After the festival opening performance DIVERCITY@040 from ”Accademia della Follia“ Triest/Italy

Present were: Claudio Misculin and Sarah Taylor (Director and Choreographer ”Divercity“), Lisa Brown (Workman Theatre Toronto / Canada), Paula Artkamp (Festival Director), Daniela Platz (Actress, Sycorax), Kateri Jochum (Radio Deutsche Welle World), Martin Nelißen (Westfälische Nachrichten, local newspaper), Rüdiger Stiebitz (Italian Translation)

Misculin: The organization was wonderful. We're not used to that at all. And then these little pieces of chocolate on the bedside table. Cleanliness and intelligence in the organization; that makes us happy. Otherwise, we also work well, but then it might happen that we hang through.

That is the real director of the play, Sarah Taylor, the choreographer and dramaturges, she has a special taste, an artistic sensibility that is superior to ours. We know her. She says that her approach is not better, just different. Yes, that is true! - I am crazier and I'm proud of it. You cannot produce art without leaving rationality behind, without embracing craziness and magic. But madness and even more madness will only produce suffering. Madness and technique; that is art. That is an equation we have characterized during the foundation of „Accademia della Follia“ thirty years ago. So, here is madness and there is technique with a high grade of sensibility. One needs not only technical but also human sensibility. Dealing with crazy people is fine for ten minutes, but then we stink and get on each others nerves, maybe even the police will come. So, on one side technical and human sensibility and on the other side madness, big fat real madness. And that results in art. I really take pride in producing great art.

Jochum: Is it important to keep reminding the audience of the fine line of madness in our daily life?

Taylor: For me in this play, definitely. Because when I first read the text of Laing “Do you love me?”, I thought it is my life. I mean each poem has something that has to do with my life, with Claudio's life and for me, that's what came out of the text. Definitely. But in a certain way the work of Claudio is also very theatrical, to bring in very human things and maybe put them into a surreal context, or whatever, or in the actual context, but that's the human message. And everybody can read the human thing into it.

Nelißen: That is what I wanted to ask. Can you tell me the message in a few words?

Taylor: For me the message of this play is the fact of diversity, a place that people get together and a construction to talk about human rapports. Because they are living in the same place. Diversity for me is like a bolding city where people are talking, the fact of having to live so close together, all these human things come out.

Jochum: Are there any special challenges in working with this kind of combined group?

Taylor: I can say that for me it was the most fulfilling experience in my life, because I came from the theatre world, the unique theatre, dance world - And it is a very static world, and I hate it sometimes. To work on DIVERCITY in this way, that is absolutely a dream world. But I think Claudio should answer this as well.

Misculin: What we do here is a challenge. In general, it is about, yes, about therapy, but I don't see myself just as a therapist. I refer to myself as being crazy. Up until I produce art, I am crazy. Well, maybe also an artist. But if I heal myself, then I'll get sick. But as long as I don't try to heal myself, I'm not sick. Then I'm just a little crazy.

Nelißen: One more question to you, Mrs. Brown: What is your vision for this festival?

Brown: I think that Manfred, Paula and I want to continue to build a community of artists who celebrate their art and mental illness. And it's a different way of thinking about mental illness. I hope that around 2012 'madness and arts' will come back to Canada because we'll then have a new building called the 'creative healing centre'. There will have a big theatre, a studio and rehearsal spaces. So we hope that when we build this 2100 square foot facility, the festival will come back to Canada to celebrate the opening.

Nelißen: Miss Taylor, I think in your play there is a little episode for each one of us. I don't know which of the actors the professional are.

Taylor: Oh, that's a big compliment. That's what we are aiming for, you know. Brown: Each one had a hard time adapting, also the dancers. It's not so easy! But I can agree with you, Sarah, you find the ability and the person for them to develop their art form. - Exactly - That's why it works. And we have the same thing when we do our shows. You know, those who are not informed about what we do ask: Is that a patient? Or is that a professional? And the fact that they ask means that we have done our job.

Nelißen: Is there a borderline you say we cannot trespass in playing with mental ill people?

Brown: No. And I think, well, two things. One is that when we started our company, Workman Theatre, I had the idea that it would be an integration of people receiving health services with professional artists. But now, 17 years later, there are so many professional artists that have mental illness. And so, that line doesn't exist any more for us, you know, which is fabulous. And in fact, so many have noticed the name change we went through a month ago, to 'workman and arts'. We changed; we did that because we are working different art forms. But we wanted to acknowledge that the company's original mandate has evolved and there are different consents of the state of being, but it's the philosophy which we find great success doing I believe in.

Jochum: I asked about challenges, I mean, knowing people with mental illnesses. There are always difficulties, on the one hand celebrating them on the other hand trying to overcome many of the trouble that comes with that.

Brown: Yeah.

Jochum: Do you have difficulties?

Brown: Well, I don't know, Sarah, if you have experienced it. Certainly with visual artists that we work with, they have promised all to hang-on, even when they are sick. It's the thing that makes sense to me, it's the thing that they can create and offer beautiful work. So the arts seem to transcend the illness. Do you agree?

Taylor: Yeah, in the history of many artists. What they always really hang on to is the art. "Dario" is a perfect example. He was completely schizophrenic, but he was doing his class every day and it was the only thing for him, it was like a line in his life, the rest was a big mist. But he had the thing that he can hang on to; I think also Schumann and other ones. - Oh, so many! - It goes on and on and on.

Jochum: But if the line between art and madness disappears?

Brown: Well, I can't see the line between art and madness disappearing. I think that what we often want to do is to romanticize artists with mental illness, to suggest that in order to create great work you have to be mad. But that is absolutely incorrect and in fact, if we believe the world health organization statistics, in which one in five people will have had or currently have a mental illness, we can apply it to artists. And there are no more artists with mental illness than without. But, you know, it is a ratio that seems to apply to everybody in the world.

Jochum: You talked about stigmata and taboos. It seems like there wouldn't be so many people with a mental illness…? Brown: But when you take that 20 percent of the world population, and you know two thirds are not getting help, which is again a statistic, you know this kind of work that we're doing here makes people accept mental illness in embraces. So that maybe they see themselves in their work or they see themselves when they start thinking about mental health more and they see it is not just a stigmata going to get help. I mean, it helps to break down the barriers, and hope to decrease stigmas. I think the biggest thing too is that you, Sarah, could put your show into another festival that has nothing to do with mental help and it will stand on its own, as a piece.

Taylor: That would be the dream. That is the real dream. That the piece can stand as a theatre piece and not only as a social product. It's great. That would be my dream. And we could go to theatre; we can go to ballet and then DIVERCITY the next day. For me, that would be the dream, shows like this taken seriously, as shows of normal people. For me that's really important because it's a well constructed show, its better constructed than lots of the ballets shows I see nowadays.

Brown: Well, it's honest, it has integrity and it's real. Right? What you're doing?

Taylor: That's what the actors are like; especially the dancers are trying to do. They can't do it because the actual reason for doing it is not the correct reason. We are doing it to help people. It's not a static reason. It's not just static and nice, it's better. Absolutely. That is not our aim, absolutely not the aim alone; our aim is the human product that reaches the audience.

Jochum: Do you find more differences or similarities in the way people deal with mental illness?

Brown: Well, again, looking at Sarah's show, I have seen this group in Triest two years ago, and I was so inspired by the physicality of the work. In our Toronto Theatre we are much more talking heads, not so physical, so I would say that's a big difference between the Canadian theatre and yours in Italy. I haven't seen so many pieces in Italy. I think the mutuality is that most groups, and Paula I think will probably agree, most countries use the term 'mad' and 'madness'. Some people feel affected by these words and they don't want to embrace the world. But you know, when we did find out who was doing similar work, and we have used the term 'madness', there was no question over what were talking about. For instance in Japan there is no word for mental illness. They have different words to describe the state of being but they don't have a word for it. Oh, can you say mad, is that an ok term? We have madness all over the world. It's a play but it's a universality that we have found with the different companies that we come in contact with.

Jochum: I can imagine that. Do you think it would be a good task to create this festival in North America as well?

Brown: I think down in Los Angeles you have made it when you have an analyst, but I don't think so much in Canada. I mean, I think there is still the idea of admitting having a mental illness, it's a taboo subject. Also, I would say it is changing; the governor has come out and talked about his depression and how he is living with his depression. There's also a hockey player, Ron Alice. There's Amy Sky who's talking about it, there are some who are slowly coming out about it. But you know there's an actor named Kidder who had a psychotic episode when she was down in Los Angeles and the media crucified her. They had a picture of her when she lost her teeth, you know, when she was psychotic. She was wearing a bridge. The headline: mad women. And they just, they disparaged her. And so it makes people very afraid to talk about mental illness because you are going to be casted. A mad person is completely out of control and you should be afraid of him. But more and more, the more celebrities start to talk about their own mental illness the easier it will be for people who come forward. And I use the analogy to Rock Hudson in the movement for homosexuality. Rock Hudson was really the person who moved forward and made it ok to be gay. We don't quite yet have that person. I think Robbie Williams would be the greatest person to stand forward for us and say: I have manic depression and I'm ok. But he's not there yet.

Jochum: Can you imagine a German politician who admits of suffering from a depression?

Platz: I can rather imagine that a politician admits that he has suffered from a depression, but stigmatization is still too big to admit publicly that you are in an extreme psychic situation. It is still rather difficult to be taken seriously with that, even though I myself don't think that ones strengths and abilities should be affected by that in any way, or can get lost during this time. That way it should not be judged that hard. I even think this is a needless question.

Jochum: It's just that we had heard about a politician who mentioned that subject and that maybe we need more people like that in public life.

Artkamp: Here we have Sebastian Deissler, a soccer player, who said: ”I suffer from depression.“ He went into a clinic, maybe that is comparable. Politicians have the same significance these days. Deissler got good treatment, he's playing again.

Jochum: Does that mean there is more openness towards psychic ill people?

Platz: No, this openness does not really exist. Anybody can catch a psychic illness. But if someone expresses to have problems with that, maybe the public will deal with it differently. I believe that with these prominent personalities it might be the case that they have already shown their qualities and that they are not controversial anymore when it becomes public that they suffer from certain illnesses. But I think that if the only thing you know about people is that they are ill, it is quickly assumed that they lack certain qualities and abilities. Then it's more difficult to find openness, they will quickly be stigmatized.

Jochum: How did you join Theater Sycorax?

Platz: I just found it interesting that they work very surrealistically, with pictures, fragmentarily, not like classic theatre. And because I knew that here the strengths of the individuals are being extracted. I would have had problems if I had heard that it is an integrative group with healthy and ill people. But since I did have the information that illnesses are not put in the foreground, but the human being with his strengths, it was an offer I was happy to accept. Because in any case, I just want to act as a human being with my abilities and not get applause for being sick. I mean, there are groups with psychic ill people who get more acceptance because they are ill, because people don't trust them to be able to achieve a lot. People rejoice that they bring a minimal accomplishment. And that is not, what I want. I just want to be seen as a human being with my abilities. I want to fulfill my work as an actress.

Meißen: What kind of a feeling is it to be standing on stage after long rehearsals.

Platz: That is a feeling of merit, I think. That's what you do all that for. It's just an insane feeling of happiness and the feeling that it was worth it.

Jochum: Have you gotten a different view of your illness by working in theatre?

Platz: I think it's very critical to present yourself as a psychic ill person. First of all that is only a by-product, very simply, I am a human being with the same abilities and I can perform as well as a healthy person. It's just that additionally I have psychic pain. No, my attitude has not changed.

Jochum: So, working with other affected, interchanging with them was not crucial?

Platz: It's not really my desire to interchange about my illness. When I go into artistic work, I want to interchange about art and theatre, not about illness.