Yael Ronen

Portrait Yael Ronen
Photo: Esra Rotthoff

»In the forty years of my life, there has never been a global experience like Covid. And, in the middle of it all, this outgoing U.S. President who acts like a stubborn toddler.«

Do you read novels?

Why not?
I need information. I don’t like fictions. I’m interested in what is and what people do with that. Real people. They have enough stories. We don’t have to think up more.

Have you ever toyed around with the idea of taking a break from working in the theatre?
This idea pops into my head every now and then. I was born into the theatre, I’ve never done anything else. I have the feeling that I never decided to do it. Every couple of years I ask myself the question: Do I really want to do it? I don’t want to make theatre just because it’s my job. But now the coronavirus adds to that. And many people are asking themselves if they’re really doing what they want to do. For those of us in the theatre, this question has been posed in a quite radical way. We live on physical contact with each other and that with the audience.

Is success important to you?
No. What’s important to me is my life. I have to enjoy it. Success in the theatre actually makes that more difficult. I asked myself: Who am I, if I’m not this woman from the theatre? »Who am I?« was an important question for me for a long time. I was curious about my self without the theatre.

You could try out something else.
I’m trying it out in the theatre. I use the theatre as an instrument for researching reality. But I’m also trying out ways for the theatre to heal. I use the theatre more like a scientist: I have a research programme and then off we go.

Also like a shaman?
Also like a shaman.

Are you a healer?
Yes and no. I have the feeling that the older I get, the less I know. At the moment, I’m focused primarily on gathering all sorts of doubts.

Do you enjoy that process?
Sometimes I think it would be simpler to have strong convictions, a simple path to follow. But at the same time, I have the feeling that my doubts bring me closer to the truth.

Your latest play is called Death Positive – States of Emergency, the play about the coronavirus crisis. Now I hear you’re working on another Covid-play. What do you want to show in it that you didn’t put into Death Positive already?
I don’t know. But I usually begin working on a play with this »I don’t know.« Now on top of that, at the moment all of us don’t know what‘s to be done. We try out this, we try out that. Not only at the theatre, but also live. Everywhere in the world. That amuses me. Now everyone must do what I have always done. Try. Now everyone needs to adjust to new situations. A global initiation.

How are you working on your new Covid-play?
There is the external reality and there is my internal one. I’m searching for the connections between both of them. I ask myself: where do I get my information, which sources do I trust, which not? Something is happening in the world. It affects society, it affects me. I’m tracing these movements …

You don’t think about scenes that we’ll see later on stage?
No, no. They come right at the end. At the beginning there is just this movement between that which is outside and how that is connected to me, how I connect it.

Are more people thinking about these things thanks to Covid?
Absolutely. Even if you exclude the conspiracy theories, there are still so many contradictory views, yes, experiences, around the world today, that the question of which of those are true cries out for an answer. Also because so much of our lives depends on the answers. In the forty years of my life, there has never been a similar global experience. And, in the middle of it all, this outgoing U.S. President who acts like a stubborn toddler. It used to be that people who created their own reality were sent to a psychiatrist. Thanks to Trump that’s now supposed to be seen as a legitimate decision. But he is, and this is the irony of the story, the messenger of the truth. He shows us where constructing one’s own reality can lead if it’s not reconciled with the constructions of others.

Interview: Arno Widmann

Death positive – States of Emergency

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