Meeting of Drama Students Look at Us!
Since 1990, that is, for a quarter of a century, seventeen drama schools in Germany, Austria and Switzerland have been meeting once a year to present themselves, to exchange ideas and learn from each other.
The Federal Minister of Ediucation and Research, Johanna Wanka, opened the 25th Theatre Meeting of German-language Drama Students, which is funded by her Ministry. The Konrad Ekhof Theatre Academy in Hamburg organized the meeting, which is held every year in a different city. Its long-time director is Marina Busse, a professor at the Essen Folkwangschule. Not so much a meeting as a festival, a cultural hubbub, an intense exchange on the theatre and, above all, the insoluble question: How should theatre be performed? What can you, and what do you want to say with theatre?
Rapid cross-sectionEvery evening there are three plays, limited to one hour, which means highly abbreviated versions of performances of the past year. An appetizer, by no means representative of the participating schools. But for the students and teachers a unique opportunity to become aware of their own work. Every year a different drama school organizes the meeting. In 2013 it took place in Berlin; in 2014 it was in Munich; and in 2015 it will be in Bochum.
Fortunately, there was not enough room in the Otto Falckenberg School in Munich, it was necessary to find another place. For the venue finally found, the idyllic Muffatwerk, could not have had more atmosphere. The Muffatwerk is a listed ensemble, with a large beer garden, a café, a club and the Muffathalle for larger gigs. A cultural centre in the green heart of the city, near the Isar River.
Various plays, various directors, various students, many variables. Comparison is impossible. Nevertheless, prizes are awarded; this gives the meeting an additional excitement and attraction. The sums are considerable: 20,000 euros from the German Ministry of Education, 10,000 euros form its Austrian counterpart. The students can also award a prize in the sum of 1,000 euros, donated since 2001 by Regine Lutz, actress and honorary professor at the University of Music and Performing Arts Munich, from 2014 continued by Gerd Wameling, actor and professor of scene at the Berlin University of the Arts.
Diversity and mixture of stylesIn 2014 there was no William Shakespeare, no Anton Chekhov, but Maxim Gorki and Franz Wedekind and above all younger writers such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Heiner Müller and Peter Handke. Striking was that the sense of life of even a Fassbinder was strange to the young actors, and that Nis-Momme Stockmann’s meandering, backward-looking critique of capitalism, Tod und Wiederauferstehung meiner Eltern in mir (ie. Death and Resurrection of Parents’ World in Me), also puzzled them.
On stage the motto was stylistic diversity, and this went down very well: from speaking choir to caricature and psychological character study, fantasy and dream figures, it was a broad spectrum, not only for the students. Directors and actors set texts and figures in an indeterminate time. This was seldom a disadvantage: whether yesterday, today or tomorrow, they performed now, on a stage. Sometimes it was loud, sometimes the shortened plays were not completely comprehensible, but all in all it was a delight for the spectators. How many talents! Of course, the directors exercised considerable influence. They ranged from beginners to experienced teachers, and even a foreign director without knowledge of either German or English. The jury was carefully balanced, composed of the actor Peter Danzeisen, the actress Cigdem Teke, the dramaturge Andrea Koschwitz, the director Alexander Schröder and the experimental theatre maker Boris Nikitin.
The future actors followed the performances closely, treated each other fairly and enjoyed the unique opportunity of seeing themselves and discussing their work afterwards. The students demanded the performers take a stance. They wanted to see a relationship between the characters, an encounter that changed something. The subsequent discussions with each other, which took place without teachers and audience (only I as documentarist was also allowed to be present), showed that when the audience felt some discontent, it was also felt exactly so by the actors. They were self-critical, critical towards the texts, critical towards the directors. What more could you want?
If there was a trend at this theatre meeting, it was ensemble performance. Never did an actor or an actress play himself or herself forward. The ensemble, the team, played the main role. With a single exception: Anne Kubatzki of the Max Reihardt Seminar in Vienna, who played the title role in Maggie T., showed such overwhelming talent, such an exuberant joy in performance, that she had to be honoured with a solo prize, in addition to the Ensemble Prize for the ensemble and the Students’ Prize.