WUK - PERFORMING ARTS BROSCHÜRE  

8 DECEMBER 2019 - MARCH 2020

Text by Anna Mendelssohn

THOUGHTS and FEELINGS 

Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings – always darker, emptier and simpler. 

Nietzsche said that, I am not sure where. I found this quote in a file on my computer titled „work thoughts“. 

Underneath I wrote: And what is the difference between thoughts and feelings? Language I would argue. 

These are “work thoughts” because as an actress I am in the business of language. I try to understand how the translation between thoughts and feelings work.

A word can mean anything. In order to find feelings in words I fill them with thoughts. 

I try to understand something. I try to find an angle. I look for analogies, similarities and differences. 

Sometimes I don’t understand. Only recently I felt very frustrated in rehearsals. I couldn’t find a character. Nothing was working, the director was unhappy, I was miserable. I had nightmares of being unprepared, not knowing my text, losing my costume.

So I went home and I worked on the character again and I found something. The next day in rehearsals I said to my colleague – “I have thought about this character.” 

And my colleague said “Oh dear. Thinking. Oh dear, you were thinking. That’s not good.”

So instead of thinking, I should have been – what? - feeling? 

But how do I feel without thinking? Without thinking, can I know what I feel? 

I greatly admire this colleague, he is a funny, refined actor. He is in possession of a technique, I believe, that obviously avoids the detour of thoughts.

He does not deal in thoughts, which are mere shadows. 

So what guides him to the feelings? 

Characters can be found in the back of a hand he tells me. 

Hannibal Lecter has a very sweet voice. It is so sweet, this voice. 

When Anthony Hopkins chose that voice he was thinking: “This voice will scare people, because it scares me.”

Actors have sweet voices, fake moustaches, limps, high heels and the backs of their hands.

Performers have authentic bodies and authentic voices and authentic thoughts. Performers like thinking. They like bodies. They like feelings but not too much.

They like fake moustaches but they think fake moustaches should stay fake and should not produce real feelings. 

I often think about similarities and differences. 

Gregory Bateson was interested in the difference that makes a difference. Because, he said, we can only understand something by its relationship to something else. 

When I first started working with Yosi and toxic dreams in 2004 we were doing performance. I had not learned much in acting school. I was a bad actress. But my bad acting made me into a good performer, because the fake moustaches stayed fake on me. Deconstruction came very natural to me. And I was allowed to think. 

Yosi was thinking too, he always is, and back then he was thinking about political theatre. He gave me some very complicated texts. Texts that were meant to be read, not spoken. Texts that were busy with different kinds of discourses, discourses about identity and politics.

These texts did not like being filled with feelings but they needed to be filled with something. I filled them with thoughts. I did my best. The audience complained anyway. The texts were too complicated. An actor colleague said to me - you always play these roles, in which you lecture the audience, I would like to see you vulnerable on stage once.

And so I started complaining too. I told Yosi - I don’t want to speak into a microphone anymore. I am tired of looking at the audience. Can I speak with another actor? Can I feel something, please?

And then I asked Yosi to help me make a monologue. 

It became a monologue of talking heads. A monologue about discourse and language, the politics of emotion, and how language can be employed as a mode of transportation for feelings. I have stayed busy with these thoughts ever since.

But the monologue also deepened my fear. I told Yosi that people were growing very tired of watching me talk on stage. That I needed to find something else to do than talk, like being emotional, poetic, more in my body and less in my head.

Anna Nowak, recently asked me to dance with her. She said she wanted to work with me because I can talk, but she wanted me to dance too. So now I find myself in a rehearsal room, improvising. Which is strange, because I have not improvised for a long time. And in the beginning it was so much fun and everything we did was moving and poetic. But after a while it became very tedious and I became impatient with this slow process of working through improvisation.

It is a frustrating process, the body, only just thriving with emotion, now needs thought and analysis. In order to repeat a movement, I must understand what made it work. What was the difference that made a difference? Where was the feeling, maybe in the back of the hand? 

Sarah Kaufmann, the head of the advertising agency I play in toxic dreams’ “The Bruno Kreisky Lookalike”, has a wicked laugh and she thinks faster than everyone else. Sometimes she feels very lonely.

If I were to open a new file on my computer titled “work feelings” what would I fill it with? No words, but colours, sounds, video links to Hannibal Lecter? 

Gregory Bateson also says: ”Sometimes I catch myself thinking, that there is

something that is different from something else. But really, it’s all one.”