Menschenbilder 2·0: In this production, three generations of Navigators set out in search of traces through the ensemble’s twenty-year history.
“The widened gaze…The onion, skinned, exposes a shaken core…But that’s what they want: to be caught in their deeply private communications…None of this happens by accident. It serves to widen one’s gaze in the mirror and at the outside world. Not the worst condition for continuing to make such extraordinary musical theater.”
The future of yesterday
Menschenbilder 2 · 0
In 1998 Nico and the Navigators began their career as artists in residence in the Sophiensælen. In the anniversary year, three generations of Navigators now look back on two decades: life stages and intermediate goals show how each individual found his way through the world and into the ensemble. The company proves to be a melting pot of cultural experiences marked by historical shocks and private impacts.
With abysmal humour, a mercilessly honest and empathically sworn group of artists presents itself, dealing with the dreams and fears of the past, the reality of today and the perspectives of tomorrow. As historians and counterfeiters, the Navigators ask themselves crucial questions: What must finally be put on the table – or finally be swept under the table? How do you make a scene to remembrance? And at what point in the present does the future begin?
With their debut production Ich war auch einmal in Amerika, Nico and the Navigators made their debut in the Sophiensæle in October 1998. This was followed by seven formative years during which the troupe formed their first productions into the triptych Menschenbilder. The theatre producer and artistic director Amelie Deuflhard wrote in 2012 on the occasion of the company’s 15th anniversary: “Nico and the Navigators and the Sophiensæle are a dream team, connected by the vision of going into the open, true to the motto: Vote for the horizon”. Nicola Hümpel, Oliver Proske and their ensemble have been following this course ever since, navigating from the past into the future with their return to the Sophiensæle.
“…in its own characteristic handwriting of improvisation, eloquent body language, strong images … a multi-faceted, also self-ironic examination of its own artistic history and at the same time one about time … The long-lasting applause is interspersed with many bravos. The entry into at least the next 20 years could not be more successful.”
In 2018, the artist collective Nico and the Navigators celebrates its 20th anniversary. That's a proud anniversary for a free group that has to get by without regular handsome subsidies. The fact that it doesn't let this get it down is largely thanks to the willpower of the founding couple Nicola Hümpel and Oliver Proske, who created the oddly named formation in Dessau in 1998: Nico stands for Nicola, and the Navigators are the crew with which they sail through their theatrical landscape. In the same year they settled in Berlin, more precisely in the Sophiensälen, where they developed their first pieces as artists in residence - at a time of awakening associated with such creative minds as Amelie Deuflhart, Jochen Sandig and Sasha Waltz. Further stations were the Radialsystem, the German and the Stuttgart Opera and many venues across Europe. For their birthday, they have returned to their origins in the Sophiensäle, where there will be a big celebration: with the brand-new piece Die Zukunft von gestern, including an exhibition and a lavish supporting program. In The Future of Yesterday, the Navigators look back at the group's beginnings from today's perspective. Oliver Proske's simple but effective set consists of a walk-through structure and, in front of it, four sliding walls onto which videos are projected, according to the mood of the moment. Reminiscences of earlier plays are incorporated: frequently used props such as tables and suitcases, even the mouth guard from Cain, if & but. The piece is above all a story of the performers. Together with some of the first performers, Nicola Hümpel has developed a scenic kaleidoscope in her own characteristic style of improvisation, eloquent body language, strong images and references to everyday absurdities, in which they themselves take center stage. In small solos and duos their individuality behind the profession becomes visible: Ted Schmitz talks about his roots, Annedore Kleist, Anna-Luise Recke and Michael Shapira reveal very personal things. Yui Kawaguchi talks about her classical ballet training in Japan and her way to Berlin, where she developed into a strong expressive dancer. Like Anna-Luise Recke, she contributes her expressive dance skills. In between, Martin Clausen is the emcee. He recalls the process of creating earlier pieces and the search for the right expression. This is very funny, as is Patric Schott's addition: Until now, he was only allowed to say eight complete sentences with the Navigators, otherwise he had to be mute or shout. In The Future of Yesterday he proves that he can speak wonderfully, just like everyone else. And even Philipp Kullen, drummer of the four-piece band, has his say, because the music, this time a mix of classical, jazz, pop and electronic, is an indispensable component in the overall work of the Navigators. Yesterday's Future is a multifaceted, also self-deprecating examination of their own artistic history and at the same time one about time. Similar to what Cindy Lauper sings about in her hit Time after time, which the entire ensemble intones in the finale. The long-lasting applause is interspersed with many bravos. The entry into at least the next 20 years cannot be more successful.
“Courage for the I … Some of the images are almost painfully intense, often tragic and comic at the same time … Without fear of big feelings, with a little irony. Even if youth jargon is frowned upon – here one should be allowed to use it: Awesome theater!”
Berlin - Yes, Oliver Proske is pretty excited. The stage designer admits this without being asked. He has just wished the troupe the obligatory toi, toi, toi. And Nicola Hümpel, the eloquent boss, can't manage much more than a "hello. It's Tuesday evening, a quarter to eight. The premiere of their play "The Future of Yesterday" is about to begin in the ballroom of the venerably patinated Sophien-Säle in Berlin-Mitte. With it, Nico and the Navigators are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their founding - in the very place where their rise began in 1999. "You can make it easier for yourself," says Proske: "A revival for the festival and that's it. But simple just doesn't suit us." Anything is possible True. And the impossible was always just the right thing to do. When Nicola Hümpel (Nico) and Oliver Proske created and presented their idiosyncratic theater at the Bauhaus in Dessau, many waved it off: That's great thinking, but it won't work. Never! Nico, whose creative stubbornness and theatrical imagination can move mountains, and her man for the ingenious technical solutions simply ignored this. Or said to themselves: Now straight! Sentences come to mind here that could be borrowed from the small catechism of the social market economy: They never gave up on themselves. And always believed in themselves. They worked hard and spared neither their international company nor themselves. And their success proves them right. Nico and the Navigators have been in demand worldwide for years. More than 200 guest performances in half a hundred cities are on the books. This success is based on irrepressible will and artistic originality. The productions combine dance, spoken theater, pantomime and music into a lively, rhythmic whole - with the courage to be oneself in each of the actors. And always pushing the envelope. Tragedy and comedy This was also the case in the most recent premiere. In 90 minutes, the Navigators tell of their origins, of childhood, family and career paths. Some of the images are almost painfully intense, often tragic and comic at the same time. Solos and scenes for two or more players follow in composed alternation. "Time after Time," the goosebump howler by Cyndi Lauper, comes almost at the end. Without fear of big feelings, with a little irony. Even if youth jargon is frowned upon - here it should be allowed for once: Horny theater!
“That is what is really enchanting about this production, that it revels in memories and at the same time makes remembering itself its theme. The relationship to the past, to one’s own family history and to one’s artistic career … It is a quiet, tender anniversary evening, thoughtful and open …”
For two decades the members of "Nico and the Navigators" have performed, toured and won awards. In the anniversary show, the performers review their impressions in a very personal way. For critic André Mumot a great evening. They deserve to celebrate themselves: for twenty years now, Nico and the Navigators have been making theater, intertwining performances with dance and musical theater, winning prizes, touring the world. So now it's time for a retrospective, for the big anniversary event, which will premiere where the ensemble achieved its first great successes as artists in residence in 1999, in Berlin's Sophiensälen. Melancholy discourse on one's own origins In "The Future of Yesterday," director Nicola Hümpel gathers seven fellow performers in front of a stage set by Oliver Proske to begin an intimate as well as melancholy discourse on their own origins, both familial and artistic. That is what is really enchanting about this production, that it revels in memories and at the same time makes remembering itself its theme. The relationship to the past, to one's own family history and to one's artistic career. These reflections are not only addressed in detail, they are translated by the dancers Yui Kawaguchi and Anna Luise Recke into ravishing movements, into a catalog of their different forms of expression, their roles and choreographies, which they let briefly flare up in a commentary and self-ironic manner. A revue of the "Revue-passieren". In a ravishing number, founding member Patric Schott reviews all the phrases he was allowed to utter in 19 productions, and Martin Clausen explains, quite casually, what they would never have tolerated in a "Nico" performance in the past: a song like "Time after Time" by Cindy Lauper, for example, which Anna-Luise Recke turns into a danced, tragicomic love duet together with Israeli dancer Michael Shapira. This evening is about more than just the personal. It's about migrations in family history, about European Jews who emigrated to Israel, about Nazi and postwar pasts in German families, about the American melting pot, which singer Ted Schmitz recounts by listing the interconnections of his own family lineage. A weightless anniversary evening
“A moment of happiness arises from a defeat … pictorial, dadaistic, dreamy … The play with sense and nonsense distinguishes the multiple award-winning troupe.”
Something that was heroic just a moment ago tips over into pusillanimity. A moment of happiness arises from defeat. What Nico and the Navigators develop in long improvisation processes seems anecdotal, pictorial, dadaistic, dreamlike. Together with Oliver Proske, Nicola Hümpel founded Nico and the Navigators in 1998. "We like to put our finger in the wounds of time. We are interested in the germ of violence, love, hate. However, it is not their large explanatory component that is of interest, but rather where it begins in the very small. Thus it can become superordinately political or grasp something universally thematic." Navigating through the "general everyday schizophrenia" That's how Nicola Hümpel, artistic director, describes the tools her performers, singers and dancers use to navigate through, she says, "general everyday schizophrenia" - as fragile as they are truthful revenants of their audience. Like the woman with the handbag in the anniversary production "Yesterday's Future": by means of her handbag, she says, the woman becomes aware of her childhood. "We learn a very touching story of how she was in the hospital at a very young age, worried that her mother would leave her. That handbag was always the holding element in her life. Fears, alibis and aberrations take center stage Playing with sense and nonsense is what distinguishes this multi-award winning troupe. Fears, alibis and aberrations run through the more than 20 productions that have been created since 1998. For a long time now, Nico and her changing navigators have also been making great musical theater, for example at the Deutsche Oper and the Konzerthaus am Gendarmenmarkt. Now they are returning to their origins. "In this current production, we are dealing both with our own biographies and with the accumulation of biographies that underlie our own - that is, our ancestors and forebears. And how all these experiences, fate, coincidences layer on top of each other and all the baggage we take with us," explains Nicola Hümpel. Biographical breaks They have already condensed feelings of foreignness and homeland in a multi-layered Schubert song recital. Now, on the occasion of the anniversary, their own biographical breaks become material, as in the case of Japanese dancer Yui Kawaguchi in the crisis year of 2011. "There was the Fukushima drama. Her father died, she broke her nose in rehearsals, and in the process she developed one of her most beautiful dances," the artistic director says. "Then I said to her how it could be that this was created in that year. It never really dawned on me. To which she said, 'Because that was the place where I got back all the hope, the strength and the will.' And it was important to me to get back up.'"
With the loosely melancholic anniversary show “Yesterday’s Future,” the Nico-and-the-Navigators ensemble celebrates itself. For 20 years, the troupe has belonged to the post-dramatic off-theater scene that is shaping the current political change at municipal theaters.
With the loosely melancholic anniversary show "Yesterday's Future," the Nico-and-the-Navigators ensemble celebrates itself. For 20 years, the troupe has belonged to the post-dramatic off-theater scene that is shaping the current political changes at city theaters. Performer Ted Schmitz stands in front of a wide screen with a black-and-white video sky screen: loud people gathered on a lawn, a bit of coming and going. Meanwhile, the U.S.-born singer talks about his family history. How does that go together, the private and the mass? Suddenly the other six performers come on stage to musically reconcile the contrast between the individual with his individual memory and the formless mass of the video image in the background: With an anthem, a certain idea of Americanness. Eels in their own performance history In turn, each and every one of the Nico-and-the-Navigators ensemble is allowed to tell a story from childhood, or the story of joining the ensemble. Patric Schott, for example, says that although he has been in almost all of the troupe's more than twenty productions, he has been allowed to say no more than eight sentences all this time, but has often had to perform naked. One of the many laughs of the birthday performance, which loosely and melancholically basks in its own history while demonstrating one or another of the self-imposed performance rules: "With a razor-sharp editing technique, we will now draw into this body a completely contradictory level of expression: Facial expressions of an offended, reproachful mole, and then, quite contradictory to that, a gesture of the upper extremities." In the hodgepodge of scenic ideas, however, there are also dance solos by Yui Kawaguchi and Anna-Luise Recke, to a life-band musical accompaniment. The spectrum ranges from baroque to pop mainstream, all the way to Cyndi Lauper's "Time after Time." The video screen now also shows more abstract images, a close-up of a polished metal surface, or the ever-bubbling screw water at the stern of a ship. Ah yes, one drives and time passes. Curious fringes in melancholic imagery In the twenty years of their existence, the group around director Nicola Hümpel and stage designer Oliver Proske has given everyday objects a bizarre life of their own and maneuvered people into curious peripheral situations in mildly melancholic imagery. Quite quickly they have sought the shoulder to the musical theater. This is the only thing that distinguishes them from all the other troupes of the post-dramatic off-theatre scene, all of which have been founded since the second half of the 1990s. She She Pop is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary and with it 25 years of research into forms of female self-dramatization, Shohcase beat le Mot was founded in 1997, Rimini Protokoll was formed in 2000. Turbo Pascal is somewhat younger. The vast majority of them are children of the Giessen Applied Theater Studies program, where the traditional methods of mimetic art for the presentation of found drama are not taught. Instead, they develop their own material, work on biographical material, performative formats, documentary theater. All of this was made possible by a network of venues such as Hamburg's Kampnagel, Berlin's Hebbel am Ufer, and the Sophiensälen, where Nico and the Navigators began as artists in residence. And it was made possible by continuous funding, albeit too meager, for the independent scene. Fueled by some of the successes of independent groups, which were also evident, for example, in invitations to the Berlin Theatertreffen, classical theater houses sought out collaborations with the independent scene. Turbo Pascal docked temporarily at the Deutsches Theater, Rimini-Protokoll at the Hamburger Schauspielhaus, and these are just two examples. More lasting than the sporadic cooperation of a free scene that has long since come of age with the highly subsidized municipal theater, however, is the political and aesthetic influence of their post-dramatic work. Their rehearsal spaces have become fields of experimentation for a performer who no longer remains hidden behind the mask of his theatrical character in the service of the performance, but instead places himself in the foreground. In the works of recent years, the early deceased Jürgen Gosch and Dimiter Gotscheff, among others, have always turned their actors into performers on the large city theater stages, illuminating the field of tension between sign and meaning, player and figure. Experiments of the independent scene and the political transformation of theater. The popular, great actors of today's theater are all equally great actors and exciting performers. Theater has acquired greater complexity, looking has changed. Crisis of empathy, crisis of representation, the credibility gap of classical theater, all these phenomena of a creeping cultural change were not invented by the independent scene; it just reacted to them faster than classical theater. That's why documentary filmmaker Andres Veiel experiments with forms of documentary drama at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, and why Yael Ronen, among others, uses biographical material in her work at the Gorki Theater. That's why a free-producing documentary theater person like Milo Rau can take over an entire city theater in Belgium. How stories are authenticated, and how they are told in a way that is binding for the audience in the performance, and how the audience is involved in this process, all this is currently undergoing political change. And the independent scene has been experimenting with all of that in recent years.
“The full bath of melancholy turns out to be a bit too hot for a twentieth birthday … But maybe that’s just one of the peculiarities of this specific idea of theater: that it can never really be younger than the people who make it. But that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.”
Berlin, October 2, 2018: The heroes and heroines of Berlin's independent scene are getting on in years. While last weekend the performers of She She Pop celebrated their 25th anniversary at HAU with a huge multi-part party, it is now Nicola Hümpel and Oliver Proske who have officially passed their teens with their "Navigators". Twenty years have passed since Nico and the Navigators were hired as artists in residence at Berlin's Sophiensälen to become famous with their novel hybrid of dance, music and performance theater. A cause for celebration. Eternally moving landscapes And so the ensemble - a few mottled temples wiser - returns to the scene of its first successes for its birthday. This evening has become soufflé-light and sugary-sweet, which already carries the retrospective in its title: "Yesterday's Future. Images of People 2.0. Because "Menschenbilder" was already the title of the cycle at the Sophiensälen with which the company moved between 1999 and 2005 into the focus and onto the longlist of the Berlin Theatertreffen. "Why don't you audition for the Navigators?" the dancer Anna-Luise Recke recalls being advised on stage at the time. A sentence of such insane matter-of-factness that it can almost resurrect an entire era. Berlin was big and gray, and art lurked everywhere. Today, as we all know, Berlin is big and even bigger, which is why the Navigators, in keeping with their birthday, prefer to talk about yesterday. Oliver Proske has placed three transparent mobile video screens in the dim light of the high room. On them, time melts away: landscapes, house facades and rivers drift by, eternally moving as in a particularly supple installation by Bill Viola. In between and above them, the performers dance, speak and sing, with music playing on the right. Of course, there is a lot of meta-joke, gratefully appreciated by the graying fans in the audience. Sugar-sweet stories of self-assertion Because back then, when they started, you weren't allowed to leave the stage shaking your head, the "neutral stance" was the basic pose of all acting, as Martin Clausen demonstrates at the beginning with his colleague Patric Schott. In between, he tells how he appeared in most of the troupe's plays over the years - but was only allowed to speak a total of eight sentences. But he was very often naked. It is stories of self-assertion of this kind that give the sequence of numbers their humanistic glue: coming to the theater, finding love. And so, along with the video landscapes, the performance standards of the last twenty (and more) years pass by. The private becomes theater, the theater private. During Annedore Kleist's performance, which is also lyrically touching, a prosaic stretched wooden table transforms into the heavy oak table of the Christmas dinners of her childhood, before drummer Philipp Kullen and Michael Shapira drum away the furniture in a strongly improvised theatrical way. Later, Shapira and Recke virtuously knot bodies and jap "Time after Time." Darker sounding time Time, anyway: it sounds darker in the last third of Birthday, even as death gently peeks over the shoulders of these friendly forty-somethings. "To die and to my rest...", Annedore Kleist declaims from the Bach aria "Bist du bei mir". Yui Kawaguchi sings a Japanese song to the tune of the (actually quite impossible) Pachelbel canon. This has always been a thing with the "Navigators", this certain tendency towards the random classics from the 5-Euro sampler shelf. The full bath of melancholy turns out a bit too hot for a twentieth birthday. But maybe that's just one of the peculiarities of this specific idea of theater: that it can never really be younger than the people who make it. But that doesn't necessarily mean anything. Happy Birthday.
“The Navigators have made themselves comfortable in their cultivated oddity. Nevertheless, with their professional interdisciplinarity, their work on the Gesamtkunstwerk between Jaques Tati, Bach, Tiergarten and Cindy Lauper, they remain something very special. And if only because they lack the usual theory connection of peformance culture.”
What times those were, the 90s in Berlin!, shouts Amelie Deuflhard enthusiastically into the foyer of the Sophiensäle. The former boss is sitting high up on one of the enchanted futuristic building blocks that set designer Oliver Proske has been making for his company Nico and the Navigators to play with in all possible variations for twenty years. And yes, a little bit of the pastel-colored multiding makes the fantastic of that time vivid once again even now. "The city was open, curious, wild," Deuflhard enthuses further, "new foundations were being formed everywhere!" and one almost felt one could grasp it, as she described Berlin as a "completely different city." The performance theater was blood young. No wonder the crumpled figures of the first navigators Martin Clausen and Patric Schott hit like comets back then. They danced pas de deux with vacuum cleaners, joined bodies and objects in intimate rupture pilot marriages, and dreamwalking slapsticks became an entire world of human imagery. Tati, Bach and Cindy Lauper A long time ago, one thinks now, watching the new play "The Future of Yesterday", with which the director Nicola Hümpel celebrates the 20th founding anniversary of her Nico troupe. For the melancholy rippling dance-music-memory-potpourri in front of a video wall revolves only around its own picturesque niceness. A table drumming becomes a body of fate, a bag a woman's mania. The Navigators have made themselves comfortable in their cultivated oddity. Nevertheless, with their professional interdisciplinarity, their work on the Gesamtkunstwerk between Jaques Tati, Bach, Tiergarten and Cindy Lauper, they remain something very special. And if only because they lack the usual theory connection of the performance culture. Emotional, touching moments Something you can't accuse their older step-siblings She She Pop of, who already started talking their heads off five years earlier in the theory forge of the Giessen Institute for Applied Theater Studies, got together to form "Kollektiv!" and are now celebrating their 25th anniversary at HAU at the same time. Unlike the Navigators, She She Pop is a theory theater animal as written in the book of post-dramatics. And yet, in their extra brittle, discursive play arrangements, they create emotional, even touching moments that immediately make you understand how communication can make you a better person. May sound naïve, but it is especially difficult and was just again amazingly clear in the festive revival of their successful play "Testament". Generation and art dispute "This isn't funny at all now, what's happening here!" an older gentleman is outraged in it. "You can't treat us like this!" Dragging all the weaknesses of age, all that is thoroughly private, out into the open - "that's not theater!" His name is Theo and he's approaching eighty, with two other gentlemen perched in armchairs beside him, nodding. The three are the fathers of the performers Ilia Papatheodoro, Mieke Matzke and Fanni Halmburger, who are looking for "King Lear" in their fathers. Just a moment ago, all six were reading the Shakespeare text from the wall projection, but every few verses the stern daughters intervened, trying to nudge their fathers out of the role of king and into the experiential world of their own aging through merciless questions and comments. Theoretical theater animal She She Pop Until the old people's collars burst: what are we here, "Lear" or just ourselves? A question that leads right into the dazzling heart of She She Pop theater. It is therefore a quite wonderful idea, in addition to a book presentation and a "gala" next Saturday, to celebrate the quarter century with the revival of the emblematic work. Eight years old now, "Testament" has lost nothing of its former freshness: a playful essay on the value and transformation of life and of theater itself. For the generation and art dispute that they fight out in it is as real as it is staged. It is an excerpt of the tough, unresolved dispute between the performers and their fathers, which they wrote down during rehearsals and now make into another theme of the evening. A power and self-empowerment game And while they argue about what is imposition, what is challenge, what is "playing," what is "performing," the fathers incidentally accomplish both: they search for what of Lear is in them and "play" what of them could be in "Lear." When She She Pop steps onto the stage, first of all nothing is stage anymore, and yet everything. The beloved distance between spectators and performers is eliminated and the freedom of art is unhinged by the direct contact with non-art. A game of power and self-empowerment, then, that jumps back and forth between literary, personal and political levels and renders the predicates "real", "fake" meaningless.
A production by Nico and the Navigators. In Cooperation with the Sophiensaele und co-produced by Kampnagel Hamburg. Funded by the Hauptstadtkulturfonds as well as by the Land of Berlin and the Spartenoffene Förderung.
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