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  • Daniel Bernhard

INTIMACY ON STAGE

This is me during the most stressful rehearsal for my recent play "SEX", which we just got to finish last weekend at Nationaltheater Mannheim. Due to the pandemic, it didn't come out yet. But it's there, waiting for the audiences to return to the theaters, like the dolphins returned to the canals of Venice. You know the meme, right? Exactly, theatres are healing.


I mean, I hope so. First and foremost they need to heal structurally. Who feels safe enough to not just work there (potentially as a token who proves the diversity of the institution) but safe enough to thrive & feel creative? How are we making space for each other? And how can we finally replace the feudalistic structures with actual respect, eye-level and kindness?


I am happy to say that we've made some more steps towards this goal in this recent production. There is genuine trust and a deep knowing that we created this play together, in a circle. Even in the last week of rehearsals there was still space to share what actually moves us, to cry, to be vulnerable while being highly productive, to prioritize care. My colleagues cherished the radical softness we were aiming at in order to deal with the development of a new masculinity (that's what the play is about) and trusted in the shakiness of an aesthetic that isn't daring because it's loud but because it offers itself to an audience without the wish to penetrate it.


We are still at the beginning of a huge unlearning of patriarchal values and in many moments we feel that when we make steps beyond it, we are "weak", we are "losing", we are "unprofessional" because the rules of the masters are still encoded in our cultural DNA. But the times are changing. More people want to feel touched and not necessarily overwhelmed.


In many ways what interests me these days, returning to the job I've had for most of my adult life, as a theatre director, is actually the most simple thing: the immense joy of watching other beings do things while watching my own reaction to them. And to be able to watch them with love. It's again about intimacy, like in a workshop or a bodywork session. And just like in any of these contexts, it's emancipatory and healing to gift each other the most precious thing we have: our presence, as spectators as much as actors.


Part of this intimacy is that bodies are worthy just because they are bodies, not because they are carriers of concepts or ideas, or there to convince anyone of anything. But simply for offering themselves as this magnificent mirror cabinet. Well, that might sound a little kitsch. It's kinda hard to express myself clearly with words. But maybe you can see it in my smile here. I love this work, I am happy for theater to be eating such a huge portion of my life again and I am happy to be able to still do my job during these crazy times. I know that that is a privilege and I will try my best to use the platforms I am given wisely and with care. Huge gratitude for all who have been guiding my way and to all who have criticized me and all who trusted in my approach to this work. Especially the team of this recent production. You all rock my world.


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