You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet: An Interview with Eva von Schweinitz

Eva von Schweinitz (Lead Artist) is a theater- and filmmaker trained in experimental/devised theater and collaboration. Her work has been presented internationally, including screenings at Tribeca Film Festival, Palm Springs International ShortFest, International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, and performances at festivals in New York (PRELUDE, BEAT Festival), Germany, France, Belgium and Luxemburg. As a video and sound designer, Eva has worked with Elevator Repair Service, Superhero Clubhouse, Piehole, Eliza Bent, Sarah Hughes and McFeely Sam Goodman, and others, at venues including The Public, NYTW, Abrons Arts Center, The Brick, The Wild Project, and The Tank. Eva is a co-founder and member of the collective pulk fiktion, dedicated to creating contemporary theatrical experiences for young audiences in Germany, recently awarded with the George Tabori Award 2016. Eva holds an MFA in Performance and Interactive Media Arts from Brooklyn College, and a BA in Film from International Filmschool Cologne.

TMT: This is your first time as a Lead Artist with Target Margin. What was the thing that excited you most about the Lab when you were first approached about it?

EVS: What surprised and excited me most was, and still is, the explicit welcoming of unanswered questions, the unknown, and intuitive hunches. David saying at the end of our initial meeting, “No listen, we don’t want you to pitch us an idea”, was such an unusual thing to be told when in conversation about a new project. I continue to be impressed by the freedom that I am given in discovering my own new ways of expression while following – as intently as I can – those intuitive hunches.

TMT: You come from a background of devised theatre, and this is your first time working with an already established text. How has tackling this challenge helped you grow as an artist?

EVS: Taking away the option to write text in collaboration with the ensemble is like a part of my body has been removed, and the rest of it is slowly figuring out how to function in this shifted configuration. Suddenly things don’t work the way they used to! In finding my voice within a pre-existing framework of dialogue and plot, I’ve been unable to fall back on certain familiar strategies. I’m really outside of my comfort zone. So it’s been a continuous process of trying out new ideas and different approaches that has taught me a lot. There has been an interesting tension between embracing and rejecting parts of O’Neill’s narrative. While my tendency has been to veer away from the prescribed path, every time I get stuck or when something doesn’t work, I realize that I need to go back and look at the text and DEAL with it. And with that the lab has been pushing me to become a better storyteller.

TMT: In The Great God Brown, O’Neill uses masks throughout the text to show people taking on different identities. How has this project encouraged you to think about identity and public vs private personas?

EVS: Although certain aspects of the plot seem antiquated, I find its themes quite timely. It may be obvious to draw a parallel to Facebook where we present a curated version of self, an avatar of our preferred alter ego, but I think what happens on social media is an intensified version of something that is already occurring in our everyday life. I would go so far as to say that every interaction includes a certain degree of managing the impression we leave on others. Upon first reading the play, I was most moved by the characters’ inability to be who they wanted to be, taking to masks as a way of coping. I related to the fear, shame, and vulnerability that comes with letting down our guard, as well as the desire to live up to our dreams and the pain of facing our shortcomings. Through the process, this has advanced into thinking about intimacy and relationships. Identity seems to be intrinsically linked to the way we relate to others and how others relate to us. I keep coming back to the image of looking into each other’s eyes. Holding someone else’s gaze can be as hard as looking at ourselves.

TMT: If you had to choose a mask to wear in your everyday life, which would you choose? Here are your choices — welding mask, ski mask, seaweed mask, Majora’s, macramé mask, V for Vendetta mask, or Batman mask. Choose wisely.

EVS: I will go with the practical, multi-functional ski mask! It’s getting cold and I love snowboarding. In the summer, it’ll prevent me from getting sunburned and freezing to death by AC. Apart from that, it will provide me with the necessary anonymity to spread some anarchy or do some heroic deeds. It also hides pimples. It’s perfect! #hellopussyriot

TMT: What’s next on the docket for you?

EVS: Early 2017 is reserved for some personal incubator time. I’m going to work on developing a few projects I’ve been thinking about, and I want to spend a lot more time reading than I have in the recent past. I miss it! Later in the year, I’ll be working on video designing two exciting shows, Elevator Repair Service’s Measure for Measure and Sibyl Kempson’s The Securely Conferred Vouchsafed Keepsakes of Maery S. And we will be celebrating the 10-year anniversary of pulk fiktion, the theater collective in Germany that I co-founded and am still part of. We’re planning a fun little festival for one October-weekend in Cologne/Köln and I’m looking forward to curating that together.

Click HERE to buy tickets to Eugene O’Neill’s THE GREAT GOD BROWN by Lead Artist Eva von Schweinitz.

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