Sunday, 12 October 2008

Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus - Die Hinterbühne

Hey peeps,
It's been a little while, but never fear, I can make up for lost time.
I can categorically claim that hunting isn't really for me. There's a lot of sitting around in forests in the freezing cold just staring at the same clump of trees for a long time...far too long. However, some of the views of the rolling, rugged hills and the regimental pine forests were pretty breathtaking....nature's stage as it were. Tenuous I know, but it's always nice when you get to see lovely countryside. Cities are the same I find, they can exude an atmosphere much like the theatre. We went to Antwerp yesterday to visit the daughter of my host family who's gone to university there. It's one of those beautiful old European cities with cobbled sidestreets all of them with quaint, yet wonderful architecture; and horse drawn carts still clop about the main square guarded by the impresive cathedral and town hall. It made me want to write a novel. I think that feeling is one of the reasons location is so important in theatre. The same often goes for a theatre itself. The Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus gives the spectator a feeling of immense scale and power, with its sheer size. But like any good story, when you start exploring things can be different. It's time to find out.

This week was my first full week of insight into die Hinterbühne - Backstage.
There is a rather overwhelming feel to the place, and even the foyer where the audience wait for the shows is architecturally very impressive, with marble flooring, gorgeous furnishings and fancy colour-changin LED lights. However, the real hub is as one may well expect, quite different.
It feels a bit like a school, or a hospital I suppose with it's shiny floors and off-cream stairwells. One would never imagine how many different jobs have to be done backstage in a theatre, and just walking around you see snapshots of the different rooms, there are so many varied careers here within one building it's amazing. However, normally, pretty much everyone is friendly, and when they find out I'm English, they tend to go a bit easy on me, which helps. It is of course organised mayhem of the most structured kind. Down at stage level, you always have to have your wits about you, as the bars lowered from the flies for light rigging and moving around big pieces of staging are up and down like a kangaroo, and there are always heavy things being moved around.

Anyway, what do I actually do?
Well more for one. I'm beginning to get to know people in the lighting team, and they are beginning to realise that they can afford me a few seconds more, because I can, surprisingly, actually be helpful.
Basically, a new play is rehearsed or performed for an audience nearly every day, therefore, naturally the lights required for whichever piece changes day by day. Thus, the basic job is to take down superfluous lights from the afternoon or evening before and rig up the new lights for today's piece. There are many long, electronically-operated bars stretching across the stage and covering the whole area from right upstage to down into the auditorium. They are lowered to stage level and we have to take the lights off and store them and then attach and secure the new lights. There is of course a lot of safety stuff to learn, particularly with securing things like cables and safety harnesses. Some of the lights are huge beasts with 6KW output, and so weigh a tonne and need two people to carry them. Thus clearly, making sure they're secured is of utmost importance. I have begun to find my way a bit more comfortable now, though it is a positive labyrinth.
It's interesting to learn about the lights though. I have been shown one opened up to see it's different sections, I have been shown the room where they keep all they're rolls of cellophane for the gels....soooooooooooooooo much cellophane it was unreal, and I never knew that many colours existed, I was able to go on to the roof which gives some fantastic views over the city. The outside of the building is also wonderful as you can see from the picture above, the glowing red is pretty cool too.
There can be a fair bit of sitting around, but you also get to see some interesting rehearsals and staging. One play this week called 'Schroffenstein' utilises the stage's supernatural powers, with the stage revolving, being used to raise the actors into the flies as well as lowering them below eye level. It's a wonderful feeling to be able to stroll across the stage as if it's your living room.
I've also been learning things...promise. Earlier in the week, the other 'praktikant' Vanessa and I were taught how to take apart one of their big lighting plugs and test it to see if it's still good. A lot of screwdriver work, but still it's interesting.
The plays they put on tend to be theatrically quite challenging, and thus quite exciting, particularly in terms of their staging.....that and they're enthusiastic use of many many mirrorballs. :)

Take a look at the photobucket stuff, which I've now, no doubt having been affected by Germanic surroundings, ordered into albums.

I think that captures the general atmosphere of what I've been doing, though it's difficult. I keep having to stop myself and think again about exactly what I'm doing, it's a very surreal feeling. Very surreal. It's also giving me more independence, as I am doing this all on my own and catching the U-Bahn and mastering it on my own as well. It's nice as I'm becoming more confident and it means I'm beginning to feel more like I livehere than just visiting, which is clearly very important. Hopefully, over the next couple of weeks I can really being to settle in at the theatre and be able to relax a bit more and give you a more measured account of my experience. As ever, feel free to ask anything, there's a wealth of theatre knowledge in there for me to uncover.
Until then - Viel Spaß
Keep Smiling

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