Photo by David Ferguson
Two festivals spotlight the fringe in February
Berlin’s got a reputation as a haven for the young creative set, but for those who stay beyond one party summer, making a living through performance can seem downright impossible. Once you’re playing in a basement for an audience of 20, how do you make the leap to larger venues, or perhaps even acquire government support (read: tax money)? Is it even possible if you’re not a German citizen?
The short answer is yes, but one of the most important steps is gaining exposure through platforms designed to bring artists’ work to a larger audience. On the list of such festivals this February: the English Theatre Berlin’s Expat Expo, and the Hebbel am Ufer and Sophiensaele co-produced 100Grad festival.
As part of the relaunch for the city’s longest running English-language institution, the ETB’s Expat Expo began with an open call for “expat artists” to “come home”. Reorienting the Kreuzberg space as a center for Wahlberliner artists across disciplines, the two-week festival (Feb 15 - Mar 2) comprises workshops during the day, an evening programme and a weekend-long indoor Expat Markt – where expats hawk their wares to those taking the day off from trolling Mauerpark.
The daytime programme of workshops runs the gamut from an Introduction to Contact Improvisation, through Creative Writing for Performance from poet stalwart Lady Gaby, to Shakespeare im Park’s winkingly titled Leek and Spoon. The evening performances also showcase a broad range of disciplines, from more traditional theatre through installation works to evenings of sketch, standup and improvisational comedy. Some highlights include Alexander Thomas’ award-winning solo show Throw Pitchfork (Feb 26, 8pm, photo), as part of a longer evening followed by Comedy in English(.de)’s standup showcase; and a reading of Nigerian- German playwright Olumide Popoola’s new work Also By Mail (Mar 1, 8pm). The evening of Feb 28 promises an enticing sampler platter of nine works located throughout the theatre.
Given that all of this can be had for day passes of €5 and a festival pass of €25, 100 percent of which will go to the artists, it’s pretty hard to pass up this opportunity to witness a Kreuzberg institution’s crowd-reinvention.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary of non-curated performance, 100Grad (Feb 21-24) is one of the last international fringe festivals that keeps an open-to-all spirit. Applications are accepted in the order they’re received until the four-day marathon is full. This means that everyone gets a spot, regardless of reputation or previous experience. And sure, some of the performances are of Christmas pageant quality – but they’re never longer than an hour, and sometimes the audience doesn’t even bother to stay that long.
The festival is also an unparalleled opportunity to explore the Sophiensaele and HAU’s varied venues: the historic Festsaal, the traditional HAU1, the HAU2 foyer and its hundreds of lightbulbs. Day passes, which include admission to multiple venues at both locations, are €16 (€11 reduced) and four-day passes will set you back €44 (€28). The performances begin earlier in the day on the weekend, but the day passes are the same price. Go figure.
Highlights from the Sophiensaele line up include I’ve got you under my skin, the opening performance from twin dancer duo Viviana and Alessandra Defazio; about marriage, Australian Chris Scherer’s dance-performance collaboration with Katharina Maschenka Horn; and burlesque with Scotty the Blue Bunny (in a blue spandex suit since 1996) followed by the Teaserettes on Saturday. HAU will host Frank Willens’ sound-looping-meets-choreography mix Further Studies Towards Another Miraculous and Kurt Schwitters’ Dadaist work Zusammenstoß in a new production from Jakob Weiss.
All in all, the performative members of Berlin’s creative swarm are getting an unparalleled level of limelight this February, so grab your snood and some mittens on a string, and join in the fun!
Expat Expo, Feb 15-Mar 2, full schedule at www.etberlin.de, English Theatre Berlin Studio, Fidicinstr. 40, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Platz der Luftbrücke
100Grad, Feb 21, 19:00, Feb 22, 18:00, Feb 23-24, 16:00, full schedule at www.sophiensaele.com, Sophiensaele, Sophienstr. 18, Mitte, U-Bhf Weinmeisterstr.; HAU1, Stresemannstr. 29, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Hallesches Tor; HAU2, Hallesches Ufer 32, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Hallesches Tor; HAU3, Tempelhofer Ufer 10, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Möckernbrücke