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On “Cry Me A River” with Anna Mendelssohn

Anna Mendelssohn_Cry Me A River©TimTom

Anna and Gurur’s e-nterview…

What made you interested in “climate change” as a departure point of your work?

Really my interest in the topic came from several different and almost unconnected starting points: Firstly I was interested in the format of the monologue and thinking about what this format could possibly be today.

Also I had decided that if I was going to create my own work I wanted to spend the creation time with researching a topic that I wanted to learn something about. At the outset of working on “Cry Me A River” I knew hardly anything about climate change, so it was fascinating to read into the topic and find out what we actually mean when we talk about global warming, CO2, sea levels rising, etc.

And thirdly I would say I stumbled over the topic almost by accident – I was crying a lot for personal reasons at the time and something came on the radio about the melting glaciers. In that moment the thought came to me that there might be an interesting parallel to be explored here.

You have written in your program text that you have “gathered facts, personal accounts, philosophical excursions, apocalyptic scenarios, instructions and battle cries about climate change from the internet” to write your own text. Could you tell us a bit about your approach to creating texts for your theatre pieces? Could we consider your methodology as a sort of “readymade”? How does that transform your “authorship”?

Yes in a sense you could call it a “readymade”, I also like to use the term “text-sampling” because much of the texts are taken from speeches, interviews, conferences, etc and then “sampled” together in a very associative process. They are “found footage” texts which makes sense to me because the piece really deals with the rhetorics of climate change. So questions of how do we talk about the topic and what emotions are triggered by the different kinds of discourse.

It was very important for me to use not written but only spoken texts. So none of them come from books, with every text-fragment I have the person speaking it somewhere in the back of my head but my interpretation of the text is still highly personal. How this transforms my authorship is a good question.

What do you think is the major problem of environmental movement today?

I am not sure if it has a problem. It is moving and hopefully continuously changing and affecting our relationship to this planet for the better.

In the jury statement for the 2011 Dietmar N. Schmidt Actor’s Award, we read that you perform with precision and agility a score for multiple voices. What is the score? How fixed is it, and in what sense is it similar to a choreographic or a musical score?

The score, the text, is very fixed. I have precise musical cues, the dramaturgy, the emotional highs and lows, the speed, the rhythm of the monologue are all very set. Of course I make minimal changes and try to discover new facets and possibilities in every show otherwise it would not stay alive.

But in this sense it probably has a lot of similarities with a set choreography or a musical score. The freedom lies in the precision of it’s execution.

 If we consider metaphorically the contemporary world of dance and theatre as an “ecosystem” what could you say about the relationships between organisms, communities and the environment that comprise the larger system?

Personally I have the feeling that the ecosystem “dance and theatre” is going through a similar “crises” as the world around it. We have over the last twenty or thirty years deeply explored a certain conceptual, self-reflecting and form-oriented approach that was very exciting and we have learned a lot but we are now on the verge of getting a little bored with this approach. I think we are looking more to the outside again, to what is happening outside of the arts, outside of our community and are becoming more interested again in politics, in the environment – in the larger system. It is a great time to be creating work, everything seems possible and allowed and our tools have expanded.

What’s the next phase? What are your current interests and upcoming projects?

At the moment I am working on a new solo with the title “Here and Now”. It deals with the question of future and where we are heading. I am asking myself what are the big developments we are going through right now? What are the topics and who are the people involved in creating those developments? Of course the topic is ridiculously big, much too big to be seriously answered, but the journey is challenging, very fascinating. How do you find a form for such questions?

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