März 2021 - Covid-19 und Applied Theatre

Das letzte Sommersemester war noch nicht richtig in die Gänge gekommen, wir waren noch damit beschäftigt langsam aus der leichten Untätigkeit der Ferien zu kriechen als Mitte März 2020 der erste Lockdown in Österreich ausgerufen wurde. 

 

Nach ein paar Tagen Schockstarre, in denen wir als Studierende aber auch alle unsere Dozierenden, versuchten, mit der Situation zurecht zu kommen und diese abzuschätzen,  versammelten wir uns vor dem Bildschirmen. 

Hatten wir früher Videocalls maximal für Kontakt mit unerreichbaren Freund*innen im Ausland verwendet, wurden sie nun Alltag. Wir müssen das Beste aus der Situation machen, das stand fest. 

So begannen wir unseren Choreographieunterricht bei Mirjam Klebel mit der Aufgabe, Orte in unseren Wohnungen zu finden, an denen wir noch nicht waren. Es entstand eine Reihe wunderbarer Bilder von uns in unalltäglich verrenkten Posen. Auch gestalteten wir kleine Audiowalks durch unsere Wohnräume.

Bei Christian Sattlecker bauten wir eigene Masken und begaben uns mit ihnen auf literarische Ausflüge. Susanne Litschauer saß uns auf dem Bildschirm gegenüber und arbeitete trotz manchmal krachender Mikrofone unermüdlich an unseren Stimmen. 

Unsere Recherchearbeit bei Ulrike Hatzer wurde in den digitalen Raum verlegt - wir befragten Kollektive, die wir ansonsten getroffen hätte nun einfach telefonisch nach ihren Arbeitsmethoden und präsentierten die Ergebnissen anschließend in kleinen Präsentationen. Der reguläre Unterricht spielte sich nach einiger Zeit ganz gut ein. (So gut sich eben praktischer Theaterunterricht online gestalten lässt.)

Nur das Sommerprojekt im Modul kollektives Arbeiten stellte uns vor eine große Herausforderung - waren unsere bisherigen, konzeptionellen Ansätze doch so gar nicht auf eine globale Pandemie zugeschnitten gewesen. 

 

Mitte Mai kehrten wir unter strengen Covid-19 Auflagen zum Präsenzunterricht zurück - trotzdem saß die Pandemie der Stadt und uns nach wie vor in den Knochen und im Nacken.  

 

Nichtsdestotrotz erarbeiteten wir im Kollektiv und mit Unterstützung von Christine Umpfenbach und Christoph Lepschy das Stadtprojekt MEGA:STAGE Salzburg - ein Supermarkt der Geschichten. Diesen eröffneten wir Ende Juli 2020. 

 

 

April 2021 - A Review of Our Last Semester

The first semester of our applied theatre master program was quite a journey. After a series of diverse and fun on- and offline entrance examinations we had only a few weeks to get prepared for our new lives in this controversial Austrian city, for the intensive learning and creating opportunities that our studies offer.

On our welcome days we had the chance to get familiar with the teaching methods of our main lecturers in the frame of short workshops, and us, students also had to show interactive insights to our expertise.

It was indeed promising to see that on the top of the dramaturgical-, corporal-, choreographic-, vocal-, pedagogical-, theatrical approaches that our professors offer us, we’d be able to profit from the wide range of previous studies and experiences that gather in the spacious applied studios. (The nine students of the first and second year are coming from the fields of literature, theatre studies, psychology, music, physical theatre, costume and stage design, LGBTQ performance making, theatre in education and political sciences.)

The title of the first semester ‘Flying University - where to find and where to bring the stories that feed me’ invited us to learn about and experiment with the theatricality of spaces and places. We dived into a series of inspiring inputs that drained and recharged our batteries on a loop while many of us were still also busy with settling in our new homes, finishing up the registration and getting to know the place and the study-collegues. 

Univ.Prof Ulrike Hatzer’s weekly lessons and city walks pointed towards the topic of mapping – unmapping leaving us with collections of unconventional maps and counter-cartographies, concepts of different spaces by Elias and Lefebvre, as well as practical examples, ideas and concepts of interventions in public spaces. 

The warmup sessions of senior artist Judith Franke trained us to formulate open questions and interrogate our environment in theory and action. We had a lot of fun playing games and getting challenged by different exercises in the studio and later in our rooms.

Christian Sattlecker raised our consciousness with the physical approach of the Feldenkrais method and helped us to slow down and pay attention to the inner spaces which was utterly necessery for processing the huge theoretical input of other classes. 

The preparation with Andreas Steudtner for holding drama workshops of Theater Labor X started by reading about theater pedagogy and devising practices and planning small workshops for each other. On the edge of the lockdown we still experimented with voice exercises in Mirabellgarten hoping for real live sessions with participants.

On our first block seminar with Dr. Margit Schild we learnt about improvisation as an interdisciplinary field and a spontaneous social action and we tried to create the framework of it by small public interventions tackling problems of the invisible design of the city. We covered the trashbins in questions and golden foil to drag attention to hiding issues of Salzburg, we planted advertisment trees for bring attention to the work of independent and socially engaged associations, we created nonbinary-gender toilets in the main building of Mozarteum and even opened an imaginary mensa for the students. 

Dr. Babafemi Folorunso - our first native English speaking lecturer - challenged our minds with the fundamental notions and main authors of performance theory and we had heated discussions about semiotics, reception theory, applied theatre, phenomenology, subjectivity, postcolonial- and feminist theory. 

During the months of autumn a lot of physical and theoretical spaces opened up through the seminars and inputs of our curriculum while the actual places were closing one after the other due to the upcoming second lockdown. In these strange circumstances we began to start our own research leading to our first try-out projects and to apply theories in practice while following the ever-changing corona restrictions. From November on, only individual lessons and solo studio-work were allowed, all other activities moved to digital platforms however we stayed in the city for finishing our projects and help each other in the research, or just share screens and time during and after the online lectures. 

Through the screens we investigated gender issues and body politics with Dr. Andrea Zimmermann and the directing students, using the complex texts of Judith Butler and bell hooks to unfold the concepts of subversion and appropriation of the norms.

Prof. Christoph Lepschy’s dramaturgy seminar drifted us to the realm of utopias and heterotopias, connecting Foucault’s concept ‘Of Other Spaces’ to a site specific performance in Taipei and heterotopic places of Salzburg.

The regular practical group work was challenged by the lockdown and as a consequence, got substituted by individual, online or theoretical alternatives.

Miriam Klebel’s online dance classes invited us to develop movements in our rooms, to get lost in the city, to create, to record and to exchange our small site-specific choreographies which was highly needed after so much sitting, thinking and conceptualizing. 

The online Labor X sessions with participants made us research about exercises designed for digital spaces. The lack of previous offline interactions wasn’t ideal for building trust and commitment in a group so we kept looking forward to the hoped live meetings in the summer semester.

Prof Hatzer and Judith Franke offered us a series of close reading sessions of Michel de Certeau’s Practice of Everyday Life. On the top of thought generating discourses, we planned itineraries in the city for each other that helped to observe and co-create spaces through the perspective of the text.

The biggest loss of the pandemic was our excursion to the Fast Forward young director’s festival in Dresden. As compensation we watched the mixture of two online theatre festivals and saw innovative examples of contemporary and participatory projects and the usage of digital media. With our seminars during the day and the performances in the evening it was an exhausting week however we had fun in the student-lead ‘online bars’ which were the platform of post-show discussion and trial of facilitating applied entertainment.

Our first solo project tryouts ended up in an exciting joint installation in the studio in December. The space got cut into nine equal corners for every one of us, so we could work distanced and separated during the lockdown. By going there alone several times weekly we could witness the development of the other corners and interact with our collegues’ projects by rearranging or leaving hints on their territories. The studio slowly got filled up with the imprints of our topics, fragments of our research and documentations of our tryouts in the city spaces.

The showcasing of these spaces made it possible for the viewers to not only look at finished artistic results but dive into the working process of each mind, hence getting a general overview of the skills and interests of the group. The feedback session with our colleagues and professors led to several new ideas and opened the way to our second theme, The Experts of Everyday Life.

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After the showing of the first try-out everybody felt exhausted and happily relieved.  Although we jumped into the next topic without a break and with a small overlap of the seminars, it was refreshing to start thinking-processes from another angle - from the point of view of the Expert. 

As preparation for our second tryouts the main terms of expert theatre were distributed among us so we researched and held presentations about witnesses, accomplices, co-researchers, community actors, participants, target groups and spectactors. Our professors also provided us with an almost unprocessable amount of online inputs that showed a wide range of working methods and artistic outcomes of expert theatre projects.

Sebastian Brünger brought a rich line of examples of Rimini Protokoll performances and others that staged nonprofessional actors, their stories or expertise. 

Tobias Rausch gave an overview of possible research formats and interview techniques. 

Miriam Tscholl summarized European perspectives of participatory techniques and the role of facilitators through her works at Dresden Bürgerbühne and by questioning the connection between art and social work through productions of Our Stage Festival. She even offered short personal mentoring talks about our expert tryouts in process.

Starting to work with our experts in January was again held back by the extended restrictions. Many of us dealt with it by choosing persons they already have known or formats not requiring physical presence -- both of which turned out to be just as much of a challenge as of an ease. However the privileged exception of art universities allowed us to have contact lessons in the institute again which made the experience of the past month more lively and intense. 

On our iconoclasm and applied theory course with Univ. Prof Kai Ohrem the history of monuments and the reflection on public remembrance opened thoughtful brainstorms. Through a city-walk we investigated the nazi past of statues in public spaces and got quite insipred to plan artistic interventions around them and continue the discourse on our regular lectures of applied theory in the summer semester. 

Univ. Prof Christoph Lepschy’s dramaturgy practice introduced several styles of historic and contemporary biographical texts. Inspired by it, many beautiful texts were written by us connecting real and imaginary life stories to objects.

Frank Müller’s and prof. Ulrike Hatzer’s seminar on researched based work made us see and question the subaltern history and the life of infamous men in Woyzeck’s struggles. 

Getting familiar with the Das Arts feedback method by Georg Weinand was a huge change in perspective on how to evaluate and contribute to each other's works in progress and how to work forward with the affirmation and constructive criticism on our visions and concepts. Working without the colleagues of the second year created a differently intimate atmosphere for opening up, taking the studio space and sharing material with each other. 

In the pedagogy-psychology workshop  Judith Franke explored with us the special chances and challenges that come with a young or even very young audience.

Dancing live in groups and individually with Mirjam Klebel brought us to a better understanding of our bodies and offered hands on strategies of generating movement and choreography with nonprofessionals.

The huge dreamed dinner with all our experts after the showings of our tryouts still couldn’t take place in the institute - instead we needed to watch some of our colleagues’ works through screens from different rooms. But somehow with our performances, participatory formats, videos and audio installations we still managed to gather in the studio space a lot of different knowledge and personalities from all around the world.

 

As a joint ending and beginning, the second year students are starting their master projects and we first years have already started to prepare for our collective documentary theatre project in the summer semester by investigating the terms of “groupwork”, “ensemble” and “document” and looking out for topics and problems laying on the streets, in the archives and around the communities of Salzburg.