Jackie Grinshtein im Gespräch mit Schau ins Blau

Schau ins Blau: How long have you been attending the School for Visual Theatre?
Jackie Grinshtein: For two years now.
Schau ins Blau: In which way did all the different impressions and encounters influence you and your work so far?
Jackie Grinshtein: In a certain way it saved me. I always created, I used to be in several institutes for art in Israel and every time I quit again. I couldn’t sustain my studies there because my spirit couldn’t really emerge there. There is something so free and so accepting about this school, however. I really found my place there. The concept of the school is to offer a lot of different courses like plastic art, dance, theatre, puppetry, writing and we can choose whatever we want. Moreover the school encourages you to mix several forms together so everyone finds his niche. For me it?s puppetry, singing, theatre, writing and plastic art.
Schau ins Blau: What does the opportunity to experience yourself at your school mean to you?
Jackie Grinshtein: The school I attend is really special, it gives you the freedom to express yourself, everything is possible in every way. There are no artistic rules. The special thing about this philosophy is that students feel like they can perform everywhere, no matter if it is in the toilette or in the kitchen. One could say that the whole school is one big stage.
Schau ins Blau: How do you estimate cultural and art life in Israel with its effects on society and the public opinion?
Jackie Grinshtein: I think it is less rooted within the culture than in Europe. The people go to the movies, they don’t go to the theatre as much. There are some big theatres that are really influential, but the experimental theatre like we do exists as well, although we face great obstacles in fundraising. It is always a question of budget, for all the money goes into the war for security and for terrible things so there is not much budget left for culture and education. Here in Germany companies spend a lot of money just for sponsoring. In Israel you have to pay so much money to make the system work. It is really sad because it strengthens the class divide, not everyone is able to study, many actors need to do commercials to make their living. Students have to work. I’m working in a cleaning brigade to keep my head above the water. That’s very sad. I saw many great pieces in Israel, however, so I think even though there is no encouragement, from the government, people create their own ways.
Schau ins Blau: What status does puppet theatre have within the theatrical landscape in Israel?
Jackie Grinshtein: Usually it is regarded as a sort of child thing. When I say: I’m a puppeteer, they say: Oh, you do birthdays for children. But if the children saw my depressed characters, they would run away crying. There is a lot of ignorance of what puppetry is, but in our school they give you a lot of tools and there is encouragement to do puppetry.
Schau ins Blau: In which way did the idea for your show emerge?
Jackie Grinshtein: It came from so deep inside of me. I worked on it in the frame of the school, but I felt it, I was obsessed with it ? something must have been there for a long time.
Schau ins Blau: Why did you choose the way of expressing yourself with the help of puppets? Is it a sort of play with categories like disguise and alienation?
Jackie Grinshtein: The character of my play is always the same, over and over again, very repetitive. It?s a self portrait, I’ve been doing it since I was 18 really obsessively. Before I animated this puppet world it was a still life, but although it looked like a doll house you could feel there is a story within it. Beforehand, I did some theatre shows like drag shows in the queer community in Israel. I don’t dress myself as a man, but I use this tool of drag to do political works about the occupation. One could say on the one hand I do theatre and on the other hand I do plastic works. This time is the first time to mix it together.
Schau ins Blau: That must be a great experience.
Jackie Grinshtein: It is, for me it?s the first chapter. I’m planning two other chapters about war and about love and this is the first chapter about the child. Maybe I come here next year to show the next chapter.
Schau ins Blau: Did you present the play in other countries yet?
Jackie Grinshtein: No, this is the first time. It?s a very new show and I feel there are some points I still want to work on, but it’s finished in the deep sense. I feel like it?s ready to be shown. It is really interesting to show it to people outside, to people that don’t know me, that don’t know the language. I’m really hungry to hear what people think and it was such an intense and unique experience to make this show for people in Germany.
Schau ins Blau: Which role do therefore language and translation play within your show?
Jackie Grinshtein: Actually, at first I wasn’t sure if I should do it in English. But I felt there is something so deep from me when I do it in Hebrew. I’m still not sure what is the right thing to do, maybe the translation should be in German, then it would be easier to read and to get into the play for the audience. It is not a technical but a very personal decision.
Schau ins Blau: To my mind, the sound of your voice in your native language is very important for the experience. Did this influence your decision?
Jackie Grinshtein: I think that our native languages are so profound. They are primal and I’m sure for you to speak German is so special, you can write poetry, you can express yourself, you can?t do this in the same way in other, in foreign languages. This is why I decided to do it in Hebrew after a long time of thinking about it.
Schau ins Blau: Some people associated the holocaust with your performance. It surprised me, because I did not recognize something like this in the play. Does it surprise you?
Jackie Grinshtein: It doesn’t surprise me although it is not my intention. There is something in this image that can relate to this. Maybe it came to my work unconsciously but I’m talking about my childhood and something very personal, the way I see myself in the mirror. Maybe we can?t really take this out of us. I’m a very political person and there are many political works that I’m doing concerning the occupation in Israel or human rights, but my show is something very inner, like I am. But maybe, especially when I’m doing it in Germany, the connotation is inevitable. In fact the character is my portrait, not the portrait of a Jew, it?s a portrait of myself, Jackie. This character is very fragile, it is made out of paper, it has really big, sad eyes, but it?s also something universal, you can read it in several ways. You can see every woman in it, you can identify with her pain, you can feel her.
Schau ins Blau: In the program it says that your work is ?in the between of hope and transitory?. Would you agree with that statement?
Jackie Grinshtein: Yes, I feel that something really bad is happening there, a big drama, a big abuse. She doesn’t really say what exactly happened but something is wrong. For that reason there is sadness, it?s like a nightmare, so this girl is escaping to the world of her dolls that are trying to make her happy by magic and by songs. There is hope, she is not alone. They are not her, but they are also a reflection. They are like her, they have the same eyes, they reflect her feelings. It?s like in real life ? children play with dolls and they put all their feelings into them. At the end the dolls couldn’t make her happy anymore, however. It?s not a happy ending in the American sense, it?s a complex ending. She is not totally dead. I could have ended it with the scream, I thought about it. But I felt that there is something else. That is why the ending is affected by a movie,
Nights of Cabiria by Fellini. At the end the protagonist?s life is completely devastated, she’s been through the most terrible things, she walked through the street with a sad expression but then a group of characters surrounded her, someone with an accordion and they are playing, laughing, shouting. Therefore the end is the moment of the first smile of hope, similar to my end: It is not a simple hope, one could read it as her death and resurrection, as if she went to heaven. She returned into the paper world, but it still there is a smile that remains. [Das Interview mit Jackie Grinshtein führte Rebekka Knoll]