“Augenblick mal!“ festival Significant, Outstanding, Initiating

The curatorship of Augenblick mal 2013 from left to right: Andrea Zagorski (curator), Heike Albrecht (curator), Helmut Wenderoth (curator), Dr. Manfred Jahnke (curator), Dr. Gerd Taube (Artistic director of Augenblick mal! 2013), Annett Israel (coordination of the curatorship and member of KJTZ in Berlin), Alexandra Luise Gesch (curator), Bernd Mand (curator); photo: Jörg Sobeck
The curatorship of Augenblick mal 2013 from left to right: Andrea Zagorski (curator), Heike Albrecht (curator), Helmut Wenderoth (curator), Dr. Manfred Jahnke (curator), Dr. Gerd Taube (Artistic director of Augenblick mal! 2013), Annett Israel (coordination of the curatorship and member of KJTZ in Berlin), Alexandra Luise Gesch (curator), Bernd Mand (curator) | Photo (detail): Jörg Sobeck

The 12th edition of the festival “Augenblick mal!” (i.e., Wait a Minute!), the biennial for German-language children’s and youth theatre, which took place from 23 to 28 April 2013, looked very grown-up and at the cutting edge.

The Theatre Meeting showed the way: fifty years and not a bit tired. “Augenblick mal!”, the biennial for German-language children’s and youth theatre, has clocked up only twenty-two years, but the 12th edition of the festival, from 23 to 28 April 2013, looked very grown-up and at the cutting edge. Wide awake and in the best of moods, “Augenblick mal!” 2013 was once again a hotspot of the scene and a platform for professional discourse.

Responsible for the high quality of the festival was Dr. Gerd Taube, long-time artistic director of “Augenblick mal!” In his welcoming address, he posed the central and fundamental question: “How do we conceive of the future of our young audience, and what will we produce for them in future?”

Ten plays were selected by six curators: Bernd Mand, Andrea Zagorski, Heike Albrecht, Dr. Manfred Jahnke, Alexandra Gesch and Helmut Wenderoth viewed over 200 productions. The selections were to be “significant, outstanding and initiating” – so the criteria that had been agreed upon in advance. A closer look was well worthwhile: this year’s plays impressed by the radical contemporary manner in which they conceived of and produced theatre for a young audience.

At the cutting edge

The production LIQUIDs (Fundus Theater / Forschungstheater, Hamburg) is an example of a kind of theatre that inspires a fascination for scientific research, does quite without a story-line and instead presents itself as a lecture in the form of a performance. The performers are at once researchers, hosts and magicians, while the children are invited to touch, to taste and to pose questions.

The production Der Junge mit dem Koffer (The Boy with a Suitcase), on the other hand, is based on a classical play, the story of a young refugee. It is about the confrontation with other cultures and ways of life, which was reflected in the manner of the play’s co-production: sponsored by the Fund of the Federal Culture Foundation Wanderlust, Schnawwl, the theatre for the young at the Mannheim National Theatre, teamed up with the Indian Ranga Shankara Theatre in Bangalore for a space of three years.

Complex world

In both productions we can see the image of man and the world that currently prevails amongst makers of children’s and youth theatre: it is an image of a complex world that propagates neither eternal truths nor certainties. A world in which the Internet makes accessible almost infinite knowledge. In which there are thousands of possibilities of communication and collaboration. A world that looks like a jungle. It is important to explore and discover this jungle with the greatest possible pleasure. The selected productions make clear that it is as vital to laugh out loud – as in Alice in Wonderland from the Hamburg Junges Schauspielhaus – as to develop one’s own (political) position, as in Weißbrotmusik (White Bread Music) from the Berlin Theater Stahl.

The question of the politicizing of children’s and youth theatre was again taken up and deepened in the international programme Facing Reality”: guest performances from Ireland, Croatia and Hungary broached social ills in very different ways. Whether it was about the abuse of children and young people in Irish Catholic institutions, the rigid conventions of rural Transylvanian society or the murder of a young man in the centre of Zagreb, the question about the responsibility of the state and the individual stood at centre stage.

New impetus

A festival succeeds not only when the selected productions provoke controversies and collective reflection. A festival succeeds only when the supporting programme also incorporates the impressions of the audience and enables them to come to expression in different formats. “Augenblick mal!” 2013 furnished ample opportunities for every part of the audience: discussions with theatre makers for the German-speaking professional audience, audience discussions for the theatregoers, forums for students, meetings for international guests. The Theater an der Parkaue and the Grips Theater proved to be the perfect hosts.

The bar has been set high for “Augenblick mal!” 2015 – both in respect of the composition of the jury and the ingenuity of the organizers. May the festival remain wide awake!