We just came back from our first of two rehearsals for Lesung und Lauschen, a staged reading sort of event that Panoptikum’s hosting in the Cafe Striese on Friday.
Basically, we spent the day in rehearsal, from 9am until after 11pm. We worked on lights, lights, and more lights in the Abraxas; it was a tiring and frustrating time, as technical rehearsals are. Though I felt okay after rehearsal, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to heading over to the KHG to go over the reading after a two-hour break.
The thing is, though, that sometimes there’s magic in art. Sometimes it happens when you’re performing it, or showing it. Sometimes, it happens when you make it. To me there was more than a little magic in Gruppenraum 8 tonight as we read through the pieces we’re thinking of putting in the reading. Some kind of magic that makes you think in some crazy way that it actually works to read German and English together…even if you don’t really understand German. Some kind of magic that transcends what you say and gets to what you mean.
And you know what really transcends language? Music. I love language but I’m willing to admit it. Last night, some of us went to see an improv show at the s’ensemble: two Germans vs. two Russians. One of the Russians didn’t speak German. Christina and I don’t speak much German and we certainly don’t speak any Russian. The improv happened mostly in German, a little in Russian, and a VERY little in English. But it was great. And what made it especially great was the improvised opera finale.
Parag, Lauren, and Mary are singing (well, Mary is playing guitar) for Lesung und Lauschen. We got to hear them for the first time tonight, after we’d finished reading all of the pieces — two scenes of mine, three of Nora’s, a short story, Katharina’s and Iris’s poems. They started out with a rendition of “Volcano” and then “Little Red Riding Hood” and then Lauren did her a cappella “Over the Rainbow” and the whole thing was just stunning and wonderful. Despite how critical they are of themselves, they blew the rest of us away, and would have whether or not we spoke a word of the language they were singing in.
The thing is, maybe we’re crazy and maybe doing theatre that’s partially in German in a country where pretty much nobody speaks it won’t work at all. But I went to the theatre last year speaking barely a word of German, and I enjoyed myself. Beyond that — Der Sturm was one of the best productions I’ve ever seen. I didn’t understand a word.
I felt an instant connection with the German language when I came here last year and that’s why I started studying it. But I think there is something valuable in allowing yourself not to understand words, and to listen anyway. To let that wash over you. You have to revise the way you watch and listen and comprehend, sure. But not all powerful paintings are the Mona Lisa. In a world that accepted only literal interpretation, there’d be no room for Monet or for Picasso.
I know there’s a lot of a benefit to the participants in what we’re doing here. I’m not yet sure what the benefit is for the audience. But I feel sure that there is one. And I feel sure that it has to do with learning to listen with a different part of yourself, the part that understands in spite of words.