UdK Berlin

10 Dinge, die mir die Berliner Next to Normal-Produktion (über mich) beigebracht hat

There’s also an English version of this article which can be found by clicking here – English!

  1. Wenn man Teile der Übersetzung nicht mag und sie deshalb ändert, sollte man sie wirklich zum Besseren ändern. Es ist total okay, wenn man Dinge nicht mag, auch (und vielleicht sogar vor allem) auf diese Übersetzung bezogen – wie ich ja auch schon mehrfach erwähnt hab. Und Änderungen sind auch super – sofern man immer auch die Einwilligung des Originalautors der (deutschen) Textfassung einholt, falls es sehr einschneidende Änderungen sind oder mehr als eine bestimmte Prozentzahl des Texts geändert wird (Urheberrechtsseminare, juhuu!). Andererseits ist es nicht okay, Dinge einfach nur zu ändern, weil man sie ändern möchte – man muss eine wirklich bessere Idee haben. Wenn man sich unsicher ist, ob die Idee wirklich besser ist, kann man den_die Dramaturg_in fragen.
  1. Man kann demselben Regisseur in einigen Punkten sehr zustimmen und in anderen Punkten so sehr anderer Meinung sein. Okay, das hab ich vorher gewusst – es wäre verstörend, wenn nicht, aber kaum eine (Musical)Produktion in den letzten Jahren hat mir das so deutlich gezeigt. Als ich vor knapp zwei Jahren nach Fürth gefahren bin, um mir damals die erste deutschsprachige Produktion von Next to Normal anzusehen, war ich irgendwie enttäuscht davon, wie Gabe in dieser Inszenierung zu sehen war. Für mich ist Gabe nicht der coole, liebenswerte Traumsohn. Für mich ist er böse. Sehr, sehr böse. Ich meine, wenn Diana ihre Familie verlässt, wendet er sich – als Figur jedenfalls, was das psychologisch für eine Art Traumaübertragung ist, ist eine ganz andere Geschichte – Dan zu. Wenn ich eine Produktion von Next to Normal betreuen müsste….nun gut. Thorsten Fischer, der Regisseur der Berliner Inszenierung, stellt hier Gabe wenigstens irgendwie diabolisch, ambivalent und ja, auch böse, zorning und manchmal geradezu bockig vor – was ich sehr mochte. Viele andere Dinge aber, haben mich sehr geärgert, was mich zum nächsten Punkt bringt….
  1. Kümmere dich um deine (Schau-)Spieler. Wer glaubt an einen seltsamen Zufall, dass fast keine Kritik (keine, die ich gelesen hab, jedenfalls…) über Guntbert Warns schreibt? Die Menschen, die in Berlin über Musical schreiben, scheinen einen stillen Pakt geschlossen zu haben und zu versuchen, negative Stimmen über bestimmte Mitglieder der Besetzung zu vermeiden. Das tue ich auch, es gibt mir verhältnismäßig wenig, zu schreiben: DU BIST SCHLEEEEEEEEEECHT! Allerdings: Es ist schlecht. Als ich neulich erst wieder die Broadway-Aufnahme des Stücks gehört hab, ist mir einmal mehr aufgefallen, was für eine musikalisch schöne und (NATÜRLICH!) bedeutungsvolle Partie Dan ist. Herr Warns bringt es da – leider – einfach nicht. Es wird ziemlich viel gesprochen, parlando oder rezitativisch fällt einem da zuerst ein, wenn man über seinen Gesang nachdenkt, und dann leider nur noch schlechter Gesang, was die Inszenierungen auf verschiedene Arten unterwandert. Ich habe irgendwann angefangen, das Musical Next to Normal in seinem Genre anzuzweifeln (so weit muss es erst einmal kommen!): Warum singt jemand, wenn er offensichtlich sehr viel besser sprechen kann? Wie „unnatürlich“ ist denn Musiktheater bitte? Und zumindest in der Premiere hat er für mich so unsicher und ‚unbehaglich’ (das ist ein doofes Wort, aber im englischen Original des Artikels steht uncomfortable, das ist es) gewirkt, dass ich mich wirklich gefragt habe, warum Diana Dan nicht schon viel früher verlässt. Wie auch immer, ich möchte jetzt hier nicht über Guntbert Warns ablästern oder ihn ‚mobben’. Es ist nämlich nicht seine Schuld, dass er für eine Rolle besetzt wurde, die er (stimmlich) nicht erfüllen kann. Der Regisseur und das Creative Team haben ihn besetzt. Ich glaube wirklich daran, dass man sich als Creative Team nicht nur um die Inszenierung kümmern muss, sondern auch um die (Schau-)Spieler. Und manchmal muss man sie beschützen.
  1. Wenn man ein Musical inszeniert/in den Spielplan nimmt, sag nicht, es sei ein „Schauspiel mit Musik“. Einfach nein. Vor allem nicht mit einem Stück wie Next to Normal. Und das merkt man, wenn man dem Score einmal richtig zuhört: Musik und Handlung und Dianas Geisteszustand sind hier musikalisch so sehr verschmolzen, dass es nicht mehr lustig ist. Und die E-Gitarre bei „Wish I was here“ / „Wär ich nur da“ ist da nur der Anfang….Spiel und Musik sind hier ungefähr so verstrickt wie Text und Musik bei Cole Porter Songs. Deshalb sind die auch so eine Bitch zu übersetzen. Aber das ist eine andere Geschichte.
  1. Ähnlich wie Nr. 4: Nur weil man einen Song nicht mag, heißt das nicht, dass man da durchhuschen muss („Song of Forgetting“ / „Lied vom Vergessen“, von dir rede ich – wann genau denkt Diana da nach und gräbt nach ihren Erinnerungen?)
  1. Angenommen man trifft eine künstlerische Entscheidung. Angenommen man mag das optimistische, ‚helle’ Ende nicht, das durch „Light“ / „Licht“ nahegelegt wird. Wie großartig wäre es dann zu dieser Entscheidung zu stehen? Die Spieler eine seltsame und …. unpassende Pose einnehmen zu lassen (so eine seltsame Pärchen-Pose, in der sie sich mit dem Rücken gegen seine Vorderseite lehnt und sich in seine Arme drapiert, ist doch unangebracht für eine Vater-Tochter-Kombo, oder?), dann Black für bestimmt 5 bis 10 Sekunden, alle klatschen, denken es ist zu Ende (weil: so wurde die Pause auch schon eingeläutet, plötzliches Black), dann geht das Licht wieder an und „Licht“ wird gesungen als eine Art Epilog. Was ist das? Brecht im Sinne von „Haha, wir können uns von uns selbst distanzieren?“, ein Hinweis, dass das alles „nur Theater“ ist? Das Ende vor dem Black war stark und berührend und verstörend und fast schon ein fieser Tritt in die Magengegend und dann – BOOM – haha, nur Spaß oder was? Ich bin mir verhältnismäßig sicher, man hätte vielleicht mit den Rechteinhabern eine Lösung finden können und dann hätte die (wahrscheinlich) ursprüngliche Idee auch so stattfinden können….obwohl….nun ja…..
  1. Wenn man besetzt, sollte man darüber nachdenken, wie die Stimmen mit einander harmonieren bzw. sich mischen. Bei manchen Entscheidungen hier denkt man WTF (s. Nr. 3) und bei anderen fragte man sich nur WARUM diese KOMBINATION? (wir machen keine one-(wo)man-show, auch nicht zwei, drei parallel, auch kein Sing-Off, sondern Theater!)
  1. Diana ist keine besonders stabile Person. Dass sie die Zeile „Bin kein Soziopath“ singt, weißt – jedenfalls für mich – darauf hin, dass sie eigentlich einer ist. Sie hat Probleme damit, das Verhalten anderer zu analysieren und entsprechend darauf zu reagieren – das lernen wir schon ganz am Anfang bei ihrem ersten Dialog mit Nathalie und eigentlich das ganze „Wie an jedem Tag“ hindurch. Sie liest ziemlich viel von dem Verhalten anderer als Sex-Anspielungen („Mein Arzt, die Psychopharmaka und ich“….) und meiner Meinung nach sind diese „Witze“, die daraus entstehen, sehr viel kraftvoller und verstörender, wenn man als Zuschauer das Verhalten des Arztes als vieles, aber keinesfalls als sexuell lesen kann. Weil es dann nicht nur so ist, dass man sich als Zuschauer freut, dass der Sex-Witz jetzt ENDLICH durchs Ziel gelaufen ist, nachdem man ihn schon eine Minute lang hat kommen sehen (that’s what she said, Lisanne!).
  1. Nichts wirklich Neues: Ich MUSS einfach mit Musicals arbeiten, wenn ich mal eine wirklich ausgewachsene Dramaturgin bin. Musical hat die Kraft mich ewig zu beschäftigen. Und auch die Inszenierungen selbiger. Vor allem die. (Mag mich jemand einstellen?….kleiner Scherz….)
  1. Nichts wirklich Neues Teil 2, aber es hat mich dennoch mal wieder richtig erwischt: Ich kann so aufgeregt sein FÜR andere Menschen. Für mich selbst so lala, aber für andere ALL THE WAY. Ich war ein Wrack.
Advertisements

10 Things I learned (about me) while seeing the Berlin production of Next to Normal

There’s a German version of this article avaliable which you can find by clicking here – German!

  1. If you don’t like certain parts of a translation and you change these parts make sure you really change them for the better. Not liking things is totally fine, especially with this translation as I pointed out on more than one occasion. Changing things is totally fine, too, as long as you are checking back with the original translator (at least in case these changes are very crucial and/or cover more than a certain percentage of the text). On the other hand – what isn’t fine is changing things for the sake of changing it. If you cannot come up with a better idea then stick to what the translator gave you. When in doubt: Ask the dramaturg for opinion.
  1. You can totally agree with a director in some things and totally disagree on others. Okay, that one I knew before – I’m gonna be a dramaturg eventually. But I think few productions over the past years have made this as clear to me as this one. When I went South to see the first German production of Next to Normal almost two years ago now I remember being a little bit frustrated with the way this production introduced Gabe as the cool, lovely and just overall nice son. To me he isn’t. He is evil. Really, really evil. I mean: When Diana leaves Dan and Nathalie he turns to them instead. If I had to work on a production myself, there would be…..anyway. Thorsten Fischer, the director of the Berlin production, made Gabe at least kind of evil for the most parts – which I was a big fan of. For so many other things though I couldn’t agree less. Which brings me to…
  1. You have to take care of your actors. Do you think it’s a weird coincidence that Guntbert Warns who plays Dan isn’t talked about in pretty much ALL the reviews (at least the ones I read)? Berlin reviewers and German musical blogs seem to hesitate to say something negative. However I do, too. But: It’s bad. Listening to the Broadway recording especially shows how beautiful and meaningful Dan’s part is music-wise. Mr. Warns really isn’t cutting it. There’s a lot of speaking and things that loosely resemble parlando or recitative forms and then bad singing. Which undermines this production in so many ways. I was constantly reminded how weird and not “natural” musical theatre is as a genre itself: Why does someone sing when he is obviously SO MUCH BETTER at speaking? Also: My thoughts are with those who have to harmonize with him every night (especially Gabe and Henry, my thoughts are with you, boys!) At least on opening night he also looked so uncomfortable and all I kept thinking was: Why doesn’t Diana walk out on him WAY earlier? However I don’t want to “bully” Mr. Warns. It isn’t his fault he was cast. The director and the creative team cast him. And I really think as members of a creative team you not only have to take care of the production, but also of the actors involved. And sometimes you have to protect them.
  1. If you are producing/directing a musical don’t treat it as a “play with music”. Just don’t. Especially a piece like Next to Normal. Have you listened to the score? You then might have noticed that the music is so tightly knit together with the words and the plot and Diana’s mental state it’s not funny anymore.
  1. On a similar note as 4 is: Just because I don’t like a song it’s not okay to rush through it (“Song of Forgetting” / “Lied vom Vergessen”, I’m talking about you!)
  1. Let’s say you make a creative decision. Let’s say you don’t like the optimistic ending “Light” / “Licht” suggests. How wonderful would it be to just stick to this decision? Making your actors do a weird and inappropriate pose in the end (what is this couple-y she leans backwards into his front-pose between Dan and Nathalie anyway?), then black the scene out, have a solid 5 to 10 second black, everyone is clapping and then having the lights go on again and “Light” starts as some kind of epilogue. How weird is that? We’ve just witnessed a very tense and thrilling ‘ending’ and then – BOOM – just kidding or what? I’m pretty sure you could have just asked those who represent the writers/”own” the rights and then you might had been able to stick to your initial idea.
  1. If you cast people think about how voices sound with each other. With some casting decisions in this production you just are like WTF (see No. 3) and with others you are like WHY?
  1. Diana is not a very stable person. Her singing “I’m no sociopath” hints – at least to me – to her actually being one. She has troubles reading and reacting to people’s behavior (the very first dialogue between Nathalie and her, basically the whole “Just another day”). And she makes a lot of sex jokes (“My Psychopharmacologist and I”….) in my opinion these ‘jokes’ are a lot more powerful and disturbing when you don’t see Dr. Fine act as if he could mean it in a sexy way. Because then it’s not just everyone cheering for the sex-joke to FINALLY cross the finish line after you’ve seen it coming for about a minute.
  1. I REALLY want to work on musicals when I’m a really grown up dramaturg. It totally has the power to have me worked up for days. It really has. (Anyone wanna hire me? – joking….)
  1. Nothing new but this hit me with all its power: I can be so excited and nervous for other people. I really can. I was a nervous wreck.

 

Sisterhood. On “Schwestern im Geiste”, Neuköllner Oper

To start off: I like Judith Butler. I read my fair share of gender theories. Around age 20, 21 I wore my hair in a rather short cut, feminist stuff.

Basically that is why I was excited about the latest musical of the UdK musical/show programme. Their third year has 7 female and 2 male students – which is challenging when thinking about creating a musical especially for them. Peter Lund and the students chose a rather interesting situation: telling part of the story of the Brontë sisters and combining it with three ‘modern’ female characters (like: the Brontës’ today’s equivalents). Okay, so far, so good.

After most of the UdK musicals focused more on the male characters (e.g. with Stimmen im Kopf it was the issue that during the exposition the female characters took action only to give the male characters a better, glamorous entrace – nonetheless the statement was rather gender-independent), I really wanted to like a piece mostly about women.

But let me state something: It wasn’t so much about women.

While we see the historical storyline evolving around the ‘real’ lives of the sisters, their brother, their maid and assistant reverent Arthur Bell Nicholls, Charlotte’s future husband, the today’s storyline focusses a liture class in high school. Two students and a teacher more or less ‘fighting’ their ways through the Brontë-chapter of the curriculum. Obviously the teacher is driven by her own fondness of the Brontë-sisters as women being ahead of their times – which soon makes the unruly of her students, Milly (who has a difficult family backstory, an alcoholic mother and a not really present father), speak up to her and call her a lesbian.
And guess what?
Yes, she REALLY is a lesbian. (that HAS to be THE thing of an educated women teaching about women in literature and women ahead of their time. How could I forget?) Well, since Milly struggles with her grades and probably won’t be able to graduate, she starts a little fling with her teacher and afterwards blackmails her to get through finals – in the end she doesn’t even take the finals because she finally realized high school graduation isn’t for her. Regarding the other student, Aylin, a headscarf wearing kid of Turkish immigrants – she’s smart and hardworking, but her family wants her to marry her cousin (who might look a little bit like Matt Damon) shortly before the graduation so that she won’t be able to take her finals. She – opposite to Milly – comes back in the end to take her exam because her cousin seems to have more understanding of how important the graduation is to her.

In the historic storyline we learn about class distinction (the maid Tabby’s got a thing going with Mr. Nicholls!), not having enough money, loads of writing and a almost always drunk brother, but we also see three sisters who think about morals very different from each other (what I guess is an interesting point and made them centre of this musical in the first place). Anne, the youngest, is really into this whole marriage-love-thing, while Emily is just an unruly female interested much more in nature than in regular (these times) ‘female stuff’ and Charlotte is a rather opaque character – rumours even say that she might as well had been a lesbian back when – and marries Mr. Nicholls after all of her siblings died.

Okay, the plot seems quite understandable, but what bothers me the most is, that although male power is pretty much not shown throughout the show (the two male characters might have some kind of power as male parts of society, but they don’t have any power as characters per se) – there is a general power of men shown/sensable. Most obvious with Aylin’s story (of course, because that’s what the cliché says…), but also with Milly (the father who is or is not there, from time to time..best part of the dialogue: “I want to talk to your parents!” – “As if my father was interested!” – “Then your mother!” – you see what happend here?) and with Lotte, the teacher, as some kind of power which made her decide to be gay or not (and of course on a different level as some kind of male hegemony she tries to deny with being gay but also can’t because….men.).

More than once it is mentioned (in both storylines), that we all (but also: women, because they told us in the first place) live to be loved (by a man). In the second act Lotte comments on a scene like this from the historic storyline (“Bullshit!”), just in order to be made look stupid by Milly seconds later. Well played, well played.

Anyways…just to comclude my rambling about the piece itself: What could have been a very powerful piece for women (both on and off stage, for those performing and those watching) just isn’t. Plus for me it also has the problem that in half of the plot (the today-part) the characters aren’t able to interact singing-wise. So we get one introspective song after song after song (and I have the feeling that it kind of was the same with the other storyline).

But know to the things I really liked. First of all: The music. I liked how it was slightly different from most of the things I’ve heard of Thomas Zaufke, both other UdK musicals and at my ‘old home’ GRIPS Theater. Sadly I can’t say much more about the music (expect for: I liked it), because I am not an educated musician or musicologist and I was too busy having my feminist issues with the plot. But I remeber liking the song about Angria a lot. It gave the whole part (and the siblings) new dynamics and finally gave the more or less rigid characters a reason to move.
Another smart move was giving Branwell so many high notes to sing, because that’s basically what I imaginge a brother of three strong sisters doing…. 🙂

I also really liked the set – it was like a weird shaped half pipe, the downer part mostly black with some words written on them, the number of them increasing with the height, finally making the whole upper part white – which made it also look like mountains or wild water (they are going to Angria by ship). With the wild water association also came one of my favourite scenes – the death of (YES! a male character) Branwell Brontë who really died of a combination of Bronchitis and kidney failure (due to high alcohol consumption). It looked as if he’d drown in the wild waves of the set, fighting them, being thrown back by them. And this is – at least partly – what actually happenend to him: He drowned in alcohol.

And lastly: I always like going to these things because I like to see how young performers are educated. Basically it is because my education is so different from their, but we all (want to) do theatre – so it’s always great to see what they do when they are still in school. This year is also the first year when the thought hit me about their ages; they are around my age and not like “adult performers” (that was what I saw them as when I first started to go see these UdK productions back with Leben ohne Chris). Anyways – they conquered their piece rather gracefully. My personal stand-outs were Dalma Viczina as Emily, Theresa Scherhag’s fierce acting as teacher Lotte (much older than she actually is, and NO, I didn’t like it because it might have been the most feminist performance. No. I already saw from her performance at the Bundeswettbewerb Gesang finals that she can be a strong actress) and Sabrina Reischl’s comedic talent and timing as Tabby. But for all of them I can only say: I’m very excited to see it again when they’ll revive the show (which they usually do) and to see how much they’ve grown both performing wise and into their characters.

I’m going to end with a little anecdote about fellow audience members: Right in front of me and on my left side sat a couple of older people. They very openly laughed about every “mufti”- and cliché joke about immigrants and froze to solid ice when Milly and Lotte kissed in the last seconds of the first half. Well, even in a city like Berlin and even in a theatre as the Neuköllner Oper you get weird last century audience.

Please, people, read Judith Butler.
Or Alice Schwarzer.
Or something.

For more information about the cast and creative team head over to the website of Neuköllner Oper.

Stimmen im Kopf, Neuköllner Oper Berlin

On December 29th I saw my last theatrical performance in 2013 – my dear friend Gregor, a sound editor-to-be, pushed me to see the second of last (and his last) performance of Stimmen im Kopf. Every time a new group of student of the musical theatre programme of Universität der Künste Berlin is heading to graduation they get their own, new (original) musical to perform at the small off-opera house in Neukölln. It was the third of these musicals I’ve seen (and the first one I waited so long before I went….) – and they all more of less follow the same idea. They are made to show off what the students can do best, everyone get’s his/her solo and there is a massive ammount of choreography and dacing going on.

Especially for people like me, who tend to get excited about original musicals, it’s a great thing to see a complete new piece (not like these teeny-tiny bites sometimes shared with the general public at installments like Schreib:Maschine). Plus I met most of the young actors taking the stage during the Bundeswettbewerb Gesang, where a good number of them were among the finalists – although I saw them right before they went on stage during the Bundeswettbewerb and right when they stepped off of it I hardly heard them sing or watched them perform, except for Maria-Danaé Bansen who won the competition’s main category (and Dennis Dobrowolski who I saw on stage at Komische Oper Berlin in Ball im Savoy, but….that doesn’t count, because I really didn’t like the production and the part he was playing wasn’t that representable….) and I’ve never ever been in a performance in which someone I know edited the sound. Let’s just sum it up: I was rather excited.

Stimmen im Kopf (“Voices in Your Head”) follows the daily life in a psychiatric hospital – if there is such a thing. You enter it along with Babsi who brings her younger sister Nadine into treatment. Nadine ‘hears a voice’ or better – is the only one (for now) who’s able to see Daniel – sort of demonic imagination. So, we enter the hospital and one by one we get to know the other patients and the three members of the staff.

I remeber sitting there for what felt like 30 Minutes thinking “Boy, this is the longest introduction I have ever seen in my life!” and actually that’s what they did: They took their time. Time to tell the stories of their characters and time to show what the graduates are able to do on stage – I’d even go ahead and say: The story is not that important which of course doesn’t mean that there isn’t any, but somehow every single character seems to be stressed to much more than the story as a whole thing to watch. And it was a great joy to watch these characters over the course of little more than two and a half hours.
To be honest this year I was struck by the acting for the first time watching these productions (that’s why I’m stressing that in the next paragraphs, because I mostly was amazed by that). In the moments the musical sometimes (!) took to dive into the character’s stories, you could see that they did their research on various mental deseases and the life in a mental hospital very carefully. I was moved by some acting performances in particular I’d like to point out: Due to my own ‘disposition’ I loved Philipp – a highly talented young man, slightly autistic or suffering from OCD, very carefully and never too over the top played by Patrick Cieslik. I was very moved by the gender bending performance of Marion Wulf playing the role of Herbert/Cora, also very carefully displayed character with close to none family backround, breaking the rules, being destructive and very vulnerable at the same time. The same, but in a very different way applies to Karla, a ‘typical business woman’, suffering from burn-out and/or depression. She’s a little stuffy and shows a slightly posh behaviour – she seems to be not feeling in touch with the world around her (what becomes clear in her solo “Und ich schau nur zu”) though she shows not the obvious signs of a mental desease as the others do. Maria-Danaé Bansen portaying her gives the audience (and the other patients) a nerv-wrecking attitude most of time – the bigger is the surprise when she finally gives in and suddenly seems to be the complete opposite: a completely vulnerable woman.
During the performance I saw there was silence after both of the mentioned womens’ solos the audience was completely taken into the performance of these two and I was so glad nobody interrupted that bond between the story and us by clapping. (THANK YOU, audience!)

I also want to mention Venera Jakupov as the old, russian patient Frau Dermicin who basically has one line “Ich kann das machen” (I can do that), but kind of manages to take her room on stage every time – not to talk about the fore-shadowing (of the more bloody events happening more towars the end of act 2) she does during the finale of act 1 (Jakupov also plays another character, a medical officer who I really didn’t unterstand as a character other than being mean, very Trunchbull-like), Anna Pircher’s very extensive portrait of the sexually abused Jenny and Yvonne Greitzke who plays the ‘heart of the hospital’, the nurse Eva.

Music wise there was a HUGE resemblance of Leben ohne Chris (2009) by the same composer-writer-duo. Even before the very (VERY) direct quote from that piece in second act it was obvious and I heard some Next to Normal around – one time when Nadine’s fiancé Lars tries to remind her of their good times  it’s very “Henry in the second act of Next to Normal” with ‘Hey’ all over. Other than that the music is not very ‘familiar’, it is able to give the audience (and the singers) a hard time easing into it, it’s not like the catchy tunes most of the musical theatre audiences are used to, but it somehow suits the not at all normal setting of the story and for that sake works really well.

It was definetly a good decision to go and see Stimmen im Kopf for ‘observing talent’ and I wish all the best to these 12 talented actors and singers (Christian Miebach’s “Wenn die Menschen schlafen gehen”/When the people go to sleep!) and dancers (Larissa Puhlmann and Johannes Brüssau!!) – I’m looking forward to seeing these people again on the musical theatre stages around.