Lost in Logic

These days, I had the great opportunity to facilitate virtual improvisation workshops for colleagues. If you have looked at my bio, you may not be surprised to read that I love using impro for theatre and training alike. In training, it enables openly exchanging experiences and learning from one another beyond the cognitive space.

During the training, I invited colleagues to ask and answer silly questions. The questions are silly enough for this exercise, if there is no logical answer. My favorite question out of the series of workshops raised by a colleague was  "why do ducks hold umbrellas?".  Silly questions should make it very simple for colleagues to answer them, because the question of right and wrong should not come to anyone's mind. In other words, it should be easy to go with the first thing that comes to your mind.

However, one colleague admitted that he was having issues to let go of logic and simply follow the first idea. In impro such a behavior is called censoring yourself. Everyone of us does it to some degree and it can be quite frustrating, when you are experimenting with impro. 

So what if you are lost in logic? After recognizing and acknowledging that you have a hard time with letting go without accusing yourself, try start tricking yourself out of that well-defined space as often as you can. 

I recommend deliberatly opening your focus whenever possible. This is a question of practice, so if things don't work out right away, don't get hung up on yourself. You can try seeing things, which are on the edges of your gaze without moving the eyes. Go for physical movement, if you are trying to solve a logical task, and go for logical challenges, while you are exercising. 

You may find over time that you can solve tasks with more easy, react quicker and more spontaneously.Most important of all: Make it fun. If you can laugh at your failures - fantastic! 

I find no rule in impro as liberating and as challenging as this one: Fail. Fail again. Fail better. And be ready for the next round of this.
©Mark König on Unsplash


Nicolas	Helene, der Laden ist dicht! 
                Endlich werde ich abends bei 
                dir sein, mein Engel!
Helene	Das ist eine Überraschung.
Nicolas	Urlaub zu Hause. Endlich werde ich 
                genug Zeit für alles haben.
Helene	Bin ich alles?
Nicolas	Du bist großartig.
Helene	Du auch.
Nicolas	Jetzt muss ich mal was 
                grundlegend anders machen. Das 
                machen, was ich immer schon 
                machen wollte. Die Bar ist zu, friss 
                oder stirb, aber ich werde jetzt...
Helene	Schwimmen?
Nicolas	Mach dich nicht lustig. 
Helene	Entschuldige.
Nicolas	Ich werde mich jetzt endlich der 
                Kunst widmen.
Helene      Ausgerechnet jetzt?
Nicolas	Pst. Hörst du?
Helene	Was soll ich hören?
Nicolas	Nichts, eben, nichts hören.
Helene	Ich höre nichts.
Nicolas	Perfekt!
Stille	Und?
Nicolas	Das ist total dicht. Es ist nicht 
                nichts, was du hörst. Ich höre 
                alle Möglichkeiten, die aus dem 
                Nichts werden können. So muss es     
                für Haydn gewesen sein, was Haydn 
                gehört hat, als er die Schöpfung 
Helene	Haydn?
Nicolas     Hab ich mal gelesen.
Helene      Ach so.
Nicolas	Ein großes Einatmen.
Nicolas	Das ist doch Wahnsinn. Ich spüre 
                alles, was da in dem Nichts 
                angelegt ist.
Helene	Wahnsinn.
Nicolas	Nein, nein. Ich spüre die Dichte. 
                Schau mal geradeaus. Was siehst 
Helene	Eine Wand.
Nicolas	Und vor der Wand?
Helene	Nichts.
Nicolas	Und das ist eben trügerisch. Weil 
                die Luft, die zwischen dir und der 
                Wand ist, ist ja auch. Aber du siehst 
                sie nicht.
Helene	Sie ist ja auch durchsichtig.
Nicolas	Sagst du. Ich sage: Unsere Augen 
                sind nicht gut genug. 
Helene lacht.
Nicolas	Du nennst das die Luft nichts, weil 
                du sie nicht siehst. Dabei lebst du 
                genau davon, dass du sie einatmen 
Helene	Und aus.
Nicolas	Ja, ja, klar. 
©Radu Florin on Unsplash
Eine begonnenes Stück zu überarbeiten finde ich schwieriger als mit einer leeren Seite anzufangen. Wenn ich ein Stück mit einem Gebäude vergleiche, dann ist jeder Satz ein Baustein. Aber jeder Baustein hat eine andere Form. Deswegen kann man die Sätze nicht beliebig tauschen und an der gleichen Stelle rauskommen.
Bei Nicolas und Helene habe ich einen neuen Anfang (ein neues Fundament) gewählt. Ich will zeigen, was die beiden aneinander haben, ehe der Zerfall einsetzt. 
Die Herausforderung ist nun, den hoffnungsfrohen Anfang mit der Endzeitstimmung der Rohfassung zusammen zu bekommen.

To Emmanuel

Dear Emmanuel,

it was a pleasure to meet you. I know you may be looking at my blog. Here is a reading recommendation to you: Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet. 
It is an insightful book and very soothing the way Rilke writes about all these puzzling pieces of life. 

Keep on writing.
Kind regards,

Is it OK to analyze relationships?

©Everton Vila on Unsplash
Thursday night I had a  conversation that made me reflect deeply on the way we experience relationships. 

The lady I was talking to was concerned to rationally analyze the emotional bondages involved in a relationship. She had just been shown a model that served as an eye-opener to her, but also made her feel guilty.

On Friday I happened to read in Martin Buber's book "Me and You" about the two foundational experiences. He argued that the situation in which I am in the "Me and You" state is a state without reflection, only presence. However, this state inevitably needs to transform into other situations, where I experience the other, I reflect upon them etc. The lady I talked to may have been concerned about transitioning between the feeling whole in the first situation and cognitively reflecting, i.e. leaving this wholeness.

Taking a step back to analyse relationships may feel very strange, even like committing sin, because as a kid, relationships form the foundation on which we grow. Even if a child grows up in a dysfunctional family, it will not question the parents. Analysing relationships is therefore something that does not come naturally to us. 

However, analysing may be another way to help us grow. I think that good relationships will change naturally over time. Others may be good in a specific situation but may start limiting us. Having some tools to see ourselves from different perspectives can empower us to take on roles that we want to and disengage from roles that limit us. Mind you, I don't mean to say that the other party is willingly holding us back. Sometimes it is unhealthy patterns that emerge in relationships, sometimes the perspective of the other holds us down, but I guess, most frequently it is ourselves that hinder us from achiving our own potential or the potential of the relationship. 

What do I mean? If I hold the belief that grandma should not be alone over the holidays, I may be serving my image of  myself as the loving grandchild. If I don't take my assumption for granted, but instead, ask grandma what she wants to do over the holidays and then voice what I would like to do, I may arrive at a new level of interaction. There may be some conflict in there, too, but there is a chance that grandma and myself have a very different conversation. 

I am saying this to advocate for self-care and for empowerment. If I cannot take care of my needs, how should I be able to truly take care of the needs of someone else's? I also don't think that analysing relationships inevitably means that you are cold-blooded and calculating. Of course, you can distort the analysis into that direction. But if you also put the interest and well-being of your counterpart as well as affected others into your considerations, and do not rush to conclusions, you may arrive healthily and steadily at making new, positive discoveries in your connections.

Tipping points 2 – escapes and saving strategies

®Jakub Kriz on Unsplash
After writing about the tipping point, where a personal principle for success turns into a self-limitation, I could not help reflecting on the things we do, to avoid realizing that we are at a tipping point.

The first strategy is to allow exeptions from the rule. To take a simple example, the principle "I don't eat sweets". This may be a very helpful principle for eating healthy or keeping weight. But let`s imagine a hike on which your healthy snack stayed safely at home. The only thing your hiking partner has to offer is a bar of chocolate. Trivial? Maybe. But the point is not the single exeption. The point is that over time you may get so many exeptions to the rule that the principle gets to be only an abstract ideal, whereas your everyday behavior is directed by the exeptions. Storytellers love this discrepency, normal people hate it.

The second strategy is to escape from having to examining a principle. Let`s take "the customer is always right". But what if your customer tells you that your company will not make it to market with the new technology you are developing? The simplest escape is to drive to the conversation to safer grounds (escape). But what if your customer insists?  You may start having second thoughts, you may be wondering, how much the customer really knows about the new technology. All the while you may have discussed the weather, melting glaciers, cats on trees and god knows what, because you are trying to save your customer and yourself from the fact that - "customers can be awfully wrong". 

If you don't have sweaty palms after reading through this, congratulations. Either you are pretty tolerant for cognitive dissonance (this is what psychologists call it, when there is a gap between your ideal and the real situation). Or you are experienced enough to navigate between several prinicples.

If you feel a little uncomfortable, great. No, seriously. In storytellers' words you are feeling tension. And a story without tension is - no story. 

What I wanted to illustrate here is that principles (self-beliefs), tipping points and strategies to avoid realizing tipping points are the true material for storytellers. So, if you are going through a difficult situation, reassure yourself that you will be having a story to tell afterwards. And don't give up, just because giving up is the easiest way!

Where is the Tipping Point?

Recently, I had a very good conversation about self-beliefs that make people successful. The idea is that people strive to be consistent with the self-belief, so that it actually transforms into behavior and from behavior into habits. For example, if the self-belief is "I am a reliable person", this individual may find it important to be on time and work towards being on time. So this is a self-belief, that can make the person successful. Of course, the environment needs to value the self-belief, too.

In that conversation, we also talked about mini-stressors. These are little things, like wondering, if you should have taken a different route to avoid traffic, if you could have influenced a person into a different direction, if your babysitter will be on time and so on. The more mini-stressors you have during a day, the more exhausting your day will be.

Without having done any research on this, I assume that a self-belief can turn into a mini-stressor. So, if you take the example of being on time as being an important self-belief, any external factor that keeps you from being on time (traffic, late babysitter), will stress you way more than if you don't hold that self-belief. 

Is this a catch-22? It certainly can be. But it can be also an opportunity to identify the next self-belief that you may need to revise and fine-tune.

And, by the way, moments, when you need to change your course of action, are the ones that make up stories. So, in my case, if I get to a point that challenges my beliefs and it may be very unconfortable, I console myself by telling me that some day in the future the pain will have passed and I will have a good story to tell.

Nach der Rohfassung

Vor etwa drei Wochen habe ich die erste Rohfassung des Stücks fertig geschrieben. Nun kommt der Teil, den ich schwieriger finde als die Rohfassung zu schreiben. Jetzt geht es darum, das, was mich persönlich an dem Stoff interessiert hat, für  andere zugänglich zu machen. 

Durch die Fragen einiger Erstleser bin ich zur zentralen Frage gelangt, was ich eigentlich erzählen will. 

Es geht mir darum, zwei persönliche Entwicklungen in und durch die Extrem-situation lock-down zu zeigen. Nicolas will viel und scheitert an seinen eigenen Ansprüchen. Helene stellt die eignen Ansprüche hinten an, weil sie Nicolas Träume mitträumt, und wird auf sich selbst zurück geworfen. Und es geht mir darum, wie Zwang und Gewalt sich in eine Beziehung einschleichen.
Durch die Rohfassung habe ich eine Kontur des Materials mit dem ich arbeite, aber noch ist viel unklar für fremde Augen

Can you optimize your brain to remember more?

This is the podcast that I recently listened to and can highly recommend
Here is an illustration that helps understand how you can use locations to remember more
Sometimes I get asked, how I managed to remember so much text during my career as an actress. The simple answer I tend to give is, that I did not remember the text. People get stunned. What I mean to say, is that plays are never purely text to me and I don't remember them as such. I rather remember a whole sequence of where to move when, which emotions occur, things you are trying to do with your partners and how the character develops during the play.

Already with the first encounter with a text, which is typically the moment when the whole crew gets together and reads a text out loud, is a moment where you start looking for the things that speak to you, for emotions the text evokes, for images concerning the environment. After that, you typically need time to memorize text, some actors more than others. Next, you would rehearse with the text. You would put the pieces together with your partner(s) in space and time to tell the story. I have found that without rehearsing, I would loose the memorized text after two days. But once you are in the process of rehearsing you are starting to craft the line of development through space and time of a given play. And it is the whole performance that my memory was able to pull up pretty easily for months to years.

How can you use this for a life outside of theatre? To the left is the link to a podcast and a graphic on the side that I found insightful. And here are some tips on learning and memorizing out of my own experience:
1) Use timing: Don't expect yourself to remember text. Help your brain with creating a network of logical sequences instead. After A comes B, after B follows C, and then, surprisingly, F is happening, which transforms A. Not everything you are learning may follow the line of a narration, but as our brains love structures of narrations, this can help you in other domains, too.
2) Use imagination: Try to see a picture in your mind of what you are reading about. Reading slowly will help your mind to develop such a picture.
3) Use space: Using gestures to memorize what you are learning can be helpful, as if you were talking to yourself. Also, dedicating a certain places in your surroundings to prompt you to remember things you wanted to learn. 
4) Use your voice: Reading silently only involves the eyes. Reading out loud already adds your listening sense to the visual input
5) Think of application: As you are going through the learning process try to think of situations that your current learning may help you with. Make it as specific as possible - who will be there, how may they react, how is that different to what you have done before. It is important that you can see some benefit in your learning. Otherwise, it will be just too much brain effort without rewards, so not likely that you can pursue it for long.
6) Use your emotions: Emotions are markers to remember something. Any emotion can be a marker, if it is disbelief, joy or the famous aha-moment. The important part is to realize what you are feeling. Sometimes you can reconstruct a situation by remembering a feeling and then re-constructing what caused the feeling.
7) Use play: You can use two pens to have a dialogue about the subject you are trying to remember. Or you can use your kitchen equipment to map out a full process. Any analogy or similarity between your subject of learning and the things you already know, will help you with remembering what you wanted to learn.
8) Accept failure: Regardless of all the techniques that you are able to apply, there may be days when nothing seems to work. Remember that learning is not a linear process where you brain will retain the same amount of information every day. Stay away from blaming yourself. Try again next time.
9) Practice. Don't expect any learning to stick with you if you don't repeat it, put it into your own words or apply it. 

I hope you feel a little curious about your personal learning. Some of these tips may feel like stating the obvious to you, others may be a little awkward. I encourage you to experiment and maybe even come up with your own tips. 

Rohfassung und Streichen

Es ist geschafft - die Rohfassung des Stücks steht. Helene kommt zum Elysium und zu ihrer eigenen Version von Himmel und Erde.

Diesmal habe ich mich bislang bewusst davon abgehalten, fast so viel aus dem entstandenen Text zu streichen, wie ich hinzufüge. Gleich viel zu streichn habe ich zum Beispiel bei Ohne Mond getan und jetzt erst festgestellt, dass ich damit bei einem ziemlich minimalistischen Text gelandet bin, der den Lesern nicht viel außerhalb des Dialogs bietet.
Natürlich habe ich auch diesmal Textstellen gestrichen, die mir selbst langweilig waren oder die zu sehr nach Papier klangen. Den großen Rotstift habe ich aber nicht angesetzt, und das hat gut getan.
Ich glaube, Streichen ist ein Vorgang, der bereits zum Text Verwenden gehört. Man setzt die prüfende Brille auf und wägt ab. Um das Spielfeld aufzubauen, hilft dieser Blick mir nur bedingt. 

Mit dem Fertigstellen der Rohfassung ist es jetzt Zeit, vom Aufbauen zum Prüfen zu wandern.
Helene		Und dann lachen wir und lehnen uns zurück   
                        und schauen in den unendlichen 
                        Sternenhimmel, den wir von hier gar nicht 
                        sehen können, unser Himmelreich. Es macht 
                        alles Sinn. Der Himmel, über uns gespannt 
                        von Horizont zu Horizont, ist unser Zelt. Wir 
                        schauen uns eine Sternschnuppe aus, die 
                        Feuchtigkeit der Nacht auf unseren Lippen 
                        wie ein Versprechen, Mondwasserklatschen 
                        im Wellengeschwups.
Chorführerin	Schwupps.
Helene		Und dann sind wir bei der Galerie der Engel. 
                        Wir gehen hindurch. Einer wird sich uns an 
                        die Fersen heften. Bete dass es ein Guter ist. 
                        Wer das sehen könnte. Am Ende bleibt doch 
                        das Zwielicht der Dämmerung und ein 
                        Geschmack von weiss. Nein, mit Kitsch hat 
                        das jetzt mal nichts zu tun.
Chorführerin	Wir sind da.