Notes From Berlin (Part I)
Every time I come out from America I feel as if I am waking from a dream. The plane descends, I disembark, proceed through passport control and out into the air of wherever I am; the fog lifts, the curtains part – choose your metaphor. We are so insulated here: by geography, by media, marketing and materialism, by the overwhelming multitude of consumer choices between virtually indistinguishable products and services; by our luxurious distance from the brutality and violence in the world of which we are largely unaware.
On Saturday May 4, 2013 I landed in Berlin, Germany, for the first time in my life. A generous colleague at the Goethe-Institut in New York, Wenzel Bilger, had recommended me to be included along with 30+ other theater professionals from around the world – producers, curators, writers and academics– for a week long symposium at the 50th annual Theatertreffen, curated and produced by The Berliner Festspiele (more info here.) It was an extraordinary, thought-provoking week of remarkable insights and challenged assumptions. I found myself simultaneously wrestling with three pillars of my identity: curator/critic, American and Jew.
Given the scope of the experience and the conceptual landscape covered, I feel compelled to divide this into two essays, the first a series of critical reflections on theater inspired by the symposium and the plays themselves, the second a series of more personal thoughts inspired by the city of Berlin and the companions with whom I spent a very rigorously scheduled but extremely fulfilling week. (This first part is quite long and may be downloaded in its entirety here as a PDF.)
I would like to thank Dr. Rene Rubbeling of the German Consulate General in NYC and Wenzel Bilger of The Goethe-Institut New York for making the trip possible. I am also most pleased to thank Ms. Susanne Traub, Desk Officer for Theater and Dance at the Goethe-Institut’s head office in Munich, for organizing and leading the symposia, and the fantastic team from Goethe-Institut Berlin – Boris Abel, Özlem Cosen, Natalija Yefimkina and Moritz Meutzner – for their above-and-beyond efforts to make this trip meaningful, informative and great fun.