11. Chemnitz, 2010

Fence 11 took place against the backdrop of Germany's festival "Chemnitz - Most Beautiful Flower of the East"

Introduction

The minds of the citizens of Chemnitz are haunted by a set of negative ideas:
Chemnitz is ugly... Chemnitz is dying... Chemnitz is frustrated...WRONG!
Today, Chemnitz is the region in East Germany that has been most thoroughly re-industrialised. Since 1995 more than 7000 new enterprises have been established in and around Chemnitz. For the fifth time in a row, Chemnitz is listed among the ten fastest growing cities in Germany.

ACTUALLY:
Chemnitz was once the most significant and wealthy industrial city in Germany until it was destroyed to 95 percent in the Allied Air Raids of 1945. At that point the town was declared a “dead city”, and it is still/again perceived as such today.
Since the political changes of 1989 Chemnitz is a shrinking city, its residential areas are increasingly abandoned and it is home to the largest contingent of aged citizens in Germany. Furthermore, because their town is located in the periphery, the locals see themselves as the “fifth wheel on the cart” in the competition between the largest towns in Saxony: Leipzig, Dresden and Chemnitz. It is these negative aspects in particular that continue to shape the self-perception of Chemnitz.

BUT:
Under the headline “Chemnitz - City of Modernity" the council has begun to take measures against the self-perception of Chemnitz as an ugly, unattractive town that has long seen its prime by building connections to the city’s dazzling past. In Chemnitz the political change of 1989 received strong support by the theatre. It was at Schauspiel Chemnitz that the will and courage to change showed early, and this will to take action is still present today.

THEREFORE:
The Theatre Festival “CHEMNITZ - most beautiful flower of the East!" is set to oppose the common negative attitudes and celebrate a happy, optimistic and vivid town of many talents.
The days of self-pitying and whining are over:
Chemnitz is the most beautiful flower of East!
Chemnitz is a city of today, of a future that is attractive and worth living for!

Reasons for participating

The following submissions give some insight into writers' and other theatre professionals' reasons for attending Fence meetings:

Dipo Agboluaje

I want to go to Chemnitz to continue the dialogue with my fellow Fencers, in the hope of finding collaborators to work on a viable project. The experience I had on the French wing of the FENCE in which I worked with my French colleagues to produce a work for the Les Theatrales Festival in 2007 was very illuminating, seeing how diverse work is produced in countries outside the UK. I am also working on the reception of African work in Britain and would like to extend the scope to Europe. Therefore I'd contribute in facilitating a discussion on the production and reception of diverse work in Europe.

Gabriel Gbadamosi:

I would like to participate in the meeting of The Fence network of European playwrights and facilitators in Chemnitz in order to renew my connection with a wide range of fellow practitioners and extend my knowledge of their work with a view to future collaborations such as the Liberty, Equality Fraternity trilogy of plays co-written with two francophone playwrights, Alain Foix and Ahmed Ghazali (George Wood Theatre, Goldsmiths and Soho Theatre, 2007); to re-engage as a working dramaturg (eg. Hydoponic, ACE South East/South Street, 2006-9) with developments in dramaturgical thinking and practice from the German-speaking countries; and to develop with Scottish colleagues a contribution from The Fence towards the international network for contemporary performing arts, IETM, taking place in Glasgow later in 2010.

Neil Fleming:

With the encouragement of Vienna's Burgtheater director Dieter Boyer, Neil is currently working on a play, in German, which directly explores many of the themes of the Chemnitz festival: small-town isolation, aspiration, and the challenge of self-expression. Self-referentially, of course, there is a major challenge of self-expression inherent in a UK playwright writing in a foreign language.

Neil and Dieter are in discussion about finding a way to stage the play at the festival. Engaged with and committed to European theatre, Neil's participation in The Fence to date is an excellent example of what the organisation was founded to do: promote cross-cultural development of theatre in the region, and help develop an audience around Europe and in North America for work from other languages and cultures.

Kim Komljanec:

Coming from Slovenia I have the experience of having lived in a communist state of Yugoslavia, then in the independent Slovenia with its turbo-capitalism and now (since 2008) in Britain, an old capitalistic country. I believe I could contribute significantly to the debate which the Fence meeting in Chemnitz is focused on, by presenting my own experience of having lived and worked in these three different political systems. Furthermore, I am more than willing to share my knowledge of the different conditions of theatrical creation in the two countries’ in both: big urban centres (Ljubljana vs. London) and the so-called provincial areas (Devon/Exeter vs. Slovenian countryside).

More specifically, I could offer the Fence members an insight into a playwright’s experience of the fall of the Berlin wall by presenting my own work which deals with the issue of how that political change has affected the personal lives in both, The East and The West.

Furthermore, I would be happy to present the work of some theatre practitioners from the north of Germany (Rostock) with whom I have worked in the past and they could offer an insight of their creative environment today.

My own motivation to attend the meeting is learning more about theatrical creation in Germany today and how this is seen from abroad.

Julie Ellen:

My reasons for attending are as follows;

  • To refresh relationships and form new ones with playwrights & playwriting representatives from across Europe. I will take the contacts, experience and knowledge gained back to Scotland to disseminate to playwrights and the theatre sector through my role as Creative Director of Playwrights' Studio. www.playwrightsstudio.co.uk
  • To share information about the talent, working practices and current issues of playwrights & playwriting in Scotland.
  • To explore the potential for inter-country projects with Playwrights' Studio’s peer organisations.
  • To develop and promote the Fence activity which will be part of the IETM in Glasgow in November 2010.

Svetlana Dimcovic:

A Festival where the issues of how work is disseminated, performed and taken to groups who may not otherwise have access to theatres and performances (not just physical access issues or geography but issues of disadvantage, social and local issues and perception of these) is a very important step in my professional development, especially since I work outside of the UK too and the context in Germany would inform my thinking. It is also interesting to see how links can be established between different countries in terms of how we develop work and make it accessible, carrying a social conscience."

Sara Clifford:

I would like to go with The Fence to Chemnitz because it will be a fantastic opportunity to see theatre from this overlooked part of Europe and to meet with practitioners from both the Fence network and beyond.

The subject of working outside main centres is close to my heart, as I struggle with living in the South East of England, which while perceived to be richly endowed with culture and arts, actually relies on Glyndebourne and Chichester as flagship venues and has no infrastructure for theatre at all. We have no theatre venues and touring companies may visit Brighton Theatre Royal with a Number 1 tour, or try and find a village hall somewhere in Sussex or Kent. Whilst I have no problem with site specific work, I am concerned at the politics of the cultural leaders who have decided that we don’t need or want a venue for new writing, and am currently involved in a local campaign to create a brand new building locally.

Alongside this, I do specialize in working with local communities, and am in receipt of a grant to develop a play in Newhaven Harbour, working with Zap Arts and a French compay, Generic Vapeur. I am looking to eventually do a PhD in this subject, and I would like to find out what practitioners from other countries are doing in this sector.

I am also hoping to be working as a trustee with New Writing South, the local writers’ network, and one of the strands I would like to develop with them is international work, and so attending this festival will support me in this.

Sarah Grochala:

Attending the Fence meeting at Chemnitz would enable me to engage with the working practices in use in contemporary playwriting in Germany. In my research into alternative dramaturgical structures in British theatre, I draw heavily on German theoretical models, particularly the work of Hans-Thies Lehmann. In Chemnitz, I would have the opportunity to see German dramaturgy in practice. This would enable me to gage the relationship between the theory and the practice of dramaturgy in Germany, and to experience the kind of dramaturgical models that are actually used in practice. As a playwright I would have a chance to share my own experience of British theatre practice with other playwrights and cultural operators from Germany and beyond. This would offer me new perspectives that would enrich my own work. I would be able to contribute pieces of my work to public Fence readings and be an active participant in the making of scratch work. I would be able to share the outcomes of my own research into dramaturgical practice in Britain with practitioners in Germany. As a playwright with a mixed cultural background (Anglo-Polish), I am keen to connect with other playwrights and cultural operators from Europe and beyond in order to share our experiences of working within different theatrical landscapes.

Penny Black:

Chemnitz lies at the heart of Europe. The former east of Germany has always had strong links to the eastern parts of Europe and Russia but few, if any, to the west and towards the rest of the world unless in a socialist alliance. This is changing and the Fence in Chemnitz at present comes at an interesting time.. Within that closed world however, theatre was very strong and had a political base. As most of my work has a strong political base, I am looking forward to exploring that. I feel that personally I can bring my fluent German, my understanding of different - and in particular German - theatre traditions and theatrical tendencies, to provide background knowledge for the other participants, and to interpret where necessary. For myself, it will be a wonderful opportunity to be with like-minded people to explore ideas and working practice and a glass of wine. These opportunities are few and far between and are to be treasured when they come around.

Duska Radosavlievic:

I am curious to find out more about this very successful international initiative involving European playwrights and dramaturgs and contribute whatever resources, skills and knowledge I have to its further development. As I also now run one of the very few M-level specialisms in Dramaturgy at the University of Kent, I would find this sort of an event very useful for my own teaching purposes. I believe strongly that my students should be well aware of the most up to date trends in the area of dramaturgy both in the UK and on the continent and equip them with relevant sets of skills that would enable them to negotiate different trends and ways of working effectively. s graduates from a University that brands itself as 'the European University of the UK', it's only reasonable to expect this of them. ! I would hope that I could offer my own skills and professional experience as a dramaturg, theatre translator and theatre critic to this gathering as well as possibly my own professional contacts and possibly even a useful space for any further gatherings at the University of Kent. I might be able to investigate possibilities for funding some of the expenses associated with this trip through staff development funds.

Jackie Bolton:

As a PhD student conducting a comparative study of British and German theatre cultures, the Fence's proposed trip to Festival Chemnitz presents an excellent opportunity to further extend and enrich my knowledge, understanding and appreciation of theatrical production in Germany. My research is founded upon a three year residency at West Yorkshire Playhouse, one of the UK's leading regional theatres; the festival's focus on 'theatrical creation beyond the big centres' is therefore of particular interest to a research project orientated towards the development of new work across regional theatre. Likewise, the festival's discussion of the impact of 1989 upon theatre-making processes will directly inform my research's ongoing assesment of the social, economic and political contexts which influence the work of theatre institutions in Germany. In addition to contributing a 'theory-informed-by-practice' perspective to discussions at the Festival, I would hope to share with the Fence network any interview/essay materials that I may generate by talking with playwrights, directors and dramaturgs in Chemnitz. I would be attending with a view to striking up relationships with German academics and practitioners alike; relationships which I hope would benefit not only other members of the Fence network itself, but also the institutions, academic and theatrical, that I hope to work with in the future. Should the opportunity arise, I would also be happy to (re)present aspects of the Fence's work to the relevant politicians attending the festival.