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Young voices, old demands: theater as a shelter and laboratory for the future

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“I want to live people, please let me live.” Wringing his hands, arms raised, director Alexander Weise stands on the stage. After that it’s quiet in the room until he releases the tension. Weise steps off the stage and asks the performers to repeat the scene. “I want to live people, please let me finally live.” The 15 children and young people do not repeat his words, they only express them through their body language. Her sensitivity creates goosebumps, even for Weise himself. The performers, aged between seven and 25, rehearsed with him for months and developed their play “Rights for Children”, getting to know themselves and the others, their wishes and rights better and better. They perform without hierarchies, they implement the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, artistically and in dealing with each other.

“States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in this Convention to every child under their jurisdiction without any discrimination whatsoever on the basis of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status of the child, his parents or guardian.” (Article 2, 1)
The formal text of the law is deliberately part of the performance. Its use makes it clear: the rights of children are demanded here in a non-negotiable manner. From the adults. This is no child’s play.

“No!” Actor Andrei Tacu, the only adult on stage, throws out his sentences as if he were banging his fist on the (regular) table. On stage he is the opponent of the young ensemble. Disillusioned, he lists examples of humanity’s failures and uninhibitedly expresses the unspoken egoistic views of adults (Text: Marcel Luxinger). Humans are fundamentally evil: “It’s unfortunate that you can’t heat with this negative energy.”

Actor Andrei Tacu gives contra to the forward-rushing young ensemble on stage.
© Thorsten Fleischhauer
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What are the ideas and promises still worth in a world that is in the midst of upheaval? Alexander Weise asked himself this question in the course of the pandemic, when a wave of questioning of applicable law and its implementation swept Germany. Tacu’s disillusioning passages are contrasted with the unity of the hopeful chorus of children and young people, who also appear individually in expressive monologues.

These passages are linked to the young people’s personal experience, which means that they engage the audience on an emotional level. The performers put their private feelings and thoughts into their voices. Ari sees this as his strength, he has found his passion in singing. Ari processes all his feelings while singing, but also his traumata. In his childhood he was a victim of domestic violence and physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Music helped him come to terms with his past.

In his monologue, Ari deals with the right to physical and mental integrity. He wasn’t obligated to do this, he wanted to. Dealing with it wasn’t easy for him: “At home I’m alone with the text and I run the risk of getting lost in my thoughts.” The 21-year-old, on the other hand, finds the rehearsals pleasant and he enjoys them: “Everything is on stage in neutral tension, concentrated on the middle of the body, that brings you into your personal and safe headspace.” The group would play a decisive role for this feeling, he says, because the young people have developed close friendships and a trusting relationship through working on the theater together built up.

“Familial, like among super-close cousins,” is how Caya describes the relationship between the group, which she also perceives as a protective space. The 21-year-old originally comes from a small village in Saxony-Anhalt, but she has always longed for the cultural diversity in big cities. Her mother lovingly calls her “esthete” because she is always at her daughter’s side and supports her on her way.

Berlin gave her the freedom she longed for. She particularly enjoys the “dualism of getting lost and finding and strengthening yourself in the process.” It wasn’t possible to go unnoticed in the village, that bothered Caya. In her childhood and adolescence, after coming out as a trans person, she felt reduced to her sexuality. The theater stage wants to use them to tell their story. When Alexander Weise offered her the opportunity to write part of her monologue herself, the 21-year-old immediately accepted. Her core statement: “Our suffering is man-made by the existing laws.” That trans people would automatically suffer from themselves is a fatal mistake.

Aliou urgently demands his right to a safe life.
Aliou urgently demands his right to a safe life.
© Berta PR+Production

Aliou also wants to send a clear message with his participation in “Rights for Children”. The 16-year-old came to Germany with his uncle from Guinea ten months ago and became aware of the project through his school. Theater and dance have a special meaning for him: They connect him with his homeland. In Guinea, dance is an important part of the culture. Weise recognized this personal connection to Alious and promotes his strength in transmitting emotions through dynamic, powerful movements as his means of expression. With his monologue, Aliou wants to draw attention to the topics of flight and migration. He demands tolerance and respect from society and his right to a safe life in Germany.

It was very important to Alexander Weise to also bring people with disabilities onto his stage. Even if the Theater Thikwa or the RambaZamba Theater set strong accents in the Berlin theater landscape, often “you have the feeling that they don’t even exist,” says Weise. In doing so, he not only gives the Magdalena and Thibaud a chance for self-expression, but their performances also give the audience moments of happiness. After a successful run through of his monologue, Thibaud is so enthusiastic that a repetition of the scene is out of the question. It would be a loss to our society if he were not heard and seen. Rights for Children makes it immediately clear that diversity strengthens the community, that the individual wins in a respectful group. However, the complete exhaustion of the young performers also shows that the patience of the next generation is not infinite and the power of the next generation is not limitless.

One scene touches director Alexander Weise again and again: the children are leaning against each other in a row, the musicians (David Schwarz and Christian Kohlhaas) play a touching melody. The ceiling projection by Stefano di Buduo shows white birds in peaceful flight. Wise whispers, “The birds are what we humans ought to be. You are free. And detached from obstructive brain convolutions.”

Theater in the Delphi, Gustav-Adolf-Str. 2, Weißensee, tickets cost 19 euros, reduced 12 euros. Further performances are planned for 2023. Info: www.rightsforchildren.de

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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