Role-breaking

Until May 23 you can experience the 2011 Theatertreffen from afar, in English or German (or both!), on the tt-Blog, where I am one of this year’s seven international writers.

At the Talentetreffen (“talent meeting”) on Saturday, part of the 2011 Theatertreffen in Berlin, the topic was “Gender Your Role.” But in the discussions in which I participated, gender didn’t really come up.

Roles in general, on the other hand, did, in a conversation with Eva Plischke, a theater/performance artist who’s part of a number of performance collectives in Berlin.

  • One of these is the geheimagentur (“secret agents”), who don’t give their members any roles at all. Everyone in the collective is a secret agent. Once you’ve worked at least one time with the group, you are free to term yourself a secret agent when you’re working on your own projects.
  • Of another, Turbo Pascal, a collective which she founded with five other members, Plischke said: “Once you work with a group like that for a long time, different roles start to become important, more important than traditional theater-job roles like director, playwright, actor, designer, technician. For Turbo Pascal I’m very good at playing devil’s advocate, for example. And once you know the roles that everyone normally plays, you can play with those roles.”

Why do we feel so compelled to stick to the roles that tradition says we can play? For a structured theater, they are certainly important, but for a collective, we should be defining our own roles and our own structure, based on our personalities and talents and the way we work with one another.

I want to brainstorm some roles I’m good at playing, or roles I often take:

  • Translator: Not from one language to another, but between people. I am usually pretty good at understanding misunderstandings – recognizing their source, and rewording ideas or situations so that the confusion gets cleared up.
  • Word-fiddler: Everybody knows I like to play around with words…I’m a good editor, and I like to write things. I am not always good, however, at being short-snappy-to-the-point.
  • Just Jumper: I am a fan of just trying it. Of course I suffer from fear of failure, like Patrick and everybody else in the world, but things get to a certain point and I leap. And often, other people leap with me (examples: Redeye Theatre Project and getting stuck in the Danube).
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