things I don't dare to. She can surprise me, but I can surprise her too; she is the ESSENCE of my rehearsal work."
If a character LIVES, how much of the actor is still in it? Can we give a percentage of that, such as 80 per cent character, 20 per cent ME? If the actor really wants to create characters that are really different from him, that can bring out what he was denied in his existence, for whatever reason, shouldn't the goal be to create a character that no longer needs the actor? One hundred per cent character and zero per cent ME - is that even possible? Would this be feasible - purely hypothetically - wouldn't the actor go crazy?
If the actor no longer exists at the moment of the play, are we not crossing the border from the art form of "theatre" to a spiritual form of being or even to madness? Let's just think of the phenomenon of possession: another person has taken possession of a human being - for those around him a fear-inducing event that was met with exorcisms. The applause at the end of a theatre performance could also point to this, because originally clapping and noise were used to drive out ghosts.
Or is the relationship between actor and character more like a sleeping person in relation to the one living in the dream?
Can we perhaps only be so courageous in dreams because we know that there is the sleeper who can wake up in doubt? Which actor does not know that he "wakes up" after a performance and cannot say how much time has passed or how he got over one or the other difficult spot, for example?
Perhaps the concept of trance will lead us further? The person falls into a sleep-like, but at the same time highly concentrated state. "Trance" has an inappropriate, because esoteric, connotation and certainly the term is not quite correct for the state in which a character appears who no longer needs the actor. For the character does not want to be alone like the dancer who autosuggestively dances herself into a trance. But once she has achieved this, she is completely with herself, in herself, by being out of herself. At this point at the latest, the spectator has become secondary. Even if our character can be on her own - and by that we really mean the character and not the actor - her main concern is the encounter. The encounter with the audience.
About the actor in the Theatre of Encounter
In the theatre of encounter, the character is exposed to much greater risks than when it comes alive on stage night after night. Why? She lacks the protection of the Black Room and the Fourth Wall. Outdoors it is exposed to many adversities, weather, the nature of the ground, the atmosphere of the public space, not least a cross-border audience. The likelihood of technical problems is far greater than in closed theatre buildings. How far is it possible for me as an actor to hold my character if all of a sudden the power goes out? When a child has taken a liking to my character for some reason, it stands masterless, because parentless, opposite me the whole evening and constantly tries to pull at my costume? When will the actor - the ME - and not the character, react?
At the same time, the character in the Theatre of Encounter is much freer than a stage character can be. She is neither bound to a rigid text or drama corset nor does she have to adhere to a clear and absolutely prescribed sequence of scenes, which contains so-called "keys" for light, sound and stage. Of course she also has her story to tell, of course it is staged, sometimes even strictly choreographed. Of course she also has playing partners and thus playing agreements that she has to keep. But nevertheless, her most important playing partner is the audience - and all the characters in the Theatre of Encounter know this - no matter what happens, the character plays with her BSUCHER. We call the audience visitors because, by entering our theatre installation, they immerse themselves in a poetic world, visit it and its characters like a traveller.
If the actor engages in this form of theatre, he will be interested in giving birth to a strong character and letting it dwell within him. He will not be tempted at all to smoke a cigarette between his two performances in acts one and two, to drink wine in the canteen, or to chat amusedly with other actors, only to go into himself briefly before his performance and exhibit his body, his voice on stage again.
In addition to the freedom of the play during the performance, the freedom of character development for the actor is an essential feature for the Theatre of Encounter. The actor alone gives birth to his character. There are no stipulations as to what she should look like, how old she is, how she speaks or walks. There is a story, sometimes only an idea, an image, a feeling that places the character in the overall context of the production.
In the beginning there was the player and his body - we also understand his voice as a body. The I begins to play with its body, it explores the possibilities of dealing with it "differently". In this exploration, he discovers forms that interest him. The actor deals with them, specifies them and begins to form the vessel "figure" that he can later fill. That is his work and great freedom.
The director is first and foremost a spectator in this phase of creation. He watches the actor and sees. Helps him to begin, helps when he gets stuck. He watches the flower grow, while the actor is both flower and gardener. Max Reinhardt writes: "He is both image-maker and image-worker; he is the human being on the extreme border between reality and dream, and he stands with both feet in both realms." (Max Reinhardt: Speech on the Actor).
Can you tell by looking at a flower whether it has grown organically and naturally or is it only the beauty that it carries within itself when it is in full bloom that counts?
Is there a difference between a flower whose components - stem, flower, leaves, thorns... - are simply stuck together and one that has grown naturally?
We mean yes. Their aura is different, their resonance, their power, their liveliness. If the actor is both flower and gardener, the initial question of a share - how much figure, how much actor is in a figure - is superfluous. Both are permanently present. The actor knows the movement sequences, he is presumably also on the spot when the power fails, he talks silently with his character. But it is always the character who reacts. To power cuts, annoying children and wonderful play offers from our visitors. Only the figure is visible, but the actor is always latently present. A kind of schizophrenic state, to use another non-theatre term. This state is certainly supported by the constant repetition, by the cyclical play, to which a separate Anu dialogue is dedicated in this series.
The actor enters into a relationship with the character like the stones with the water in the riverbed. They direct the water, form the path in which it can flow. The water shapes the stones so that they get a smooth and round surface.
The actor emerges shaped like the river stone from a long acting existence. We all know words or phrases that we will never say again as an ME after a character very familiar to us has spoken them. We will always speak them that way in our lives, or at least feel reminded of how our character spoke them. The character has shaped us, rounded us. For character work, it is like the water that surrounds us actors. Until we give in, until we let ourselves be dragged as a stone.
About the responsibility of the figure
What if there was a good reason to let the actor react in his play and not his character? Could it not be that there are situations that are not worthy of the character that make the actor step forward to protect them? This is certainly sincerely meant, but it is a false understanding of the character in the theatre of encounter.
If it is true that the actor is free in his character development and above all in his play, then he feels no protective feelings. For these chain him to habitual images and conventions.
If it is true that he wants the character to LIVE, then he must give him full responsibility to be - with all the consequences. This means that the character can naturally handle everything, including the greatest difficulties.
The actor must trust her. He may trust her great strength, her naivety, which sends her out into the world like the fool Parzival and through which she can approach everything without a care, accepting every challenge because she does not know the consequences. This character can deal with anything, just as we humans relate to anything - known or unknown. It is not possible for us to get out either.
Of course, the appropriateness of this consequence can be questioned. When three ambulances drive into the church square where we are playing "The Great Journey", for example, our theatre idea has become secondary at that moment. Nevertheless, we propose to end the evening in character. Only here the importance is no longer in the encounter with the visitor, but in the play itself. In the play of the character with itself, its props and, its venue, its environment.
The thesis is: only when the actor bears the play of his character alone, has he handed over responsibility for it to him, has he reached the "trance-like state", has he accepted schizophrenia - a simultaneity of character and latent I - has he become a player with himself and his visitors. Does he bring himself into oscillation, into RESONANCE. A constant oscillation between me as the actor and the character; between the character and the visitors; between the character and the place. Then the actor has become both gardener and flower, fostering both the longing of his ME and that of the visitors for transformation. "For in every human being lives, more or less consciously, the longing for transformation." (Max Reinhardt: Speech on the Actor)
The second thesis is: only when the character takes responsibility for himself and his existence in the play, "with the clear, ever-present awareness that everything is only play, conducted with holy seriousness" (Max Reinhardt: Rede über den Schauspieler), can he really begin to live. Then, everything is possible for her. Like the person who in the morning does not yet know how the evening will end, the character begins each game, each loop anew. At the same time, she is awake and curious, she is courageous by risking something, even if it can go wrong. Her naivety protects her and challenges her. She needs the absolute trust of the actor, only then can she give confidence. And that is the most important thing in a theatre of encounter.
Anu Dialog # 3 | The spectator in the Theatre of Encounter
26 January 2011 | Berlin
On the relationship between characters and spectators
Opinion: "Audiences are partners. Even in the classic "two-room" with a peep-box stage. If I or my character drop out, the spectator drops out; if he drops out, I drop out.
We are all well aware of the rules of behaviour in theatre performances. You learn them when you first go to the theatre, usually initiated by your parents or school. Sit in your seat. Keep quiet - controlled laughter, coughing and sighing are of course allowed. When the performance is over, applaud, more vigorously or more restrainedly, depending on how much you like it, interrupted by cheers or boos. You may only get up from your seat when the so-called audience light in the hall goes on. If there is an intermission, you may leave the hall and have champagne and snacks in the foyer. In really urgent cases, you are of course also allowed to leave the auditorium during the performance. However, always be aware that this will attract attention and disrupt the course of the theatre performance. You should not interfere! To interfere is to disturb, but to watch, after all you are a spectator and not a disruptor. Your purely observational task is naturally complemented by your careful listening.
The clear rules of the spectator are contrasted with those of the figures on stage. Stage and auditorium together form a kind of "partnership of rules". The aim of this partnership: the production of a special theatre moment that can be created through a seemingly jointly made theatre agreement - so the theory goes. Well-known buzzwords such as "immediacy" and "present", "community" and "non-reproducible" are quickly at hand when describing this theatre moment. The FEEDBACK LOOP introduced by Ms Erika Fischer-Lichte between acting on stage and spectators in the auditorium sounds plausible at first glance and in the theoretical construct it also seems to work. But what does it look like in theatre practice?
It is not uncommon for us to sit in our seats in the dark at theatre performances and follow the action on stage as silent observers, apathetic. What is being played up there does not reach us. We feel boredom or annoyance and long for the end of the evening.
How many audience members drop out of the play date? How many characters who should notice this via the "feedback loop" react to it and also drop out? Aren't they usually breaking the theatre agreement, but without violating their rule partnership? The characters - in this case better the actors - continue to play, the audience remains seated.
Perhaps the partnership between character and spectator is not lived out quite as consistently as claimed at the beginning.
About the individual spectator and his task, his role, his PLAY
A fourth wall is not a wall - we know that. There are definitely moments when there is an exchange between the audience and the actors. The actor feels the emotions of the audience and vice versa. However, the greater the physical distance between the two, the less they can experience each other and usually the actor has the feeling of a dubious mass spread out in front of him.
Actors like to judge after the performance: "The audience was good, the audience was bad", usually referring to the energy that came at them "from down there in the dark". Mass. Energy. Audience. What about the individual? Is the individual felt among the audience? It is probably more than a coincidence that we do not distinguish between singular and plural in the audience. How would the medium of "theatre" change if the recipient were not understood as the collective mass, but as the individual spectator? Would we examine him, his function, perhaps even his "role" in this theatrical agreement more closely and shed light on it? We actors have a clear task, we are trained, we have the necessary skills, the talent; but what about the audience? Does he really have nothing to bring to our theatre encounter? Why are his possibilities not utilised? Not even taken note of. Of course, it is not a matter of highlighting his acting skills, it is rather a matter of pinpointing his function in this theatre encounter. If one understands theatre as a medium, if it is really supposed to be about a dialogue between the characters and their audience, can't the spectator give more than just an "active watching and listening"? Can't the actor then give more than just an active playing on stage, far away from his dialogue partners?
Breaking the Fourth Wall begins with the actor's gaze. He looks at an audience member and means him! Theatre reaches a new quality of the "special theatre moment" when the individual among the audience feels meant. The invisible spectator becomes visible. He becomes present. At that moment, the fourth wall dissolves and the theatre begins to become ADVENTURE - for the audience as well as for the actors. All participants suddenly seem much more awake. Liveliness emerges. Acting becomes play.
At an actor's talk on the subject of "Criticism of the Spectator" at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, Ulrich Matthes revealed that he never, really never, looks a single spectator in the eye when he is acting. He cannot do this, he is downright embarrassed. That's why the production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" by Jürgen Gosch at the Deutsches Theater is a real challenge for him, even after years of performing, because here the audience lights stay on during the entire performance, about 700 pairs of eyes look at him. So many gazes must first be endured by an actor who is himself incapable of not truly meeting a single one at the moment of the play.
In a conventional performance - when the audience light is not on - the audience can never be sure if it really means him, sure, it can mean people who are like him, but not him!
Of course, we do not want to deny that the "sense of community" that can arise within the audience after they have attended this event here tonight causes resonance. After all, many audience members talk about what they have seen, the performance lives on in them - and here we really mean every single one. They are all part of an image that is denied to anyone who has not been there. But Theater Anu goes one step further, we ask ourselves whether the audience cannot also become painters of the image? To so-called co-authors of the piece?
How many deaths has Juliet died on stage over the centuries?
And not once was she saved by the spectator. Why?
To begin with: there is no real equality between character and spectator in the Theatre of Encounter either, since the actor always knows more than his character and ultimately will always have, indeed must have, some kind of control over the play of character and spectator via this knowledge.
Nevertheless, the Theatre of Encounters is a theatre on "equal footing". The figure encounters its VISITOR - we call the spectator a visitor, an active seeker in our poetic world who visits its figures. The term "visitor" already implies a contact between him and the character - how distant or close the visit takes place is up to each encounter.
Visitor and figure meet at the same eye level. Both have the same possibilities to act. The figure gives its visitor the feeling of being equal. Everything begins with eye contact: "I see you, you see me, I am ready to give you everything, but I also want everything from you. I offer you to play with me as an 'equal' play partner." In contrast to "participatory theatre", this is not a demand but always an OFFER. The visitor becomes a traveller through his physical activity. As in a foreign country, he decides for himself how close he wants to get to the inhabitants and customs. There is no right or wrong, but those who have the courage to get to know the people will return home rich in travel experience. Willingness is everything. But how does the visitor become ready?
About trust and the authentic spectator
One prerequisite - for play to succeed - is that the visitor trusts the player. Sympathy and the trust that they will not be exposed help them to decide to enter the game.
This trust is created by the overall situation. The atmosphere of the theatre installation as well as that of one's own venue are decisive here, but above all the LOOK and - if used - the voice. It is precisely the poetic, quiet and sensual approach to the encounter that creates a confidence-inspiring environment and signals to the visitor that he has nothing negative to expect.
Creating trust means taking responsibility. Just as the actor has a responsibility for his character, the character has a responsibility for its visitors. This means that the Theatre of Encounter is not about encouraging the visitor to play a role. Rather, it is about letting him shed his roles. When we say that we "challenge" our visitor, it is primarily in being himself. The Theatre of Encounter wants to meet the human being, not an amateurishly played Casper or hero. It demands the authentic spectator as a visitor. This is revealed when he trusts the character, when he gets the feeling from him that he is meant. Then he reveals himself to his playing partner and thus also shows his vulnerability. The actor must be aware of this, he must understand what possibilities are given to him in the encounter of his character with the visitors, what potential they have, but also what dangers they hold.
We players of Theater Anu have to be brave. We are asked to play with our freedom, which means that anything is possible for our characters. Of course, they have a function to fulfil in the context of the productions, they have play tasks to fulfil and yet in every staged character in the Theatre of Encounters there are free spaces that offer room for the character to be anything! The actor should be aware of this in his character work. Even if his character excludes certain actions. But if you are Juliet, you must also be prepared to let yourself be saved.
In the theatre of encounter, no visitors are presented to others, unlike in participatory theatre. Even if other visitors watch a visitor get into the game - in which he meets a character - at the moment of the game the character only plays with the one he has chosen. If the figure wins his trust, the "spectator-visitors" will not bother him any further. The recognition of the other is always the beginning of a game offer. The following applies: the adventure of the visitor is also always the adventure of the player. Theatre thus becomes a place of play. For whom do our characters play? We believe, for the child in the human being.
Old Queen Ellib visited the Moorts for the last time:
I still have one question. Say, what is the soul?"
"If I tell you, you won't believe me," the Moorts replied. Ellib insisted on an answer. "The soul is the child you once were and who never left you," whispered the Moorts.
From the Moran Chronicles