“There aren’t many communities like the entertainment industry, where individuals from multiple backgrounds, languages, and nationalities come together to collaborate intensely in order to deliver a product. Add to this the different mentality and beliefs of each person. And an intimacy backstage which far surpasses any work environment you will find, let’s say, in an office building. Plus, the fact that there is often little to no privacy before and after work, when housing is being organized for us by our company. People from all walks of life are being thrown together without much opportunity to get out of each other’s way…….”
In 2013, I was able to spend a couple months at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada. I’ll never forget my time there. On my daily walk up the mountain from home to the theatre, the cold, fresh air did not only clear my lungs but also my mind. Each time I stepped outside through stage door, I would bump into deer, casually sifting through the underbrush surrounding the centre. Who knows, maybe this was just the deers’ way of sneaking in to graze on a bit of culture without paying for a ticket?
Stepping back into the building, I had the privilege to observe a myriad of cultural events backstage. Entertainment professionals generously shared their experiences with me. I learned heaps about theatre management and marvelled at the strong sense of collaboration I found at the Banff Centre. Some day, I need to return there. They offer residencies for writers and I imagine finishing one of my future creations surrounded by brisk mountain air, in one of my favourite places on Earth.
For four years, I entered this concrete fortress almost every day. What looks like an oppressive Orwellian government building is in fact the Dragone theater in Macau. A visionary creative endeavor was realized here: The House of Dancing Water. It truly is a show like no other. A fairy tale that rises from below the surface. Magic for ninety minutes. Until the princess and her lover disappear into the stygian depths, leaving the audience with a whiff of chlorine and a brief hope for a better tomorrow.
I experienced the creation of this masterpiece in 2010 and left after three years of operation in 2013. The larger-than-life show is still running strong. For me, this building holds a myriad of memories… good and bad. I believe this is where I so far experienced the steepest learning curve. I loved diving through the aquatic depths, loved working with an amazing, international team backstage. Five million gallons of water are hidden behind these walls. Whilst the audience revels in the mysteriousness of the theatrical spectacle unfolding before them, this body of water also holds surprises, drama, friendship, heart, passion, dreams, disappointment, and corporate politics. Whenever a large group of individuals unites forces to work towards a common goal, there is plenty of ambivalence. Nothing is ever perfect. Yet, looking back, I don’t regret a single minute.
My latest contribution on TheatreArtLife. Remembering when I immersed myself in a Hong Kong Chinese theatre production. I worked backstage, with barely a clue what was going on. It was an unforgettable experience. Because, as I mention in the short story as well, there is nothing more valuable than opening your mind, letting go of everything you think you know, and thoroughly exposing yourself to living and working in a foreign culture.
My first gala premiere in Zurich’s Cinema Corso was in 1993. After a while of working as an usher, I became the designated follow-spot operator for these events, wielding an ancient, uncooperative, and incredibly heavy follow-spot. Ever since then theatre has a special place in my heart.
So, I am truly happy to be a tiny part of TheatreArtLife, an exciting new platform for theatre professionals and anyone interested in the performing arts. A global arena to share stories, ideas, technologies, and work methods. World premiere is imminent: on April 28th, 2017
From then on, stop by any time, on https://theatreartlife.com
In the article section, a select group of writers will share their ideas, memories, and opinions.
I’ll contribute articles regularly, based on my experiences backstage. They’ll be short stories about unforgettable moments and epiphanies during my work in theatre in Zurich, Macau, and Hong Kong. Stories about life lessons learned, and those moments when, by reaching beyond our limits, we become better human beings.