For the love of playing the game
The teacher loves Masha, Masha loves Kostja, who in turn loves Nina, who loves the writer Trigorin, who however only loves himself. There's a lot of loving in Chekhov's play The Seagull – and a lot more suffering. It is desperately funny and tragically beautiful, but most certainly not light as a feather. And yet as one sits in Berlin's Deutsches Theater watching the much-celebrated production directed by Jürgen Gosch (who sadly died in the summer of 2009), you get the feeling that the stage in front of you has become so light it is almost floating.
Alexander Khuon plays the writer Trigorin, and Meike Droste plays Masha. They dance together or maybe they dance against each other, they are definitely drunk, very drunk in fact, and they talk to each other and of course they talk past each other. And in a flash you see up there on stage not only the lives of the two characters Trigorin and Masha, but also their future.
A young fresh face
Alexander Khuon is one of the stars of the ensemble of the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, one of the best theatres in Germany. Directors and critics unanimously agree: the 30-year old actor has a great career ahead of him, certainly in the theatre and maybe also in film. For that a little luck is necessary, but above all, talent. His first feature film was a lucky break, a filmed version of the best-selling book by the German author Uwe Timm, Die Entdeckung der Currywurst.
The action takes place at the end of the Second World War in Hamburg. Lena, in her mid-forties, meets the young marine, Hermann. She takes him in, and after their first night together she says that he can stay. When the war is over, she keeps the news of the German capitulation from him in order to hang onto the happiness of this love. The film has charm, warmth and humanity. More than 100,000 people wanted to watch it, which is a real success for a small production. The reviews were good and Alexander Khuon himself was well reviewed. A new, young fresh face, but not a typical one. A face that doesn't give everything away at first glance.
Hard work and applied discipline
Alexander Khuon is sitting in the canteen of the Deutsches Theater in Berlin. Yesterday he was filming, tomorrow rehearsals begin for a new play. How is it possible to combine theatre and film? How can one remain a much-in-demand theatre actor and get exciting film roles? Is it possible to be in love with film at the same time as loving theatre?
Perhaps. Nevertheless it is taxing, all this falling in love. “There are boundaries,” says Khuon, “Logistically it is very demanding to fit in filming for someone like myself, who is part of an ensemble and is often on stage. However the administrative office here at the Deutsches Theater manages to organise my appointments unbelievably efficiently. Nevertheless there are phases when the back and forth is almost impossible.“ In the end it is only possible with a lot of hard work and applied discipline. Khuon learnt his craft at the Schauspielschule Leipzig, his first engagement was at the Schauspiel Köln and just a few seasons later he moved on to Berlin, to the Deutsches Theater.
The privilege of being an actor
Being an actor is more than a profession for Alexander Khuon. “It is a dream, if only that didn't sound so weird.” More than that, it is a privilege. “I was just sitting in the canteen and talking about how my football club VfB Stuttgart was playing, and then in the next moment I am standing on stage and things are happening to me that would not happen to the man on the street.” In theatre it's a matter of really digging deep and opening up doors to a world of emotions. “I am absolutely for giving one hundred percent - with everything that you have at your fingertips – whether on stage or in film,” says Khuon.
And yet the actor could have followed other career pats, perhaps even journalism, after all he did an internship with the Neuen Presse in Hannover, and yet the theatre has always played a huge role in the everyday life of the Khuon family. No wonder, the father is the artistic director Ulrich Khuon, one of the most renowned artistic directors in Germany. ”I was five years old when I started playing small roles in theatre,” the son states, “so it was therefore a completely natural development to go into theatre.” Even Nora Khuon, his sister who is two years younger, has a strong connection to theatre – she became a dramaturg.
Still a bit of a flirt
What is not going to happen, is that in two or three years' time Alexander Khuon will only be making films. Of course you can make good money in film, but he thinks it is much more important to find a balance. He doesn't want to do just anything. “There are a couple of criteria that I use to find out what sort of film it could be: is the screenplay any good? Who is the director? What actors are in it?” An actor who is in lightweight films is hardly going to be rewarded with great roles by ambitious theatre makers. Alexander Khuon would not hesitate to turn down film roles if they collided with theatre.
So Alexander Khuon hasn't completely fallen in love with film. At present he is flirting with it. For it to develop into something more it will have to be like it was with Jürgen Gosch, who has been the most important director in Alexander Khuon's career up to this point: you work, you search, you work some more, something gives, you find something and suddenly – you lift off and float free.
Tobias Asmuth is a freelance journalist based in Berlin.Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V. , Online-Redaktion October 2009