Artist, Immigrant: Andreas Robertz

by Marcy Arlin

in Artistry & Artistic Innovation,Global Citizenship,Interviews

Post image for Artist, Immigrant: Andreas Robertz

(To learn more about Marcy Arlin’s Artist, Immigrant blog series, click here.)

To practice theatre, as director and teacher, Andreas Robertz crosses boundaries, cultures, genres, and venues. His generosity and good spirits make working or collaborating with Andreas (as I did in Germany) a pleasure and a joy.

What do you love about theatre in the U.S. for yourself and in general?

I love many things about theatre in the U.S., specifically here in New York where I have lived since 2006. There is the diversity of voices in the theatre community that makes New York a very unique place in the world. It opens your horizon, especially when you come from a small place like Germany. There is also a great spirit of collaboration, particularly between playwrights and directors, and there is a very important openness towards new concepts and ideas. If I have an idea the first reaction is always encouraging and supportive despite the fact that it might be unlikely to turn out to be successful. The New York artist community lives from this “despite of”. There is a very brutal other side of the coin but that was not the question, right?

What do you miss about working in your homeland?

I miss a financially more secure situation for my actors, for me, for the whole team, in order to stay strongly committed and work for longer periods of time with the same ensemble. The so-called industry here urges artist to spend an exhausting amount of time for self-promotion and expects self-exploitation not as an exception, but rather than as an underlying taken-for-grantedness. That is very harmful for the work itself.

How have your combined, in your work, both country’s theatre training and culture?

In Germany I was more used to very physical actors who first and for all were ready to explore everything in a rehearsal, the more radical the better. The flip side is that they are not used to preparing their own private lives,  especially in emotional areas. Here many actors are very well-trained, especially emotionally. They are very quick and deliver on the spot. I love to combine these approaches: the physical more radical notion of a character and the emotional intelligence of the actor.

I use my sense of German theatre being much more text based and irritating and combine it with the deep truthfulness of the acting work here. That changes my position as a director as well. I am less the director as a lonely self-centered visionary rather than a facilitator of a process, a conversation between intelligent people, so to speak.

How do you see yourself/identify yourself as an artist in terms of being an immigrant? Does it matter to you?

It doesn’t matter to me in terms of how I identify myself. But it does matter in terms of getting jobs.

How does it affect your getting work? (accent, ethnicity, etc.)

As a director I have no problems with my accent and being from Germany might be not a bad thing after all. Many people here respect German craft and tradition of theatre. I have worked also in big theatres in Germany for more than 12 years. But because there are no auditions for directors, I hardly can get any interviews. The industry again is very much about grown relationships, which I am slowly developing.  I have a very hard time getting work. You always have to team up with a playwright or you start producing. I did that a lot to create my own work but producing sucks the life out of you and directing becomes easily secondary.

What are you doing now? Here and/or abroad?

I am working with my own company on a project on Slavery. Together with my partner and a wonderful playwright we are developing a new play inspired by the autobiographical material of actors who explored their family history as slaves or slave-owners. It will be presented at the LaGuardia Performance Center in Queens on April 20.

Can you tell me a theatre short story/anecdote about when you first came here? A more recent story?

I came to New York to visit the opening of a company, but than it turned out that the opening was postponed and I was offered to co-direct the final rehearsals because the playwright/director/producer was totally overwhelmed. At that time I didn’t know how somebody can do all these things together (Now I know!). I came to my first rehearsal and met my future husband. He was an actor in that show.

What is your residency/citizenship/visa status? How does it affect your life as an artist?

I was lucky to be approved as an extraordinary artist, which allowed me to obtain an O-1 Visa for four years. As of last year, I am now a legal resident (Green Card)!

Andreas Robertz is an established German theater director. He has received numerous regional and national awards and nominations in Germany for his outstanding work as director. Since 2006 he lives and works in New York City. He is Artistic Director of OneHeart Productions and a freelance director and producer working in both countries. Here in New York he has directed for the Immigrants Theatre Project, The Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, Around the Block, OneHeart Productions, at the Theatre for the New City, and the Martin E. Segal Theatre (CUNY). In 2012 he became Co-Director of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater Playwrights’ Unit. Recently he developed and co-directed “Birmingham Reunion” as part of OneHeart’s Slavery Project on the legacy of the slave trade, based on biographical material from descendants of slaves and slave owners.

Marcy Arlin is Artistic Director of the OBIE-winning Immigrants’ Theatre Project. Member: Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, Theatre without Borders, League of Professional Theatre Women, No Passport, and Fulbright Scholar to Romania and the Czech Republic. She curates Eastern European Playwrights: Women Write the New. Her project East/West/East: Vietnam Immigrants Out of War, is a binational, Vietnamese/Czech/English theatre project based on interviews with American and Czech Vietnamese. She created Journey Theatre with survivors of war and torture. Directing venues: 59E59, QTIP, LaMama, MESTC, Vineyard, Oddfellows Playhouse, Artheater/Köln, Nat’l Theatre of Romania. Co-Editor Czech Plays: 7 New Works. Teaches theatre at CUNY, community-based theatre at Yale, Immigrant Theatre at University of Chicago (her alma mater) and Prague Quadrennial, Brown, and NYU.