MxAA 2014 Stipend Recipient: Grace ’11

Internship with Drifraudenditanzen and Claudia Schnürer

On May 15 I begin a 4-day tour in Germany with Claudia and Cie. Dreifrauendietanzen (threewomendancing), a company which consists of Claudia and her friends / fellow performers Ellen Urban and Daniela Feilcke-Wolff. The first day [5 hrs] in Falkensee, Germany is spent in rehearsal for the piece zu Hoch zu Tief zu Weit (too High too Low too Far). The piece, in development over the last 3 years, combines dance, theatre, and contemporary circus. The second day [10 hrs] I travel to Garbsen, Germany and assist Claudia in her performance of das Vorlesezimmer (The Room of Poetry), a performance art piece she’s been performing for 5 years. The third day [10 hrs] is spent in rehearsal and performance for zu Hoch zu Tief zu Weit. I act as an outside eye and photographer during rehearsals, I take care of Ellen’s 4-year old daughter for a few hours, I run errands for the company, pass out fliers for the show, and help disassemble the performance space. The next and final day of this tour [5 hrs] is spent discussing the performance, managing logistics, and travelling back to Berlin.

Stage two of the internship begins when Claudia and I travel back to Arezzo on May 19th. In Italy we commence with the first rehearsal process of Claudia’s solo project Anton. Over the course of 15 days [110 hrs] we develop a piece of dance theatre through the physical exploration of evocative images Claudia has selected and on themes of womanhood, family history, and struggle. The first week is spent discussing the themes and stories at the foundation of the piece, and generating physical improvisations: We first improvise with objects—a big black cloth, a jacket, a hat, and a stick. Then we move into improvisations based on images and vocal improvisations. During this process I share and then Claudia shares, incorporating some of my material into her improvisation. It is a reflection process, and throughout we take time to discuss and analyze what we’ve seen. It is in these days that we discover the raw material of the piece. On the forth day I suggest that we each do a long improvisation incorporating all of the elements and images we’ve discovered. It is an exercise in recalling material and finding a through line and basic structure of the story. We both share, and Claudia’s performance is very powerful. We decide to proceed with this structure and spend the remaining time fine-tuning the material we’ve already generated.

I transition into the role of Dramaturg, stage manager, and costume and scenic designer, working almost exclusively from the outside. An essential part of every rehearsal is a common warm-up. For the most part Claudia is responsible for the physical warm up and I for the vocal. These warm-ups assure that we both arrive fully in the room and are on the same page energetically. This is an intimate and collaborative process, and the material unfolds rapidly and naturally. Even when I am just taking notes or pictures, I am fully invested and included in the process.

We decide to open rehearsals to close friends. The feedback is helpful, and with another person present in the room the improvisation transforms into a performance. As the structure becomes more and more defined, we spend more time doing a dramaturgical and written excavation of the material. We work to develop a program note and a press release. Since English is not Claudia’s first language, I assist in editing and rewriting her material. With this material, we send out an invitation for the final open rehearsal, inviting around 25 people. The rehearsal is very exciting, and feels like a first performance of the piece. I run the sound, help with costumes, and lead a talk back after the performance. The general reaction is a positive one, and there are a number of helpful suggestions and constructive criticisms given during this talk back. At the end of this open rehearsal it is clear that this project should and will move forward. There is talk of potential performances in Germany, Italy, and India.

After we wrap up our work in the studio, the process continues with an extensive and relaxed reflection process. We are amazed with all we have accomplished. Over just two weeks, we have developed, rehearsed and performed a new piece. The speed and ease of the process is exciting and encouraging to us both. Claudia and I are so pleased with the work we’ve produced, and want to see the project grow and develop. Claudia hopes to find a director and a sound designer to work with, and she plans to spend more time researching and developing the project on her own.

The timing of this internship was perfect, and we were able to hit the ground running having already spent the semester working together. This experience was invaluable as part of my education as a theater artist, for the process was a direct application of the skills I’ve learned at BU and at the ADA. Thanks to my years of theater training, and Claudia’s generosity as a collaborator, I contributed to this project with confidence and skill. After working on this project, I can enter the professional world knowing that I am a capable theatre artist and collaborator.

I had a feeling that working with Claudia would be an important step for me as an artist and as a professional. I felt a strong pull towards her and her artistry, and did everything I could to find a way to prolong my stay in Europe and continue working with her. Indeed this whole experience was made possible by a strong desire to collaborate with an artist I respect and admire deeply. Moving forward artistically, I will continue to pursue the projects and the people that interest and inspire me.

 As an artist, Claudia is a true role model; as a collaborator, she is a pleasure to work with; and as a mentor she guides and counsels without being didactic. We share an artistic aesthetic and theatrical vocabulary that makes it quite easy to work together. We also have common interests in dance, philosophy, esoteric traditions like reiki and the Tarot, eclectic clothing, and improvisation. During our time together it became clear that we are a good pair. This internship quickly transformed into a very special mentorship and professional relationship that we both hope to see grow in the years to come.

We already have ideas for future projects, including an internship in India this winter to continue work on Anton and an adaptation of two greek tragedies, Iphigenia and Electra, with the Aarshi Theatre Group; as well as a residency in France, with the Roy Hart Institute to begin developing a new piece about the restoration of the female principle. We wish to continue exploring dancetheater, object work, and the voice to tell our stories in a dynamic and compelling way.

I am so lucky to have worked with Claudia this summer, and feel that I am on my way to becoming the artist I’ve always wanted to be. I am incredibly grateful to the Middlesex Career Advancement Committee of the Middlesex Alumni Association for the financial support I received from their Internship Stipend Program, and I am thankful to the Boston University School of Theatre for encouraging their students to seek out internship opportunities. Without the education I’ve received at the Middlesex School, Boston University, and the Accademia dell’Arte this experience would not have been possible.

But it is far from over—I look forward to continuing work with Claudia and producing my own material as I enter into my final year of college. Although my formal education may be reaching its conclusion, I will continue to learn and train as a theater artist and dancer.