Being Simple and Faithful

German director, Andrea Erl has directed about 35 plays, most of them for children and youth. Since 1993 she worked in theatre Mummpitz as artistic director and she directed in different municipal theatres (such as Theatre Wiesbaden, Frankfurt, Neuss and Berlin) as a freelance director. In the nineties she started also to explore other theatre-cultures. So she went to Italy and France. In the year 2000 she directed in Russia in Nishnij Nowvgorod the play: “Gretchen, Paige 99 following” from Lutz Hübner. Since 2000 she has been the artistic director for the European children theatre-festival “Panoptikum” which takes place every two years in Nürnberg. Since 2002 she is in the board of the ASSITEJ and so she can connect her directing in an international context, also the political work for children-theatre in Germany and Europe. She recently came to Dhaka to direct a theatre workshop on 'Theatre for Children', which took place in November 2008, at the Goethe Institute. Rahad Abir interviews the director for The Star.

Why are you in theatre?

I like to tell stories. With theatre I can go through all human beings' emotion, I can show beautiful things of life that you can open your heart.

Who are your biggest influences?

One of the most important influences in my theatre-life is the theatre-philosophy from Peter Brook. And so the actor and the story is the main point of view from the play. And so each play needs its own way of telling, that is what I am looking for in the work.

How is a play formed in your mind before rehearsals start, and what kind of criteria become important when you select a play to stage?

One important point is who is telling the story, where it is being told and in which time we want to tell the story. These decisions influence the space, the music and the way of work.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in developing a play/project?

That is to find a good conception, good actors and a good team, because one of the wonderful things in our theatre-work is, that we can work in a team and every person gives the best in the play.

What do you value to most in an actor?

I like very much if the actors are “master of their trade”. It means they work with a good degree of professionalism. And they are thinking for the play not only for their own role.

How many plays have you directed? How many countries have you travelled with your plays?
Thirty plays. I have travelled to eight countries with my plays, seven countries in Europe and USA.

Who are your favourite playwrights?

So many, I can't mention.

What is the difference in theatre now and twenty years back?
Children's theatre.

What's the greatest threat to theatre today?

The theatre-makers do everything to make the public like the play and thus lose their own thinking about the theme. Or the other extreme thing is the theatre-makers forget the public and work only for themselves and not for the theme and the theatre.

Performance art has been gaining great importance all over the world. How can you relate theatre with performance art?

For me these are two different things and when each respects the quality of the other, they can add to both of them.

Who or what have you sacrificed for your art?

Nothing, I won a lot.

Do you suffer for your art?

Yes, when the doubt is getting too big, or when I think I have lost my relation to the story or the actors you can be very, very lonely in theatre.

What advice would you give a young director?
Look, every time what you want to tell a story and say it simply and faithfully.

What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Believe yourself, be simple and be faithful.

Could you please introduce us to Mummpitz theatre where you work?

Mummpitz theatre is a freelance theatre in Nürnberg, which has been working for 28 years for children and youth. Since 2001 we have our own theatre for 150 people, which is placed in a children's-cultural-centre.We are ten artists, who are working the whole time for the theatre Mummpitz and for every play we engage guests for example for the space, the music, for costumes or also as actors. Often we make our own dramatisation of our play. This means we look for a theme or a children's book and then we start to work with it. In most of our plays we use live music, because we think with music you find a good way of communication with the public. We play about 150 times in a year for children. We produce every year around three new productions for children. We have cooperation with the main theatre in Nürnberg.We get our money from the city, from the country, other sponsors and from selling tickets. We have a separate part in our work for the theatrepädagogics, which means work with children in different ways. Since 2001, we have organised every two years, the European children-theatre-festival “panoptikum”, which is very special and quite famous in the festival world.

What are the characteristics of being a successful director?

For me, to remain true to oneself.

Published in the Daily Star, 2008