Dirty Debüt | S2#8-romantic comedy

Blithe Spirits

Liina Magnea with Abhinit Khanna

Has capitalism made everyone feel like a failed superstar or the protagonist of a never-ending RomCom? Have we become experts in shapeshifting and adaption disguised as individualism? Do we think we can relate to each other, since we know so much OF each other or are we making everybody else just one of many extras in OUR movie?
Together with aspiring curator Abhinit Khanna, the aspiring pop star Liina Magnea make plans to create the greatest show Bombay has ever experienced. A coup disguised as an artshow that actually is there to set things on fire and welcome the end of the old and the start of a new.

Liina Magnea

In the golden age of interdiscplinarity, Liina Magnea works in performance, as a musician and as a film dramaturge.

In her own works, she combines these fields and pursues the new form that goes beyond all other forms and can reach the deepest sentiments inside us. She can usually be found somewhere shouting.

By and with Liina Magnea, Abhinit Khanna

Performance Stills © Anna Agliardi

Video Documentation © Diethild Meier

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We have to talk

Romuald Krężel with René Alejandro Huari Mateus, Tamara Antonijević

Romuald Krężel (born in 1985, Poland) lives in Berlin, works in the field of performing arts. He graduated in choreography and performance at the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies of Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen.

In his work, Romuald combines performative elements with choreographic thinking and visual arts practices. He has created various staged performances, site-specific installations and other hybrid formats, which tackle the questions about labour, gender, environmental disaster and contemporary art practices. Among others, he collaborates with Monica Duncan, René Alejandro Huari Mateus and Carolina Mendonça.

Tamara Antonijević (1989) writes and works as a dramaturg and artistic collaborator in performance, theater and dance pieces.

She studied Dramaturgy at the University of Arts in Belgrade, Serbia and holds MA from Institute of Applied Theater Studies in Giessen, Germany.

by and with By and with: Alocasia California (known as Elephant Ear), Tamara Antonijević, Areca Palm, Calathea Triostar, Dracaena Fragrans, Dracaena Marginata, Dracaena Trifasciata, Epipremnum Aurerum (known as Marble Queen), Fittonia Red & Fittonia Green (known as Nerve Plants), Guzmania Optima, René Alejandro Huari Mateus, Kentia Palm, Romuald Krężel and Yucca.

Performance dedicated to Redko

Performance Stills © Anna Agliardi

Video Documentation © Diethild Meier

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Onur Ağbaba & Lotta Becker

„Am Freitag war ich mir ziemlich sicher dass ich dich liebe, aber jetzt nicht mehr. Sorry!“ Ausgehend von einem Archiv aus Antworten auf Liebesbriefe meiner frühen Jugend, frage ich mich heute nach meinem Coming-out als schwuler mann*, was ich in diesen Liebesbriefen zu performen versuchte. In der Performance #beginnings spielen Onur Agbaba und Lotta Beckers mit der Spannung zwischen der Intimität von Liebesgeständnissen und ihrer Veröffentlichung. Im Zusammenspiel mit Popsongs wird die Zitathaftigkeit und Performativität dieser Briefe untersucht. Gleichzeitig stellt sich die Frage, ob wir uns nicht alle weiterhin in dieser Lust am Geständnis wiederfinden.

Onur Ağbaba, born 1990, graduated in Applied Theater Studies from the Justus Liebig University in Gießen and in DAnce and Choreography in the Danish National School of Performing Arts. Between 2012 and 2014, he was a dancer for two years in the company at the Leipzig Dance Theater under the direction of Alessio Trevisiani. He has worked with various choreographers and artists, including: Mathilde Monnier, René Alejandro Huari Mateus, Tümay Kılınçel, Wicki Bernhardt and CHICKS* independent performance collective. Alongside his studies, he realized his own projects along the intersection of dance, performance, photography and literature. He lives in Berlin.

Lotta Beckers (*1995) lives in Berlin and works as a dramaturgue and performer. She studied Applied Theater Studies in Gießen, Dance and Choreography in Copenhagen and is currently finishing her Master in European Media Studies in Potsdam. She has fostered a long-term collaboration as a dramaturgue together with Noam Brusilovsky.

By and with Lotta Beckers und Onur Ağbaba

Performance Stills © Anna Agliardi

Video Documentation © Diethild Meier

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Eternal Betrayal

Am Ertl with Renan Alves Manhães

Eternal Betrayal is a collection of various movie scenes that all portray the same thing: a revelation of a betrayal. In film plots, these scenes classically are followed by relief and reharmonization – a narration through which societal morals are revealed. Those morals often point towards heteronormative, cis-patriarchal ideas of order and loyalty. Driven by the desire to stay with brokenness instead of seeking moralist glue to fix it with, Eternal Betrayal invites you to soak in your tears and linger within the clarity of (heart)break. Welcome.

Am Ertl is a Berlin/Stockholm based dancer, performer and choreographer. In 2019 they graduated from Stockholm University of the Arts with a BA in Dance Performance and have since then continued to work with their degree show The Wild and The Cute – A Call Center for Creatures of Any Kind, for example at Danscentrum Stockholm in collaboration with Sepideh Khodarahmi. As a performer Am worked with choreographers such as Tove Sahlin, Lea Moro and Tchivett. Together with Sindri Runudde they co-founded the dancing group Cosy Boi Slut Team.

By and with Am Ertl (Concept, Choreography and Peformance) and Renan Alves Manhães (Performance)

Loud Thank You to all QTs that gave advice, asked questions and supported & the Hosts of Dirty Debüt for generously holding space and making it happen.

Performance Stills © Anna Agliardi

Video Documentation © Diethild Meier

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Romantic Comedy

Louise Trueheart

I hate that I don’t hate you, not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.

This iconic line from the movie 10 Things I Hate About You was written on a personalized raisin and wine-flavored chocolate heart, which was placed on my seat at Ballhaus Ost as a welcome gift to the Dirty Debüt performance series. The theme was “romantic comedy” and I was the only person in the “audience” who was not a performer, curator, or part of the technical team. I wore a nice blazer because I hadn’t been to the theater in a year.

On first thought, I wasn’t sure what artists were going to do with the theme “romantic comedy.” Romcoms are a genre of film that welcomes the viewer to identify with the situation, casts actors for their relatability, and ultimately is intended to temper the loneliness and harshness of life and love. Romantic comedies take the edge off, not by being smart or good quality, but by being comfortable and caring.

In that sense, and in the sheer awesomeness of being in a real theater watching real people on stage experience real pleasure at performing for real, in front of a real audience, we all felt less lonely. Both love, and the hilarity that theater has become in a global pandemic, were the modus operandi in a way the raisin-and-wine chocolates barely expresses. Everybody wanted to make this night special.

The first piece was by Liina Magnea, who sings like an angel and does a great gremlin impression. She was wearing a black unitard that had cartoonish muscle-shaped cushions sewn onto it. Her shoes were clogs. Liina asks questions that are important in the industry, like “why am I not famous yet?” and, “what am I doing with all this talent?” As if trying to answer, or perhaps as a way to affirm her love of performing, she sang a song composed of love songs in four languages (Finnish, Icelandic, German, and English). She sang it a capella and it looked effortless – she is a real ham – but the bit must have taken hours of rehearsal. Liina’s skills as a performer are ablaze, and are contextualized by the (fictional?) premise that she wants to take over the world in her career as a pop and performance icon. Her collaborator, Abhinit Khanna, interrupted the show with a video call, and as Liina wedged the phone into a conveniently placed stand within range of a microphone, Abi spoke about the exhibition he was planning in his living room in New Delhi. The comedy was that he wouldn’t get off the phone, and Liina wouldn’t kick him off either. A shady parallel emerged: the exhibition was Abhi’s pretense to laying out his world domination scheme, which he did as one would plan a dinner party. The romance of the piece was not between them, nor was it romantic in the sexual sense of the word. The relationship was love-hate, and it was between Emerging Artists and Aspiration.

Sometimes the hardest thing to admit is desire. It’s easier to lament the ways you are bad at love, how you look for love in all the wrong places, or how nobody likes you. Romuald Krężel, however, is brave. He brought all ten of his plants to the stage, crediting each of them in the program, and began the piece by having a conversation with a flourishing Majesty Palm. Eyes full of feeling, he described how much he loves observing the plant, how he thinks the fronds resemble slim fingers, or like hair growing up. He asked the plant how many leaves it has and reported that the plant said it had 80. He warned it that it might feel uncomfortable with what was about to happen, and then brought out a larger pot, fresh soil, and drainage stones. As he dealt with transferring the living thing to fresh rich ground, he told a story that stars a dog we all wished was onstage – Redko. Redko, “like all Labradors, is enthusiastic and positive about any kind of human interaction.” Redko accompanied Romuald through the week in Warsaw it took the artist to come out to himself. Each day, he sat in the apartment and drank volumes of vodka. Each day, he cradled Redko’s loving head in his hands, weeping, and cried out “am I gay??” Redko’s invisibility is as alive as the Greek chorus of potted plants, in this tale of self-discovery.

Onur Ağbaba made a work featuring letters of love, rejection, and heartbreak. The texts are written by middle-schoolers, as is made clear by lines like, “I thought I loved you on Friday but today I realized that I don’t love you,” and “I would give you another chance but I don’t think I could ever love you so why try?” and “my favorite boyfriend is Phillip. My second favorite boyfriend was Mark, and my third favorite is Johannes.” Onur and his collaborator Lotta Beckers performed a flawless Britney choreography and hung out in matching hoodies, in poses that felt defiantly attractive. The set looked the way I wanted my bedroom to look when I was 13: there was a lava lamp. The show notes said the piece was about realizing they were queer. To me, it was less a description of a turning point and more of a habitation of a moment in time, when love letters were written on paper, and self-confidence was hard to come by, but queer alliances, although secret, were strong as wrought iron.

Eternal Betrayal, by Am Ertl, was about heartbreak, and the physicality of this event. Against resolution and moving on with your life, the feet of the piece were firmly planted in that moment. Feelings, feelings, feelings: escape is an illusion. Am and Renan Alves Manhães wore monochromatic red and lavender outfits. The piece had no set, and the curtains were drawn – it was empty, raw, and rough, like my heart when you left me. They fell into postures that depict emotions like shock, surprise, sadness, and desperation. Think: back of the hand to the forehead, arms reaching yet grasping nothing, crumbling onto bended knee as eyes plead to heaven, all this wrapped in smooth transitions and undergirded by a punchy rhythm that caught my breath. The dancer’s emotional facial expressions highlighted the dance without overshadowing it. Indeed, it would be difficult to overshadow such precise and engaging physicality. The investment in movement that draws the audience in was plain to see, and it was working. I wish I was more used to watching dance like this. There was no speaking, and although I thought the movement beckoned it, catharsis is hard to come by without words. I wonder if part of the heartbreak, the bitter betrayal, is in the dancer’s relationship to dance and its limitations. Or maybe dancing heartbreak is enough, and I am just being emotionally avoidant. Regardless, it seemed to me that love is required to expose dance, basically un-adorned, in the way they did.

After the show, during a legally-sized and masked gathering with champagne and cigarettes, someone said that this is how it always should be – this feels the same as a ‘real show.’ In my opinion, it couldn’t have felt more different. “Normally” there are less shits given. From the chocolates and their individual handwritten quotes strait out of Buzzfeed’s 25 best lines from romantic comedies, to all 12 audience members clapping long enough for each performer to bow twice, this theater experience warmed our hearts. It made me cherish the theater and our love/hate relationship. On some nights I feel rejected and abandoned, left to scream-cry “All By Myself” in my pajamas, glass of red wine in one hand and rolled up magazine in the other. On other nights I feel cradled in theater’s warm embrace; it’s safe, it’s hot, and I feel like I was born to be exactly here. We’ve been apart for a year. We don’t know whether things are going to work out. But when I sat, all dressed up, in that warm dark room and the lights came up, the theater looked at me seriously and said, “I wrote you 365 letters. I wrote you every day for a year” and I am sitting there, thinking to myself, “you wrote me??!?” and then the theater said, “it wasn’t over for me. It still isn’t over!”

VERY SPECIAL THANKS to the Studio Flaneuse and one and only audience member: Susanne Sachsse

DIRTY DEBÜT TEAM Björn Pätz, Joshua Wicke, Maxi Wallenhorst

JURY Anne Brammen, Björn Pätz, Tina Pfurr, Joshua Wicke, Maxi Wallenhorst

CONCEPT Björn Pätz and Sandra Umathum





WRITER Louise Trueheart

A production by Björn Pätz & Sandra Umathum in coproduction with Ballhaus Ost.

Funded by the Hauptstadtkulturfonds.

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