We. In the theatre we are what matters.

More strongly than in any other art form. 
Theatre can create a we: uniting performers and spectators when the division between stage and auditorium dissolves, when sharing the experience of the moment that is created here, now, only for us and by us. When the anonymity of people sitting next to each other gives way to the community that is formed even though we have never seen each other before. When a spirit grows out of individual performers that we call an ensemble.

There is a we of the moment.

And there is a we that lasts.

There’s hardly anything more beautiful than watching this growing together. Except being part of it yourself.
A lot of new people have gathered at Schauspielhaus Bochum during Johan Simons’ artistic directorship since the summer of 2018. Firstly, of course, the actors from different backgrounds, languages, cultures and generations. They act together. And they become closer. Not only in the photographs for the new season.
As such they represent a vision of a society. The image of a new society – and they are the best ambassadors it could have: with all the enthusiasm and love, hugging and smothering, the sweat, tears, laughter and distorted faces that this process of growing together brings along with it. 
If you ask them they will tell you about their experiences in this city of Bochum. About discoveries and arrivals. About things that are ordinary and startling. About low rents and beautiful woodland, the warmth of the people, shopping at the market or growing vegetables on a collective plot. Stories about racist remarks on public transport or in the square outside the theatre. And about their helpful neighbours who have become adoptive parents in Bochum. Life in Germany in 2019.

Life in the world in 2019.
Making theatre in the world in 2019 – that is and remains our motto.
Our first season started with a bang and a loud wake-up call – and not only because humanism’s memorial wall was thunderously shattered in Johan Simons’ opening production Die Jüdin von Toledo and the screams of thirteen 13-year-old girls created uproar in Lies Pauwels’ Hamiltonkomplex. Immediately afterwards the FAZ wrote: “So here it is: the city theatre of our time. It’s in Bochum, in the old provincial Ruhrpott, not in Berlin, Frankfurt or Vienna. It is as if something has been found almost automatically in the barely-illuminated outskirts that was sought after strenuously but in vain in the harsh metropolitan light: a theatre of the present, a stage that makes promises again and acting that is so playful and light that it makes all our ingrained pessimism and usual complaints seem embarrassing.”
Schauspielhaus Bochum has been buzzing – whether it has been to the electrifying beats of Ritournelle or pornosophical intellectual games of de Sade’s Philosophy in the Boudoir. The(stage)skies opened and allowed all the detritus of Western civilization to rain down on Michel Houellebecq’s sharp-tongued social portraits Platform and Submission. Contemporary drama sharpened the classics: Elfriede Jelinek gifted Euripides’ Iphigenie a secondary drama with her Sportstück, while Milo Rau staged Orest in Mossul and turned it into documentary theatre about global politics.
Subjects for conversation. Subjects for discussion. What is going on in Bochum? New forms, locations, impulses: media art. The Oval Office. Zeche Eins. Theatre in a council chamber. Theatre in a gymnasium.  Concerts in the theatre. New languages: English, not only in the new surtitles, French, Flemish, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Swahili – all now on stage in Bochum. New questions: about representation and racism as the themes of devised plays and adapted dramas – for both adult and young audiences. This Schauspielhaus Bochum is the place where strong, much-discussed drama from Penthesilea to Hamlet meets on equal terms with current trends from choreography, performance, music and the visual arts.
Many people were sceptical about the dataist musical New Joy – but others found it a huge pleasure and something they had never seen in the theatre before.
Artists who are sought-after the world over came exclusively to Bochum: the 84-year-old master of minimalist music Terry Riley and Chinese enfant terrible Tianzhuo Chen, who filmed his latest work with a Bochum audience in the Oval Office.
And with Séance de Travail Trajal Harrell created  a touching multi-layered catwalk choreography that transported audiences in the Schauspielhaus foyer into a “world of diversity” as Die Deutsche Bühne put it, creating a community of dancers, actors and spectators.

It started with a bang and a wake-up call.
And now it goes on:
To be continued.

When it works, theatre creates a we.
That we does us good.
And it is needed – in times when too many people are left by the wayside, when the world’s problems cannot be solved alone.
Let’s try to look for this we. 
Because where there’s a we, you are too.
This is the flipside: a group cannot exist without outsiders.  
No other current socio-political issue is quite so urgent. Participation. Recognition. Inclusion. Integration. 
Some people are excluded – whether deliberately or unconsciously.  Others isolate themselves – also not always voluntarily.

The new 2019/2020 season at Schauspielhaus Bochum tells of exclusion and belonging in a range of different stories, examples and forms.
The people stranded in Quai West, Karin Henkel’s great opening production, are refugees, underdogs and losers in the margins of society. A community thrown together by fate? This moving piece of world theatre by Bernard-Marie Koltès portrays these people in a bitter struggle for survival with a great deal of humour. It gives them both strength and dignity. 
This is how a change in perspective is created in the theatre; from you to we.
At Zeche Eins Dutch artist Lotte van den Berg draws our individual attention to those who have died in global disasters: Dying Together. And the young director Florian Fischer also makes a statement in his research-based play XX shedding light on neglected areas such as the Eastern Europeans working 24 hours a day to care for the elderly.  
Woyzeck, the most famous “downtrodden creature” in world literature, is rehabilitated in Johan Simons’ new interpretation, a co-production with the Vienna Burgtheater, as a hyper-sensitive person surrounded by people who have lost all touch with civilization’s co-ordinates. And the theatre collective Monster Truck will continue working on issues of self-empowerment for those with intellectual disabilities and mental illness: with an adaptation of the moral satire Das Narrenschiff (The Ship of Fools).

Who decides what is normal? How fast can you fall between the cracks – or lose your way?
The geriatric King Lear casts himself into oblivion; power, respect and love slip through his fingers – he is possibly Shakespeare’s most tragic dramatic character. On the other hand the charismatic outsider Ivanov is consumed by his existential doubts; he is incapable of bringing the idealist he used to be back to life – perhaps Chekhov’s most modern anti-hero. Two great dramas that Johan Simons will interpret for our times.
Defying the cult of youth, the electro-punk queen and unique star Peaches – who is about to celebrate 20 years on stage – declares that age should no longer be a criterion for social exclusion in a “song cycle to the ageing body” :ANTIBODIES / ANTIKÖRPER. A world premiere at the Kammerspiele in Bochum!
At the same venue After Work by Tobias Staab with the icon of Munich subculture Polina Lapkovskaja sings of the power of work – in a world that is post-work. What do we do? In keeping with this Tom Schneider sends mankind’s first ever contract labourer Heracles into Heiner Müller’s mythical forest: Die Hydra is the new stage adventure by the award-winning theatremakers of Bilder deiner großen Liebe.

The boundaries of music, drama, dance, installation will be transcended along with borders between genres and styles – all theatre’s norms. Because theatre has to be the least normalised place in the world. 
Here the maestro behind Murmel Murmel, Herbert Fritsch, will unleash another anarchic piece of theatrical fun in the Schauspielhaus. Here Sue Buckmaster will enchant theatre fans young and old with the Incredible Story of the Little Robot Boy. Here Miss Julie will prevail over the boundaries of status and respectability and Hanoch Levin’s Requiem will attempt to cheat both death and life. Here we will open a restaurant at Zeche Eins and perform there – plate by plate. Here young directors will go out into the city visiting places that have little contact with art. Here the artistic director will go to the Anneliese Brost Musikforum Ruhr, to stage Ein Fest für Mackie with the Bochumer Symphoniker. Here The Invisible Man takes an entire theatre apart for the youngest audiences in the Kamerspiele – or should we not believe our eyes?
Here both loud and quiet concerts, intimate conversations and controversial discussions, poetry slams and prose readings will repeated create a we out of many different Is and yous. And here the   Oval Office – powered by Brost-Stiftung – will be open to all free of charge as a space to encounter and experience modern art, installations and performances.

Here is Schauspielhaus Bochum. Here is where we are.
Here is where we become we. 
We want to grow together. And we want to do this together.
There is a year behind us. A year in front of us. 
We are Bochum. We are the World.
To be continued. Very soon.

Vasco Boenisch

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