Pause for Effect
What do stage crafts do when the show must not go on?
After a dozen stage productions choreographer Paula E. Paul and media artist Sirko Knüpfer had planned to bring those on stage who typically work backstage setting the scene for others.
When in March 2020 all venues for live art had to close in an effort to contain the pandemic suddenly space and time opened up. The stage crafts were free to use technology, scenery and instruments as they liked. Time pressure was off. Agendas were out. Ideas and plans impossible. A situation that allowed for muse and sensitivity, admitting almost childish playfulness when no one is watching – except for the very small team of this film.
The two co-directors, Paula and Sirko, approached eight very distinct cultural institutions of the city of Potsdam for permission to capture the special situation. Not only did they document the vastness of the empty audience spaces, rather the film strikes a poetic chord, tying all institutions into one seamless theatre world, rich of detail, prune with scurrility and prove to the fact that human beings dwell imaginative habitats.
Inside stagehouses, control rooms, upon and under revolving stages, through trap openings, across travelling bridges, on fly floors and workshops the film finds 15 theatre workers each sunk into individual experiments with light, sound and technology. One plays a squeaking railing like a harp. Another one lures a grooving beat from a simple stack of iron pipes. One swings peacefully in his hammock in the sun of a stage light while another sings out as loud as it gets amidst tools and stuff. One skates across the rows of seats while single spotlights touch across the dark of the auditorium.
The film develops its discourse about theatrical architecture and technology needed to create worlds of make believe almost without any words. The mechanical sounds are formed into musical themes to balance the rapid switches from place to place. Ralf Grüneberg, composer of the film’s soundtrack, is one of the protagonists and stage manager himself.
Over time the individual tinkering with details of the live-art world amplifies both the sense of missing public gathering and a feeling of respect for making joint experience possible.