news, updates, and conversations from Volcano Theatre

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

"Mischievous and Compelling" Sigrid Herzog: back in Toronto for the first time in 20 years

One of the things we pride ourselves on, here at Volcano, is connecting local artists with the latest in  international trends. It's one of Ross' key considerations when curating the Volcano Conservatory, and for the first time ever we're bringing the cutting-edge ideas and styles of contemporary German theatre to Toronto.

Sigrid Herzog
Body & Imagination: Contemporary Training from Germany

We're honoured to have Sigrid Herzog join us in July for the Conservatory. Sigrid is the assistant director of the Otto Falckenberg School for the Performing Arts - part of Munich's Kammerspiele, and one of the leading training institutions for German-language artists. Sigrid has directed at renowned theatres across the world, including our own Harbourfront Centre. This summer, she's in Toronto exploring a pedagogy designed to make acting more physical and uncensored. If the body is the actor's instrument, why do we let our heads get in the way? This is the question Sigrid will unpack with Conservatory participants.

Ross on Sigrid: 
"an approach to theatre that would literally change my life"
Ross: before Volcano

I first met Sigrid when she cast me in a show that was part of a Focus on German Art festival at Harbourfront, back in the late 80s. It was my introduction to an approach to theatre that would literally change my life.

We clicked. I was baffled by the play, and the whole non-naturalistic, inspiration-laden approach the Germans had to the stage. It was utterly unlike anything that I was acting in (or seeing) in Canada at the time. I wanted to learn more.

We became friends. I travelled to Munich a year or so later to work on a project with her. While there, I also worked with her assistant director - a young guy named Roland Schimmelpfennig. Roland is now the most produced living German playwright in the world. Back then, he was a drinking buddy, and hadn't written a word. Nor had I directed anything. Nor had Sigrid taken over the acting program at one of the top schools in Germany, for that matter.

But for both Roland and I, Sigrid was a mentor. She was (and still is) an imp. A brilliant, provocative, caring director / teacher with very high standards, and tremendous vision. She is mischievous and compelling. She has now trained a whole generation of German actors, and is doing the same for young singers at the Bavarian State Opera (one of the great companies in the world). She is having an true effect on performance in our era. And - on this side of the pond - my meeting Sigrid ended up in my pursuing further training in Germany, and the resultant founding of Volcano. 

Sigrid hasn't been back to Canada since we met over 20 years ago. This is an opportunity to study with someone truly brilliant. I cannot recommend her highly enough.

A little bit more on German theatre: 

German theatre-makers - particularly the country's contemporary indie artists - are widely recognized for shaking the foundations of the performing arts. The Goethe Institut has written extensively about Germany's indie scene, differing from the publicly owned state and municipal theatres operating in even the smallest towns across the country. In recent years, cost pressures have begun to dissolve the duality between indie and public systems, resulting in a variety of mixed organization / funding forms. You can read more about it here.

Rimini Protokoll's Best / Before
German cultural exports have made headlines in Toronto: She She Pop's Testament at World Stage (2012) and Rimini Protokoll's Best / Before at Luminato (2010) both spring to mind.

"When you see real people onstage there's a real vulnerability and accessibility," says World Stage Artistic Director Tina Rasmussen in the video above.

Real being the operative word: both Testament and She She Pop bring non-professional artists onstage to tell their stories, one of the major aesthetics that the Goethe Institut identifies in German indie theatre:
  • participation: casting non-professional performers in the production
  • inclusion: involving differently-abled performers (Theater RambaZamba)
  • interculturality: asking questions about migration (Ballhaus Naunynstra├če) 
  • interactivity: breaking the barrier between performer and audience. Gob Squad, a German/British performance collective, will be engaging with audiences at Luminato in June, if you'd like a taste of that style.

Artists who'd like to experience the German method first-hand with Sigrid should visit and register now - Body & Imagination is already 50% full! Register here.

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