September 2020

Why Theatre

Falk Richter explains why theatre is important and absolutely necessary. A kind of manifesto.

Why theatre: Because I am not good at anything else. Because I need a community. Because it provides the only space where I can concentrate and share ideas and tell very, very intimate stories, and … LISTEN to the intimate stories of others and take notes and write it all down and then re-write it and re-write it again and make A SHOW out of it and fail and try again and fail and hate it and love it and be TOTALLY CONNECTED AND DISCONNECTED TO AND FROM MYSELF, EVERYONE AROUND ME AND THE WORLD all at the same time. There are moments when I truly believe that theatre has the power to change politics, stop wars, make people understand. There are other moments when I can see Sarah Kane’s ghost sneak around the corner laughing at me for being so naive and stupid. Once I wrote a play about Donald Trump, and during the rehearsal process, I felt that my goal should be that MY PLAY WOULD STOP TRUMP, would make people understand that they cannot vote for him and see how corrupt he is and that he is a fraud and a thief and a compulsive liar but three weeks after opening night, HE WAS STILL IN POWER. How is that even possible? Did people NOT LISTEN TO ME? It is amazing what THEATRE CAN MAKE YOU BELIEVE: That you can cause a revolution, that you can change the world. I am still fascinated again and again by the fact that Georg Büchner actually thought that he would be able to convince THE GERMANS TO RE- ENACT THE FRENCH REVOLUTION if he would only find the right choice of words and stage directions. That is why I do theatre … I get into these states that are BEYOND THE EXPLICABLE BEYOND LANGUAGE BEYOND THE RATIONAL. Yes, yes, there are these moments of passing over to THIS OTHER WORLD, where EVERYTHING BECOMES SO INTENSE LIKE I AM IN FULL PSYCHOSIS or I AM INSIDE A CREATIVE SWIRL or fighting the powers of evil or where I am committing SUICIDE or where I am IN LOVE WITH MY FATHER or where I UNDERSTAND THE ORIGIN OF FASCISM, where I am the soap opera version of the protagonist of my re-occurring nightmares. Shall we meet in our dreams tonight? Are we five days before the revolution? Are we looking back at a simulation of the best world ever possible from a dystopian future, or are we looking back at the worst form of society ever from a future that has solved all conflict and has cured all wounds and we are just looking back at our time to understand how NOT TO LIVE. HOW WRONG AND FLAWED AND IRRATIONAL AND CONTRADICTORY life can be IF WE DON’T PAY ATTENTION. Theatre is the way to make reality appear as a simulation and understand that what we see before our very eyes is JUST ONE VERSION OF A MULTITUDE OF POSSIBLE REALITIES. By the way, can you hear that sound? A bolt of lightning flashes and sets fire to a hundred worlds. We hear the distant roar of sun storms. They’re drifting over to us from burnt-out universes. 200,000 light years away. What is theatre to me HERE AND NOW (in this very short window of time we as humans have in this universe)? A way to understand WHERE I LIVE and WHAT I LIVE and ALL THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE PRIVILEGES I HAVE. And ALL THE WOUNDS inflicted by those who have even more privileges than I do, or less, or other ones, and who only see the gay man in me, not the artist, not the human, only the potential easy victim, or the threat to their narration of what is right and what is wrong, the one who lives against God’s will, against Nature’s Laws, who causes IMBALANCE to AN OTHERWISE PERFECT HETERONORMATIVE PARADISE that will be destroyed by … please fill in the gap … depending on the time and place and historical situation this could be anyone: the gays, the Jews, the refugees, the leftist intellectuals, the feminists, the rats, the cockroaches, you name them. Each victim has their own story to tell. Each aggressor has their own wounds to heal. BUT FIRST HE*SHE NEEDS TO TALK. The stories must be heard. The silence has to be broken or the silence will break us. The victim knows that all too well: The silence has to stop. And the theatre is one of the few safe places in this world where THE VICTIM HAS THE POWER TO SPEAK UP AND TELL HER*HIS STORY. Or tell the story of the aggressor but from the victim’s point of view. Or tell the story that makes us see how the victim’s and the aggressor’s stories are entertwined and bring them to a fictional space where the line between the victim and the aggressor gets blurred and THEY SEE EACH OTHER IN THE EYES, LISTEN AND THE FEAR AND THE ANGER DISAPPEARS and gets replaced by EMPATHY and UNDERSTANDING. Well, keep trying. HISTORY. HERSTORY. MY STORY. THE WORLD’S NARRATIVE. Thou shall not create a hierarchical structure. Well, good luck! We try, we fail, we try, we fail, we get closer to each other, we get hit by all the toxicity that is around us and we wonder: How will we get out of this mess, how will we become a solidaric society of people who TRUST each other, how will we make up for THE FUCKING RAPE MACHINE THAT COLONIALISM WAS AND HAS BEEN AND CONTINUES TO BE, and how do we live with ALL THE GUILT that we accumulate in our lifetime, and how can I treasure beauty, your beauty, the beauty of your voice arrrghhh that is sooo TELE NOVELA of me to say now, so lets rewind that, how can we see the beauty in nature and animals and ourselves NOT ABUSE THEM and GIVE THEM LOVE INSTEAD OF ALL THE PAIN and yes, how do we get out of this dilemma that all we experience and all we bring into this world is ABUSE and TRAUMA. Lets talk about that. Lets shift the paradigm. From ABUSE to EMPATHY, from competiton to collaboration. Greta, you and your friends can take over the planet now. I am happy to assist you in any way I can. What is theatre? Theatre is the community that allows me to get beyond my social awkwardness and BE CLOSE to other humans for a chosen amount of time and to dive deep into complexity. My last show was called IN MY ROOM. I gathered five men around me and they all came from very different backgrounds and had very different stories to tell, and experiences to look back to socially, financially, sexually, politically. And we talked about our fathers. That was the starting point. How toxicity is passed on from generation to generation. There was no masterplan other than: Lets talk about our fathers, how they lived, what they believed in, how they performed masculinity, how they were treated by their bosses, how they treated their wives and children, what they wanted to achieve in life and what they needed to feel happy and what they were afraid of. In fact this was a work about my obsession that I have with my father and the fascist regime that he grew up in. Born in 1926, he was a teen soldier for the Nazis, taken out of school, traumatized by what he experienced at the front during the war, then becoming a successful businessman in the fifties and sixties and seventies, having a severe burn out in the eighties, losing all our money, and I could go on, but the trauma and the fascism and the images of masculinity that stem from that time have left their marks on our family, on the German society and have shaped the shaky grounds on which the European Union was built upon and the unstill unstable grounds on which Europe is shaking and trembling at the moment. Theatre is that moment in time that belongs to us where we can get together, and I can talk and they can talk and I can listen and I can write it all down and they can write it all down, and it is a way to understand the personal, the mythological, and the political and where it all comes from and how it affects the world and how it affects us personally, intimately, socially, politically, spiritually and it all seems so easy and it reaches out and it communicates and it speaks to the audience and the dead and the broken pieces inside of us and the ones who are yet to come and who are already faintly watching our performance from where they are now and they are already softly asking us: What the hell are you people doing with our future? What kind of show are you people putting on there on THE STAGE OF OUR PLANET, we are watching you, we are your audience, so you better start re-writing the script and PUT ON ANOTHER SHOW and that is WHY I MAKE THEATRE. Because THEY are watching our show. And they just like us deserve A BETTER NARRATIVE.

Der Autor und Regisseur Falk Richter gilt als eine der prägenden Stimmen der gegenwärtigen Theaterszene. Seit 2020 ist er Teil des künstlerischen Leitungsteams der Münchner Kammerspiele.


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