A project by Frauke Wetzel

Host organization: Collegium Bohemicum

April 2008, Ústí nad Labem (Czech Republic)

livingROOMS is a piece about a German mystery: "Gemütlichkeit." We can translate it as "coziness" or "comfort," but what is this actually: Feeling at home? Where does the public sphere end and the private one begin? And what happens when a stranger invades a private space? The first theater piece in the world to be auctioned on eBay was first performed abroad.

In Ústí nad Labem, livingROOMS was auctioned off as a symbolic prize - the most creative bid would win. Bids included a "Trabant" cocktail, a real "Plattenbau" apartment, a reception by a Marlene Dietrich imitation. Ultimately, the winner was the household Fibich (name of the street). There was wonderful goulash, beer on tap, and a limo available for all the guests. But that was certainly the easiest thing the family and the neighbors in the Fibich-Villa "had to" provide in Ferdinandshöhe. Complete strangers entered their house and two foreign-language actors who had never seen the apartment, Christian Banzhaf and Christiane Roller, acted furiously in its four rooms, integrating Czech words and improvising with both objects and people. Viewers were transfixed as well as the GEZ auditor's assistant, who did not understand what was happening in Ellie Kölmel's apartment at first, and then stayed deliberately. Ms. Kölmel saw her uninvited guest in the course of the piece and explained a little to him.

For the viewers, livingROOMS was an intense experience. Lasting contacts were made, and there can hardly be more rigorous contact between Germans and Czechs than there was in this performance. The theme of "outsiders" referred to the strangers as well as people foreign to the Czech Republic, and had an intense effect on every viewer, since they were also strangers in the apartment. They were actively involved - the stage was not a raised one but rather their own living room, and the props included their own toothbrushes. At the end of the nearly two-hour performance, everyone had become part of the game.

Reactions from the audience:

"Usually I assume that art is actually a thing of the past (because it's more convenient to think of it that way), but on Tuesday when I went into a stranger's apartment full of people I didn't know, then all of a sudden felt at home - then art was a thing of the present again. You could think of the whole evening as one piece of art."

"Thank you for this incredible experience, it was quite simply brilliant, and was the strongest experience I've ever had in theater. Really wonderful. Thank you!"