Sadie Mlika: On the Gorki Theatre #2

police and crowd in Berlin

Since writing my last blog post, I have reached significant advances as well as confronted a few setbacks in conducting my research on the Gorki Theatre here in Berlin. I was able to organize an interview with the actress Irina Szodruch from the Gorki Theatre, who spoke on the discussion panel I mentioned back in January. I did so by first reaching out to the Gorki Dramaturg (whose email I received from Professor Dettmer), and asking to be put in touch with Frau Szodruch in order to ask her a few questions about her experience at the Gorki. Just days later, I heard back from Irina herself, who explained that the Theatre (cast, crew, and venue) was about to go on their summer break, or die Ferien, and thus her only availability consisted of an hour break during Gorki’s annual end-of-the-season party that Friday (July 6th). Considering this was my first official interview, I spent the hours prior to our meeting time meticulously going over my questions and identifying potential follow-up questions that might prove useful throughout the interview, I carefully reviewed all the research I had gathered on the Gorki, Brecht, and the notions of “des-integration” and “post-migrant Theatre”. Although not necessarily the ideal setting, Irina and I met in the backyard of the Theatre and the interview happened to go relatively well, despite some background chatter occasionally interrupting the audio recordings and her 5-year old daughter (who needed a nap) cutting things a bit short, that is. Irina told me that I could email her any remaining questions we couldn’t get to and although she agreed that I could take her photo myself over email (I had brought my camera for the visual aspect of my project), she mentioned that I could just contact PR for an official photo because she had decided against it day of; which I could understand given the overbearing heat and casual barbecue setting with which we were faced. I am almost done transcribing over an hour’s worth of recordings from our interview and although the task is admittedly more tedious than I anticipated, I am pleased with what Irina and I were able to cover and discuss and feel confident that there is sufficient content to pull from for my research paper.

Screenshot of my ticket to my first show at the Gorki — Winterreise
Standoff at an ANTIFA Counter-AFD Protest /March in Alexanderplatz, Berlin










Lil preview from research: In preparation for my meet with Irina, I was looking for the origins of the notion of ‘postmigrant theatre’ and found an interview Shermin Langhoff (current director at Gorki) conducted a few years ago while she was AD of the Ballhaus Naunynstraße theatre in Kreuzberg. Apparently, this was the Theatre where ‘postmigration’ was first introduced to the German public; Langhoff was quoted saying, “postmigrant means that we critically question the production and reception of stories about migration and about migrants which have been available up to now and that we view and produce these stories anew, inviting a new reception” (Stewart, Journal of Aesthetics and Culture). I noticed that in its very construction, postmigration seems to have associations with the term postcolonial, or even postracial, and learned that there is not only a Theatre movement developing in its name, but an array of literature as well. Stewart goes on to write, “ the adjective “postmigrant” only really establishes itself in the social sciences in the German context following its success in the cultural field…This intersection between theatre and theory has continued as analysis of the theatre’s work becomes the basis for new theorisation in itself: for Deniz Utlu, an author associated with the Ballhaus, postmigrant theatre emerges as a label “under which political theatre is made by theatre practitioners ‘of colour’”, and for researcher Azadeh Sharifi, this means “telling stories from the margins and still knowing the centre”” (Journal of Aesthetics and Culture). The term is thus still somewhat unfixed and fluctuating, as it gathers meaning moving in and out of fields of theatre practice and theoretical reflection. To be continued in my paper…
I already feel myself becoming more and more nostalgic about the time I spent here, as one does just as they’re about to part ways. I dread the day I’ll have to leave but am unfortunately very conscious of its imminent arrival. I started packing a few things yesterday, said my final goodbyes to my favorite coffeehouse staff and spätkauf manager (German version of deli). I know I’ll miss the endless hours of sun, döner kebab, flea markets, parks, and most of all, the worthwhile investment in culture here, the utter lack of air conditioning however, I could do without. Till we meet again, Tschüss!

View outside my bedroom window — Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin, Germany