From October to January, I spent my Erasmus semester working alongside the students and teachers of Applied Theatre. It was a blast.
Arriving in Salzburg with big expectations and only a brief understanding of what it actually means to „apply” theatre, I was met with a diverse group of theatre practitioners and lovers on both the student and professor sides. We spent our first week getting to know each other, less so by talking and more by doing. While giving each other workshops and exchanging experience, the other first years and I slowly got to know the space and people of Mozarteum, as well as the beautiful, chaotic and at times very strange city of Salzburg.
Topic of the term: Practicing Resistance. An enigmatic topic that became a target for countless jokes (when early mornings became tough, one was very tempted to practice resistance against the schedule, that soon came to rule our lives), but that would become important much later.
While discussing the sub-topic of Theatre & Trials, we started working on our first Devising project, by giving each other inputs and leading each session in pairs, moving forward when possible, slowing down when needed. This inward process was interspaced by outside input from our lovely voice and movement lectors (Susanne Litschauer and Mirjam Klebel) and a block seminar on Theatre Anthropology led by Dr Babafemi Folorunso.
Our bodies were thrown to space and our minds were challenged by a kaleidoscope of knowledge and perspectives only finding rest in the mundane of everyday problems: finding a good coffee shop, decently priced food and wondering why the water of Salzach is so blue (somebody told me but I forgot, it has something to do with minerals but don’t take my word for it). Getting sidetracked.
At the end of the first month, we each packed all our experiences into a suitcase and set off on an excursion to Munich for a change of scenery and to see projects that were part of the Spielart Theatre Festival. What became an absolute highlight was a performance titled CRIA (Elice Ripoll, Cia Suave, go google it!) and a mad night in a certain Bar Rendezvous (don’t google it).
After coming back, we spent some time talking about funding and money with Sebastian Brünger (alt. title: Money, You Hate It, but You Need It) and then jumped into a three-day workshop with Anna Konjetzky, exploring our physical biases through the ideas of Donna Harraway.
Speeding up. While this all was going on, we met weekly with Kai Ohrem, discussing how theory and philosophy impact our lives and how shifting the way we think about our surroundings can change the way we (and others) live our lives. Put briefly.
Before our first showing, we first years joined Prof. Christoph Lepschy in a block seminar on dramaturgical praxis, delving into the issue of language, space and meaning. Eszter put a little plant in a glass coffee pot. It was beautiful.
As the showing approached, covid restrictions started looming over our heads, so in the end, we had to do a very intimate show for our close friends and call it a day (well do be honest, after dancing my butt off as a death row prisoner three times in a row, I was more than happy that that was it #justAppliedThings).
Converting some formats to online variants showed to be challenging but at times surprisingly rewarding. Online platforms allowed us to explore the genre of cell phone theatre with the pioneer herself, Faye Kabali-Kagwa and each week we talked to different professionals (ranging from a judge to a head of a casino) about the topic of leadership. The workshops open to the public, facilitated by us and Andreas Steudtner were also transformed into online experiences and even though we all hope we longed for real human contact, it was great fun.
We also got to test the methods of Augusto Boal with Ulrike Hatzer herself, which was fascinating, as we were passed on a hands-on experience from someone who worked with Boal in the past.
With the second and last showing of the semester in mind, we left for the winter holidays and after returning spent three days with Georg Weinand, who shared a method of feedback and artistic reflection developed in DasArts. From a student perspective, this was the most important input for me personally.
Toward the end of the semester, my mental health started deteriorating a little bit, so the topic of Practising Resistance came to mind again. My study colleagues gave me great support and even though I spent my last weeks quarantining, thus not completing my directing output in person, I managed to create an audio piece focused on the topic of self-optimisation, self-care and society’s obsession with productivity. Even though this was my toughest period, it gave the most, not only from an artist’s perspective but as a human overall.
Applied Theatre is a cooking pot filled with phenomenal people and disruptive ideas about theatre and the ways it should be applied. This (quite lengthy) description hardly captures everything that went down over the semester. This gist of the story is, I feel very lucky to have been included with the first years, even if only for a couple of months. These couple of months required a lot of energy, but looking back I’m positive that they will be a source for many years. On a theatremaker level, on a personal level, on an emotional level. Thank you to everyone that crossed paths with me. It was an honour.