From personal experience: how one becomes part of Germany's theater environment over a month's time
With the awarding of a Culture Bridges international mobility grant, Oksana Cherkashyna, an actor from Kharkiv's Wonderful Flowers Theatre and frequent participant in independent theatre, was immersed in the German theatre scene for an entire month. Her project calendar for the month was full: four arts festivals in Berlin, friendships with a renowned German actor and director and a week of working at the ArtiSchoken Nurnberg Theatre. Read on to learn about her impressions of the artistic environment she encountered, about German performance and how theatrical institutions work in Germany.
Destination — Germany

Speaking as an actor and director, German theatre resonates with me as I've been engaged in a critical political theatre these last five years.

Germany inspires me. In particular, how theatre there was transformed during the 20th century from an entertainment venue into a public, political institution. One significant influence on my choice of country for this grant was a desire to become acquainted with actor and director Martin Wuttke and watch his work. He has said that theatre should be an entity in society that matters and that has an impact on society.

I decided I definitely had to go into the German theatre environment and see material live that I had read about and seen on the internet.

I got to know Martin Wuttke, who was at the centre of the development of German political theater. He has worked as an actor with all the "big names", particularly, Frank Castorf, Christoph Schlingensief , René Pollesch and Heiner Müller.
The next day I was only just able to get into his show (it was completely sold out), I ran into him at a tavern after the performance! We became acquainted and talked almost every day for the entire week, discussing theatre and art. Simple, stupid luck!
Oksana Cherkashyna
Cultural programme
My project had two stages: first, Berlin, where I was completely immersed in the city's theatrical process. I was both spectator and participant of the five festivals taking place in the city at that time. These were the Performing Arts Festival Berlin 2018; BE.BOP 2018 (Black European Body Policy); Radar Ost 2018; Autoren Theatre Tage; and the Berlin Biennale 2018. My trip was centred on the PAF 2018 where I would attend a string of meetings, lectures, performances and networking opportunities. The other festivals also had a strong selection of artistic and educational programmes that significantly extended the scope of my perception of contemporary art. Overall, I visited over a dozen lectures, watched 35 performances and other events, met actors and directors and attended concerts and get-togethers. I visited Berlin's most interesting and influential theatres – the Gorki, the Berliner Ensemble, the Schaubuhne, Volksbuhne, Deutches Theater and Dorky Park.
During the second stage of my mobility project I was in Nuremberg. I spent the entire week working and communicating with the ArtiSchocken Nurnberg theatre group that invited me. I held four master classes with both professional and amateur actors, had meetings and interviews to initiate work on an upcoming project, and explored Nuremberg's sociological and archival resources.
Berlin theater in the context of modernity
Theatres in Berlin work in a very modern fashion. As an example, a production of Richard III directed by Thomas Ostermeier is produced as a Shakespearean text, but one that is closely tied to contemporary life. As for form — this is an utterly different theatre (than what we know).

Of about 35 appearances that I saw, each one was committed to "talking to me about the present" – the world we live in and the thought that this was indeed the kind of world around us. There wasn't anything that was simply about love or war or some other universal concept. Theatre there, it seems, is part of political life.
In Ukraine, there's the prevailing sentiment for the 19th century in theatre where you can have a play that is just about love. But in Berlin theatre, a simple romantic story is taking place in the context where the government is pressing to control who can love or live with whom. It's just a love story, but it's also a vital political statement. German directors routinely look at contemporary life with a critical eye. I think that may be why Berlin theatres are always packed.
Oksana Cherkashyna
2019 — Further opportunities for cooperation
I managed to establish an interesting exchange with the ArtiSchocken Nurnberg team. First, it was during my scheduled activities (meetings, master classes, actor and resident interviews), we developed a common vision to create a joint statement about the lost, forgotten and acquired identity of Germans of Ukrainian descent, and about the feeling of home and one's roots under the working title "Forgotten Lullaby". Given the current immigration crisis in Germany, this project should prove interesting to both Germans and Ukrainians.

Our plans are to implement this project in 2019.

We also discussed and wrote out the rough concept of a German-Ukrainian educational program for undergraduates from both countries. Our plan envisions a summer theatre residency as a space for learning, co-creation and dialogue. Martin Wuttke has shown interest in holding meetings and master classes for Ukrainian actors. Our plans for this are also looking at 2019.
Recommendations for Culture Bridges future applicants
Schedule your trip carefully. When you get into the project itself you'll have no time for organizational issues.
Identify and write down what you would like to do and see and set a specific goal asking exactly what you hope to get from your trip.
Learn English. Without it a trip like mine would have been extremely difficult without the language ability.
Travel more. This is very important for Ukrainian artists. We live in a vacuum, especially those working in theatre. There are lots of opportunities available now for those involved in theatre.
Photo Credits: Oksana Cherkashyna, BE.BOP, ArtiSchocken Nurnberg
The project is funded by the European Union