Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Zeche Zollverein

Zeche Zollverein Schacht XII. Photo:

This post was originally written in Portuguese.

Designed by the architects Fritz Schupp and Martin Kremmer in Bauhaus style, the Zollverein industrial complex (Zeche Zollverein) is a symbol that represents the rise and fall of all an industry that dominated and formed the Ruhr area. When it was built, it was considered a marvel of efficiency. It was the last mine to be closed down in the city of Essen in 1986. The colliery (used to transform coal into coke: an essential fuel for the steel industry) was the largest and most modern plant in Europe when it was built in 1961. It was also closed down in 1993.

Today Zollverein is a symbol of rebirth. The industrial complex, that since 2001 is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, searches for innovative solutions to give a new impulse to the economy of an area that still retains one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe. 110 million euros were invested from 2002 e 2007 by the European Union, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the city of Essen to transform Zollverein into a centre of excellency focusing on the development of creative industry. Today, the complex is home to several cultural institutions, like the Red Dot Museum, and the famous Zollverein School of Management and Design.

Zollverein collery, closed in 1993. Now it is used as a space for shows and theatrical performances. Photo:

The Zollverein industrial complex is huge (look at this satellite image). There are dozens of buildings connected by tubes, tunnels, bridges and cables. You can walk or move from one area to another on rails by hanging bridges that spread for hundreds of metres, connecting one sector to the other. There is still a lot of space that can be used. In 2007 Zollverein will have a new museum: Ruhr Museum and in 2010, when the Ruhrgebiet becomes Europe’s Capital of Culture, you can visit the Invisible City (Die Zweite Stadt), an underground museum 1000 metres bellow Zollverein Shaft XII.

I have been in Zollverein several times from June 5 to 9, this year, participating in the Play-off/06 international theatre festival. The festival’s welcome party was held in one of the Zollverein buildings, as well as several theatre performances (including ours) and workshops.

See more images of Zeche Zollverein.
1) Zollverein Shaft XII2) Inside Zollverein3) Inside Zollverein

Credits: 1, 2 e 3: Helder da Rocha. 4, 5 e 6: Uli Benke (Flickr).7: Gloria (Flickr). 8 e 9: Oliver Regelmann (Flickr)

The Ruhrgebiet

Ruhr Map by Daniel Ullrich (see URL below)
Ruhr Map by Daniel Ullrich

This post was originally written in Portuguese.

The Ruhrgebiet, or Ruhr Area, with its 5,3 million inhabitants, is Germany's largest metropolitan area and fourth largest in Europe (after Moscow, London and Paris). It is located around the rivers Ruhr, Emscher and Lippe, tributaries of the Rhine, in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, western Germany, near Belgium and the Netherlands. The Ruhrgebiet consists of 11 cities, four districts and no central authority. It's an unusual decentralized metropolis where 2,1 million inhabitants live in the four largest cities: Dortmund, Essen, Duisburg and Bochum and the rest are scattered in the cities of Gelsenkirchen, Oberhausen, Herne, Mühlheim, Bottrop, Hagen and Hamm, or in its four districts. 12% of the population consists of immigrants from Turkey or other parts of Europe. The Ruhrgebiet is the industrial heart of Germany, the country's most important technological and cultural centre and Europes largest industrial and mining region.

Inner Harbour, in Duisburg
Inner Harbour, em Duisburg
Its normal for someone to live in Gelsenkirchen, study in Essen, work in Bochum, go to the theatre in Oberhausen and see a concert in Dortmund. The cities are so close to each other and so well integrated by public transportation that they seem as if they were one.

There was a time when the most important Ruhrgebiet town was invisible and could only be seen 1000 metres below the ground. Most of the history of the Ruhr is connected to the production of coal and steel. The crisis in the mining sector since the 1960s has closed most of the mining companies and brought along very high unemployment rates to the area. Its high concentration of steel and arms industries also made it a main target in World War II and the Ruhr cities were heavily bombed by allied forces. But despite all this the Ruhr managed to survive and remains one of the main economic centres of Europe.

Tetrahedron in Ruhrgebiet
Tetrahedron, in Bottrop
Formerly known for its environmental pollution, the Ruhr area is today a model in terms of environmental and social recovery. Several cities and towns have invested in new non-polluting power generation alternatives (like solar energy), and in projects that reuse urban space. The buildings of several former plants and mining companies have become cultural institutions, restaurants, clubs and other public spaces. The Ruhrgebiet has over 200 museums, more than 100 cultural centres, 220 theatres and concert halls, and 19 universities and colleges.

A result of this new cultural identity is its recent title of European Capital of Culture. Essen, as a representative for all cities of the Ruhr area, was selected by the Committee for Culture of the European Union, to receive this title in 2010. The title of European Capital of Culture is attributed every year to a European city since 1985. Since 2005 the rules have changed and now three capitals are selected each year: one from a founding member country, one from a new member and one from a non-EU country. In 2010, the European Capitals of Culture are the Ruhrgebiet, Pécs (Hungary), and Istanbul (Turkey).

I was in the Ruhrgebiet from June 5 to 18 participating in the Play-off/06 international theatre festival that was held in four cities of the Rurh area: Essen, Dortmund, Gelsenkirchen and Herne.

See other Rurhgebiet images:
GelsenkirchenZollverein Shaft XIIBottrop Tetrahedron

Consol Theater

Consol Theater, seen from the camp

This post was originally written in Portuguese.

In 1863, seven coal industries combined their mines under one firm named Consolidation, popularly known as Consol. Between 1872 e 1876, Consolidation was the largest mining company of the Ruhr area. 15 thousand tonnes of coal were lifted daily up the Consolidation 3 tower. It stopped operating in 1993.

Since September 2001, the areas 3, 4 and 9 of the former Consolidation mining company, located in Gelsenkirchen-Bismarck, are used by the Consol Theater. The main theatre is located in the ventilation building.

From June 5 to 18, this year, I lived in a tented village set up beside Consol Theater, together with other participants from 15 countries which took part in the Play-off/06 international theatre festival.

See other images of Bergwerk* Consolidation and Consol Theater.
Bergwerk Consolidation (Consolidation coal mine)Camp and Consol TheaterBergwerk Consolidation from Google Earth

*Bergwerk means coal mine in German. The mining companies were also called Zeche.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Back from Europe, back to reality

People from 15 countries were one world in this timeless village, which now only exists in our memories.

I have just returned from Germany and still trying to adapt to reality and the long nights of São Paulo. I'm preparing a big post about the trip, the Play-off theatre festival, our performances in Herne and Essen, the other plays, the people, the places and much more. See my Flickr and Fotolog where I have published some photos.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Acting in Germany

Scene from the beginning of the play (captured from DVD recorded by Carlos Ebert). I am the blind man playing the acordeon.

This is a version of a post originally written in Portuguese.

Next Monday (June 5th) I will be in Germany, travelling with my theatre group to participate in an international theatre festival: Play-off’06, which will last from June 5th to June 17th in four cities in the Ruhr area, or Ruhrgebiet (state of Nordrhine-Wesfalen). Our play: Dress your body in thorns, was selected to represent Brazil. There will be at least two performances. One on June 7th, in Essen, and the other on June 13th in Herne (details below).

The text was written as part of collaborative process. We sought inspiration in surrealism, modern existentialist issues and in many ideas of the French writer and actor Antonin Artaud. I can say it’s an impressionist play. It’s not a conventional play with beginning, middle and end. It doesn’t have a conventional aristotelic structure (it’s not a tragedy, nor a comedy.) It’s more like a poem or a surrealistic painting. It consists of several scenes that have a common theme which is the search for consciousness, existence or reality. Time does not exist and space is an illusion of the mind. The beginning is as indefinite as the end. It can be interpreted as a dream happening in the mind of the tormented woman that appears out of nowhere at the beginning of the play. And since it is a dream, all that is seen may be illusions and the impressions may not be real, but what one feels is real.

Scene from the play (DVD by Carlos Ebert). Me (behind) e Ricardo Socalschi.

As most of the group, I do not only act in the play. I wrote one of the scenes, I created several objects used in the play (a fetus, light canes, artificial eyes), I act as one of the blind men and play the soundtrack on the piano when I’m not acting. I also translated the text to English (since in Germany the play will be performed in English with parts in Portuguese and German).

So for the next two weeks I will be in Germany. I’ll be away from this computer (which I usually take everywhere) but I will update my blogs whenever I have a chance with news and pictures. I’m anxious to meet actors from all over the world in this festival, and also to get to know western Germany (I’ve never been to any part of Germany). I expect to visit Köln and its famous gothic cathedral. I’m taking some theatre books to read on the plane and Walter Kauffman’s translation of Goethe’s Faust (I still can’t read in German) which is a good book to take on a trip to Germany, even if I don't have time to read it. On Monday we should arrive in Dusseldorf (where there is a vampire, but luckily we will arrive during the day), and from there we should go to Gelsenkirchen, where we will camp together with people from other 15 countries.

My next post will be from Europe. If you read Portuguese, check also my other blog. If you are nearby, here are the details if you wish to see our performance:

Dress your body in thorns
by Núcleo Experimental dos Satyros, São Paulo, Brazil. Collaborative text. Directed by Alberto Guzik.
Herne: Tuesday 13.06. – 10.00 a.m. Herne / Flottmann-Hallen
Essen: Wednesday 07.06. – 10.00 a.m. Essen / Studio-Bühne – Zollverein XII – Halle 12
Duration: 40 minutes.
Actors: Fabiana Souza, Ana Lúcia Felipe, Ana Pereira dos Santos, Andressa Cabral, Helder da Rocha, Luis Paulo Maeda, Maria Campanelli Haas, Peterson Ramos, Ricardo Socalschi, Teka Romualdo, Wanderley Firmino.
See more about the festival at the Playoff'06 website.