Project description

Zeitgeist is a German word that roughly translates to "spirit of the age."  It refers to the invisible energies that influence a time of history.  The Weimar period in Germany, and specifically Berlin, lasted from roughly 1919 to 1933. At first I thought this period would be interesting for the a project, soley because of the relationship between 20s and 20s- I liked the idea of looking back 100 years.  But as I explored my research, there were other parallels that have interested me that move beyond this basic connection.  Expressionist drama, much like painting, was about examining the inner feelings of the protagonists.  Dramatists at the time were very interested in the human psyche, dreams, and emotions.  Madness and altered mental states were frequent subjects in Expressionist stories.  The isolation our society is navigating due to Covid 19 is going to undeniably impact the art that is being created.  We will see the impacts of cabin fever, depression, and ennui in the work being produced during lockdowns. 

I came across a woman in my research who was the poster girl for all that was extreme and decedent in Weimar time.  Anita Berber was a dancer, a film star, and a model.  Various sources say she was incredibly progressive in her choreography, and a talented artist whereas others write her off as a drug addicted degenerate whose only accomplishments were her tabloid antics.  The way she was spoken about felt very relevant and modern to me still.  She was Amy Winehouse, or Courtney Love, or any other number of difficult yet talented women.

I developed a concept for a dance/theatre hybrid performance piece that explores the story of her life, and of characters that occupied Weimar Berlin.  I see this project as a way to connect with a woman from a parallel time in history.  To look at her world, both biographically in the micro sense, but also historically in the macro sense to see how the big picture of what is happening around us impacts the small picture of the work that we create.  The design borrows some things from her time, and others from mine. This project is our shared zeitgeist.

Character Lineup
pierrot sneaky
pierrot posing

One of the main techniques I explored for creating my 'Queen of the Night' costume was silk habotai painting.  It was a period appropriate technique for a 1920s design, and I liked how the inconsistencies in the painting gave much more depth than the precision of digital printing.  The roses, yoke, and figures were all outlined on silk with gutta, and then painted by hand.  The figures were painted onto crepe de chine, and also quilted, giving them slightly more shine and dimension than the rose panel.