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The Lab: Wer ist Medea?

Wer ist Medea?/ Who is Medea?/ Quem é Medeia?

How can we interpret a classic of dramatic literature in 2019? Why work with classics at all? Let’s go back…to the beginnings…and let’s start with a universally despised woman.

Wer ist Medea? is a music theater performance as well as a spoken word concert, manifesto, choreography, emotional rehearsal, a tragic monologue or maybe just an homage to all those women that are hated just because their stories were written by men.

This performance is the very first presentation of a work-in-progress, the first interaction with an audience. In between the many layers of performance, constructed upon the interpretations of a variety of authors, we work as archaeologists to understand and unearth Medea.

Who is Medea? The personification of one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, a mother who kills her own children? Or the woman who sees her children being murdered by her enemies? The cruel and cold woman that betrayed her own father, the king, killed her brother and abandoned her own country in the name of love? Or a strong and independent woman that serves as an existential threat to patriarchal society? A woman blinded by her thirst of revenge or the victim of an ambitious and unscrupulous man? A mother that in a final act of love chooses to deliver her children to the embrace of death instead of leaving them in the hands of her cruel enemies?

Join us and find out.

An attempt to create a new dramaturgy inspired by the mythological character Medea, herself the subject of a myriad of different authors who wrote about her, reinvented her and imagined her, including Euripides, Heiner Müller, Christa Wolf, Chico Buarque and Paulo Pontes.

Performed in English, German and Portuguese

THE LAB: FAILED EPIC

“This century will be American. American thought will dominate it. American deeds will give it direction.”

When these words were first published in John Dos Passos’ seminal trilogy of novels collectively titled U.S.A. (1930 – 1938), they were undoubtedly intended to arouse feelings of patriotism, pride and optimism. Today this sentiment has a much more menacing tone than when it was written. FAILED EPIC seeks to embrace the menace implied in Dos Passos’ nationalistic nostalgia by taking a forgotten mainstay of the American Literary Canon and deconstructing it in a contemporary “news show” context.

In the performance, apocalyptic headlines from the beginning of the 20th century are reported in real time, only to be interrupted with live interviews, pre-recorded human interest pieces, on-location reporting, talking-head analysis and other layers of media within media. As the overabundance of fictional and historical narratives start to accumulate, we begin to see a timely portrait of a nation on the verge of collapse, as ideological divisions, economic inequality, and impending war threaten to destroy it.

Following an international cast of performers, we walk through a global landscape of characters whose lives are determined by massive, unseen forces–economics, disease, addiction, precarious working conditions, prejudice and accidental death. In the face of injustice, these people dream of revolution. Anarchists, Marxists, Wobblies, Capitalists, Socialists, Feminists–all are waiting to witness the death of the status quo. In these untragic lives, we see our own, with a bluntness that shifts the focus from the details of the individual stories to the universal dissatisfaction experienced in all of them.

Not only is this picture of a world divided into ideological and economic tribes a contemporary one, but–like today’s amateur online pundits–the people in this dystopia do not suffer in silence. Media serves to aggravate divisions among already splintered populations, as everyone sources their talking points from the political movement of their choice. Likewise, the success or failure of these movements seems to hang entirely on the oratory abilities of their leaders, who hold wild, Trump-like rallies aimed at “stirring up” followers, who will serve as foot soldiers in a bloody war of ideas.

Dos Passos’ own role in this conflict is still unresolved, as many contemporary critics characterize U.S.A. as “a failed epic by a writer out of his depth.” The goal of this performance is not to restore the author’s reputation, but rather to use his novels as a way of engaging with the Pre-War zeitgeist. Unlike his contemporaries Fitzgerald and Hemingway, Dos Passos’ prose does not need to be unpacked or even admired. Instead, it simply needs to unfold like a Twitter feed or scrolling news crawl, as a seemingly endless series of shocking, strange, mundane, and compelling events accumulate, coalescing into a complex portrait of a democracy at a crossroads, with no clear consensus on which way to go next.

Followed by a post-performance discussion

Olam HaBa: The Next World

Who was this Polish Jew that pulled his pants down in front of everyone and sat on the holy book with his bare bottom?

Who was this Jakob Frank, revered by his fans as a messiah and who converted from Judaism to Islam and from Islam to Catholicism? Who was persecuted by the powerful in Poland in the 18th century, spent many years in prison in Tschenstochau and whose story came to a strange but happy end in Offenbach am Main?

The performers LeinzLieberman have searched for the motives behinds this mystical messianic movement over the course of multiple trips tracing the footsteps of Jakob Frank. And they let themselves, together with the designer and DJ Markus Wente, be inspired by it in their new performance. They bring motifs and texts of Jakob Frank to the stage and then transform it into images and movements that also reflect the feelings and desires of people in the Berlin art and party scenes. Using both subtle and expansive images, they tell the story of a search for a new world in which all parts are once again integrated into a complete whole.

 

Followed by a post-performance discussion

LeinzLieberman are the performance makers Shlomo Lieberman (Israel/Germany) and Ulrich Leinz (Germany). Over the last three years, their work has been included in three consecutive Expat Expo | Immigration Invasion festivals and we premiered their groundbreaking The Other/Promised Land in the fall of 2016. We are very excited to host them – collaborating with colleagues – as our fall artists in residence, presenting three different works in September, October and November.

Lovers1 will be performed on September 29 and The Other/Promised Land will be performed on October 13.

Ich Kann Nicht Atmen

What do you do if you can’t do anything?

Taking its cue from Václav Havel’s seminal 1978 essay The Power of the Powerless, the performance-lecture Ich kann nicht atmen [IKNA] gives an insider’s account – bitter, hilarious and savagely satirical – of what it’s like to live inside the immersive, sensurround scam that various lobbyists, eco-hypocrites and political pygmies have defined as energetische Modernisierung.

The profit-led and undesired changes to one particular apartment building, for which the inhabitants ultimately pay, serves as an example of how the face of an entire capital city is being fundamentally and irrevocably altered for generations to come.

Followed by a post-performance discussion in collaboration with Theater Scoutings Berlin!

THE LAB: Two Works On Death And Dying

We all search for order, clarity or a sense of narrative when we lose the ones we love or reflect on our own mortality. But it would seem that the search is in vain. Death is cruel, disordered, chaotic, tragic and, sometimes, hilarious.

Two Works on Death and Dying is an attempt to unearth the psychology and mythology that surround the theme of death. It is told in two parts: And Then She Departed in the Most Secret of Manners, a deeply personal story of loss and The Mandragora and other Beliefs, an intense meditation on the afterlife. The artists invite you to join this cathartic event in the making and to celebrate with them the inevitability of loss, grief, fear, death and our will to survive.

Followed by a post-performance discussion


Marcelina Bozek was born in a small city in Poland in 1985. She moved to Krakow immediately after high school, where she graduated from university with a Master’s degree in humanistic studies. While studying, she worked extensively with numerous theaters in Krakow. Marcelina has taught theater workshops and acting courses for many years. In October 2014 she moved to Berlin, where she continues her development as an artist, theater trainer (Instant Theatre Berlin) and cultural manager (Plötzlich am Meer Festival). She runs theater workshops, performs as an independent artist and works for art and music festivals as part of the production team. She practices physical theater methods, contact improvisation and contemporary dance. Since moving to Berlin, Marcelina has continuously worked with Tatwerk – Performative Forschung, a theater, dance and performance studio, in an ongoing collaborative relationship.

Jahman Davine is an Australian-born theater maker working between Melbourne, Australia and Berlin, Germany. Having graduated from the National Theatre Drama School, he has also studied the Anne Bogart and Tadashi Suzuki methods with Zen Zen Zo, Australia’s leading physical theater company. Davine’s productions walk a formal tightrope between chaos and order, using philosophy and mythology to investigate themes of social ideology, fantasy and taboo. Often containing little story and void of modern characters, his work seeks to engage the audience’s collective cerebral and physical responses to time, space and causality composition. By counterpointing poetic text, visual art, spatial design, color and light, theme, myth and music to the performers’ bodies, Davine aims to create a total audience experience. In this way, he endeavors to define a new form of performing arts, one which is independent from other art forms to offer the unique possibility of an extraordinary group experience, influenced by the historic human necessity for tragic celebration, ritual and cathartic connection.

Michelle Myers is a Berlin-based writer/performer from Melbourne, Australia. After completing her training at the National Theatre Drama School in 2010, she has worked extensively in theater and film. She worked as a performer/script developer with immersive theater companies Underground Cinema, Secret Squirrel and Little Sister Productions for four years. In 2014 she co-founded TBC, an independent company focused on challenging traditional notions of theatre through unconventional staging and venues. In 2015 she studied at the William Esper Studio in New York. Her recent projects include film The Fiery Escape directed by Mehdi Messouci (MANEKINO – Berlin) and Illusion Woman, a solo performance piece written and directed by Libia Castro and Ólafur Ólafsson for the The Soul Of Money exhibition at DOX Center for Contemporary Art, Prague.

TURI (Turi Agostino) is an Australian-born producer/composer/performer currently based in Berlin. Trained over the last 20 years as a classical pianist and well versed in the world of electronic and ambient sounds, he has worked in the fields of live and studio production, sound design for film and live performance for most of his career. He has toured nationally around Australia with various outfits in a variety of festivals and venues.

THE LAB: My Head Is An Animal

The performance deals with the critical voice inside your own mind. That annoying one that doesn’t seem to go away no matter how hard you try. Questioning who is the voice inside your head and are you listening? It’s also about my mother but that’s a long story so we can save that for later.

A solo piece using text, movement and audio with gentle audience participation.

 

Followed by a post-performance discussion

 

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Lauren Hart was born in Sheffield, England in 1985. She graduated in 2007 from Central School of Speech and Drama School in London where she trained as a performer. Since graduating she has worked professionally in the independent theater community around Europe performing her own work and collaborating with directors, choreographers (Willi Dorner, Anu Almagro, Andrew Loretto, Neil Bettles and Sarah Duffy) and theater companies (You Me and Bum Bum Train, The Other Way Works and Nodding Dog). She has performed at various venues in the UK (The Crucible, Camden People’s Theatre, Theatre Delicatessen, Arnolfini, Bank Street Arts and Live Art Bistro) and in various site-specific locations throughout Europe. She has performed in the UK, Greece, Norway, Germany and Finland.

She moved to Berlin in 2015 and works as a freelance theater maker and performer. Since arriving in Berlin she has collaborated with Fang Lu on her video art project Ex Lovers and she has performed her one-to-one performance This is Mine. What’s Yours? in the 2016 Expat Expo | Immigrant Invasion Festival at English Theatre Berlin | International Performing Art Center and Theaterhaus Berlin Mitte. Wrought-Sheffield (one-to-one performance Festival, UK) commissioned her to develop and perform a new cross cultural performance I’m not (t)here anymore which uses Skype video call to connect the UK and Germany. The performance was shown as part of the festival in April 2016 in both Berlin and Sheffield.

In September 2016 she was invited to perform This is Mine. What’s Yours? at the Pori Theater Festival in Finland. Follow a collaboration with German artist Dara Friedman, the video poetry project featuring one of her poems will be shown at the gallery Supportico Lopez in spring 2017.

THE LAB: Three Red Roses

Three Red Roses is a science fiction, dystopian performance.

Τaking significant contemporary technological advancements as a starting point, the performance deals with the conflict between man and machine. Following a non-linear narrative, the piece depicts a visual journey through space and time, from tribal life to artificial intelligence and virtual reality, which ultimately results in a parable examining the nature of human existence.

Followed by a post-performance discussion in conjunction with Theater Scoutings Berlin!

Despina Kapetanaki was born in Athens, Greece and holds a degree in theater studies from the University of Athens as well as a diploma in acting. While living in Dublin, Ireland, she completed a Master’s degree in literary translation at Trinity College and worked as performer and acting instructor. In Dublin she was also introduced to the actor’s psycho-physical and vocal training by Nervousystem Theatre Company. She worked as a drama teacher and actor in Athens from 2009 to 2012.

In April 2012 she was based in Bielefeld, Germany, where in collaboration with Bielefeld University she founded the Experimental Theater Studio. She created and directed various projects with the studio, including site-specific performances. In August 2014, she was invited by Odin Teatret in Denmark to participate in the Odin Week Festival, an international festival for theory and practice which includes an intensive introduction to Odin Teatret’s training and working methods as well as lectures and discussions with the director Eugenio Barba. She has lived and worked in Berlin since 2015. Her piece Politically Correct was presented during the 2016 Berlin Performing Arts Festival.

As a performer, she creates her own projects inspired by daily life and the contemporary sociopolitical situation. Her work is a combination of physical theater, performance and dance. She is interested in performing without using a separate stage, enhancing this way the communication between the audience and the performer.

THE LAB: Shame

Shitting, farting, STDs, growing old, class shaming, language shaming…we all shame ourselves.

Shame connects and disconnects. Shame is collective, but isolates. Shame is private and political/public. Shame flows between me and others, past and future, childhood and adulthood. Shame is hiding, shame is control, social and individual control.

The play stages the stories of the actor and contemporary social and politic events.

With masks and puppets, drag and glitter, let’s all shame ourselves!

Followed by a post-performance discussion.

We are very pleased to present this initial public performance of a new work-in-progress by the team who brought Baba to the 2016 Expat Expo | Immigrant Invasion Festival!

The Color of Honey

The Color of Honey is a glimpse into the daily life of a woman who finds herself a stranger in a strange land.

The story, based on the writer’s experience, explores themes of isolation, privacy, memory, loss and love. The woman in the play envisions a place far away from everything she knows, only to find her fears are not so easy to shake. Coming to Berlin full of hope and with a thirst for discovery, she now finds herself unable to leave her apartment. When her upstairs neighbor falls to his death, a sense of anxiety renders her even more alone, locked inside, communicating only with a dead man. As an alien in a city foreign to her, a city so full of unshakable history and with a spectral quality, where spirits are everywhere, Berlin seeps through the walls of her apartment and she is confronted by the very questions she wishes to hide from.

In The Color of Honey, we put the city on the stage, the woman on the stage and the woman in the city on the stage. Although the woman has already arrived, she still finds herself preparing for a move of huge proportions. It is up to her to come to terms with her next step. Will she survive? Or, like the neighbor upstairs, will she fall down?

After presenting an initial version in the 2014 Expat Expo | Immigrant Invasion festival, we are very pleased to welcome back The Color of Honey in a new and substantially further developed form.

The Ermine

In 1934 in Berlin, a furrier designed a coat for the wife of a man who would become one of the world’s most notorious war criminals.

In 2005 in Bali, Ben, the great-grandson of the man who tailored his last coat before perishing in Chelmno meets Elsa, the daughter of the coat’s wearer who has been trying to escape her father’s legacy for over 40 years. Over the course of one evening, they engage in a confrontation over the fate of this coat on what happens to be one of the darkest nights in Indonesian memory.

Followed by a post-performance discussion

Daniel Sauermilch is a playwright from Brooklyn, New York. His plays have been developed at Second Stage, The SUNY Potsdam Arts Festival, PTP/NYC, The Kennedy Center, The Boston Theater Marathon and Living Room Productions in Berlin. His work has also won the John Cauble Short Play Award and been a semi-finalist for the Princess Grace Award. He began writing as a part of the Manhattan Theatre Club’s Write Now program, taught by David Auburn and Chris Ceraso. He currently lives in Berlin. B.A., Middlebury College and King’s College London.