The cultural sector is mainly affected by the effects of the pandemic and, with it, cultural education. Anja Sparberg heads the cultural education department of the Nuremberg State Theater. In an interview with the Nuremberg Education Office, she talks about exciting experiences, changed formats, and the hope that cultural work will return in presence.
Ms. Sparberg, how the theater education department integrates into the large state theater complex, and what does that mean for your work?
Theater education is a cross-sectional task. We are responsible for the mediation of all branches. We are very free to design projects and collaborations in the city, and people trust me that this has a logical connection to the work of the State Theater.
You are working with different partners. What kind of collaborations are these?
First of all, we have all types of schools in Nuremberg and the surrounding area as cooperation partners and preschools, kindergartens and certain courses, the music school, and the education center. Sometimes these are rather short impulses that we give, sometimes longer collaborations. Then there is the other training area, the Institute for Education and School Psychology (IPSN) or the Academy for School Theater and Performative Education at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg.
We also have our clubs, which is leisure time for the participants, a hobby. Some of the young people take this seriously because some of them also want to become actors. Then there is the Plus Minus 50 group, which is a great time, and you might want to try yourself out again. We also have the inclusive club and the Saturday club. From 2015 we offered special formats for refugees, which then continued in the Saturday Club until the last season.
So some things are more receptive, others offer more participatory?
Yes, for example, we do many guided tours or visits with preparation and follow-up, which are more receptive. W seminars in the upper level of the grammar school tend to take place in conversational contexts. But we also do one or two P seminars (also at high schools) per season. There was a project for Hans Litten; we put together a play and our production for him.
Could it be that you know the name of the TV series Babylon Berlin?
(laughs) Yes, this is the young lawyer who made Adolf Hitler a personal enemy. The students of the Peter-Vischer-Gymnasium did their research and talked to Patricia Litten for a long time. Patricia Litten – herself an actress – played her grandmother in the play. She lives here in Nuremberg.
To what extent did you have to or were able to adapt your work to the difficult conditions that the pandemic confronted you?
Well, for example, for a project that in the original plan as a play, we switched to the radio play format, which supplements with cinematic moments. It was about work in the context of the Capital of Culture with the Veit-Stoss-Realschule. When it became clear that we couldn’t do this as planned, we were initially very disappointed. And to find a way to bring it to a good end, we switched to the radio play format. My colleague will do the recordings with the young people under relatively complex conditions because that has to be done separately at the schools.
We also do digital choir work as part of our club life how we struggled in March and April on different platforms to get sound! The solution was to distribute the scores, my colleague plays the piano, and the choir members sing on mute. They enjoy it because they can sing how they want at home. And because he is a very good singing teacher, he can see without hearing them where they are going and where there are problems. If important, there is also the possibility that someone sings alone and you work on it.
In the Corona situation, we have a strong separation between work on the one hand and leisure and hobby on the other when it comes to infection control regulations. How has that been reflected in your career?
That played a major role; we have strict occupational safety here. In March, April, and May, we only worked digitally. In June and July, we met again because our offers could run under adult education. The premiere of the play by the youth club in July out here on the forecourt, only four people out of a total of 14 were allowed to be on stage at the same time, and we did that very well.
And how was it during the rehearsals? It would be best if you didn’t get too close then. Love scenes can be difficult with that.
Exactly! But we didn’t have it like that. Interestingly, when acting in a theater, the tension is also at a distance. During the rehearsals, we also worked outside, and I concentrated on theater-pedagogical exercises that were very enjoyable at keeping a distance. And you could see how important it was for the young people to play with each other again, to see each other. This hunger for being together was more than palpable.
The jerky digitization step in the spring demanded a lot from a wide range of education providers. And in some cases, there was also the problem that people got lost in this step into the digital. How did you deal with it in the state theater and personally?
Let’s put it this way: For me, it was also a crash course in March. I still belong to the generation that switched from the typewriter to the computer. But the youngsters helped me with this change. I learned a lot there from the other courses and clubs. To not lose individuals, I made many phone calls where I noticed it was going to be difficult; We then worked partly in parallel across different platforms and exchanged creative tasks. So that nobody gets lost, it was also important to have a goal in mind. We said to ourselves, we’ve developed the piece up to this point, and we’ll either make a film out of it or show the work. I can say we haven’t lost anyone.
Do you expect permanent damage to culture and cultural education in Nuremberg?
Well, in part, we already have that. The concert hall will not build up for the time being. I think we will feel that very much. For example, we have a colleague who works “half free” and breaks everything from his free activity.
There are also those young people who are just getting started. And to whom one has always said: “I take you with a kiss!” Then there is this discussion about this systemic relevance. Some then say I’m looking for something now where that can no longer happen to me.
Would it also be possible that culture will get a different status afterward?
Clear. Despite all the euphoria about digitization, we were now able to see what is going and what is frustrating us in a quick experiment of cultural education. And I think we have already noticed that people need personal contact, presence, physical, and perception in the room. I think you can draw your conclusions from this and that people will be very happy to take advantage of our offers again.
We agree with this hope and thank you very much for the interview.
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