To end our anniversary year, we met once more for an interview with Anke Politz, Managing Director of CHAMÄLEON Productions and Artistic Director of the CHAMÄLEON Theater. Here you will find the abbreviated form of a conversation about special moments, the strength of contemporary circus and the carrying of stage sofas.
CHAMÄLEON Theater (CT): It feels as if a lot has happened at the CHAMÄLEON in 2019, especially. What are some highlights that will stay with you?
Anke Politz (AP): When I look at the theater, of course the anniversary stands out. Celebrating 15 years of CHAMÄLEON theater was a very special gift. Doing something for so long, you often run the risk of losing your distance and top view. The anniversary gave us the opportunity to pause for a moment and remember how far we have come - despite the many challenges that we face as a private theater. And that we were able to celebrate this anniversary with so much cheering, appreciation and love was an encouraging confirmation of the work we do.
When it comes to CHAMÄLEON Productions, 2019 was a lot about RAVEN. To produce this show together with the collective still hungry and to bring it under our flag to such important tour stations as the Ruhrfestspiele, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Berlin Circus Festival was just great and a nice, exciting enrichment of our work. The team recently celebrated the Austrian premiere of RAVEN at the festival winterfest in Salzburg - what a great honor to be able to stand on such renowned stages.
Furthermore, the founding of the CCCI was a great highlight for me. The initiative is an international collaborative effort by Assembly Festival, TOHU and us, with the aim of jointly commissioning and presenting innovative contemporary circus productions. It is the first network of its kind in New Circus and I am very excited about the upcoming projects.
An unforgettable birthday present: MEMORIES OF FOOLS by Cirk La Putyka performed in the CHAMÄLEON from February to August.
CT: Can you think of a special personal moment?
AP: I was richly rewarded this year, because the special moments were actually numerous. There were many very personal, emotional moments; the birthday edition of our open-stage series OFF NIGHT, for example, where many companions have performed who have lived and shaped the CHAMÄLEON for over 15 years. It is simply wonderful to be surrounded by people who pour their love and enthusiasm into their work every day, always aiming to discover new things. I also want to stress that what the entire CHAMÄLEON team has achieved this year is enormous. The density of events, special publications and new projects left us little room to breathe this year and I take my hat off to all our employees. The CHAMÄLEON is a collective dream of many that can only be lived thanks to the great dedication and support of many wonderful people.
Furthermore, RAVEN is an enormous inspiration for me. Working with artists who courageously, openly and constructively plunge into such an important topic and want to walk on this path together, that's just great. There was a lot I had to learn. Especially the time in Edinburgh was inspiring and an enriching experience. Moments like carrying the sofa of the show set with the team 50 times from the taxi to the theater to the promo venue and back, only to fall into each other’s arms in the end, happy and laughing. It is often said that if you do something for a very long time, the butterflies fade away at some point. Fortunately, not with us. This year we found many new beginnings through past adventures.
CT: What does the CHAMÄLEON mean to you?
AP: The CHAMÄLEON has been my professional home for 15 years and I associate a story with almost everything. At the same time, it is a place that is unpredictable for me. On the one hand, it is this cuddly bubble that feels warm and welcoming, that unites people from all over the world with different origins and becomes their home. On the other hand, it is a demanding and sometimes moody child who has an inexhaustible level of energy, curiosity and courage. Everything can be thought, and a lot has to be tried and the question "Why?" is always asked. I have a hard time dealing with routines and always need something emotional that thrills me and inspires my creativity. In this respect, we go very well together, because it is part of the venue’s identity that everything can be approached in different ways again and again.
CT: What opportunities do you see due to this dynamic?
AP: In my view, the current version of our world and society is often not a positive reflection of the skills and knowledge to which we have access. Unfortunately, in many places the clocks seem to turn backwards and hatred, violence and ignorance create an environment that is deprived of any enrichment by something different, colourful or unknown. As the operator of a public stage that is committed to contemporary circus - an art form that carries an intercultural, interdisciplinary self-image based on equality - our name is our motto and a socio-political commitment. We try to stay true to our values in all areas and show productions on our stage that corresponds to our understanding of an open, tolerant and equal society. The great challenge is not to simply keep the audience within their comfort zone, but to respectfully invite them to go beyond. We aim to enter into a dialogue that positively changes our feelings of what we perceive as foreign and new and that expands our horizons. We can only meet the challenges of our times if we are united and it takes clever forms of entertainment that appeal to large parts of society and reach those who move outside the classic art and theater formats. Here I clearly see the strength and uniqueness of contemporary circus and our role as theater makers, namely to act as mediators and dialogue partners.
A long-awaited collaboration: Out Of Chaos by Gravity & Other Myths and directed by Darcy Grant.
CT: Has the situation for contemporary circus in Germany changed in 2019?
AP: I think the situation is changing rapidly and the circus scene is moving in a great direction. New shows and a more open presenter market create artistic diversity. The Federal Association for Contemporary Circus is active and effective on many levels and more and more agents of other fields as well as of cultural policy support and promote this art form. I do not think that we have to have a discussion about whether we are part of the performing arts or not as frequently anymore. Especially in our work with the Federal Association, we deal with the same questions that also concern all other arts: where do we find spaces, funding structures and what are relevant themes to explore?
CT: An important topic at CHAMÄLEON Productions: The first residency program for contemporary circus in Berlin. Will it continue?
AP: I don't know yet whether we can offer a comprehensive residency program again, because that depends on the decision of the Berlin cultural administration or rather the jury. Our funding application has been submitted, fingers are crossed, and we very much hope for a positive result.
CT: What are your hopes for in the future?
AP: For the future, I hope that our theater, in its unique approach to programming and complex way of working, will be perceived as an indispensable venue in the cultural landscape of Berlin and that this will be expressed in public funding. The separation between high culture and popular culture is neither up to date, nor is it a comprehensible criterion running through the funding policy of the Berlin cultural administration.
In addition to our work in terms of programming and strong artistic vision, the CHAMÄLEON as an employer of more than 70 people and as a stage with nearly 70.000 guests a year is absolutely relevant for a city that is committed to the density and variety of art and culture on offer.
Internally, I hope that we keep questioning ourselves and the things we do wisely and that we will continue to think outside the box to find our answers. I wish to support and promote contemporary circus even more and to explore new themes and topics. RAVEN and its exploration of modern motherhood was a first step. For us at the CHAMÄLEON, each of our steps should be relevant and something we can be proud of.
Anke Politz likes to question things. Photo: Kooné.