Despite being so far from their homes, a group of actors and actresses come together at Germany’s Maxim Gorki Theater to present a story near and dear to their hearts. “Winterreise” (or, “Winter Journey”), performed by the “Exil Ensemble,” tells of 24-year-old Syrian actress Kenda Hmeidan’s journey with her fellow six performers as they take a bus tour through Germany during the brittle cold weeks of January. Each an exile from Syria, Palestine, or Afghanistan, these actors have left their home countries in pursuit of their art, all while struggling with the transition from departure to settlement.
At times tragic and comedic, the docudrama transforms very real and personal experiences into a form of theatrical therapy, focusing primarily on the journey itself rather than a specific storyline. According to a review by Ms. Rachel Donadio in the New York Times, “Winterreise” becomes a “meditation on exile and arrival.” The newly-founded “Exil Ensemble,” with which these seven professional actors have fully-contracted, plans for two stage productions a year, along with an educational tour through Germany and Zurich, in order to raise awareness about the challenges immigrants face after leaving their homes. Contrary to depictions encouraging the generalized stereotyping of refugees as “boat people,” Hmeidan and company, each professionals with experience and skill in their field, represent just a small fraction of the many intellectuals and artists in exile. While the media and arts often depict immigrants as desperate individuals focused solely on escape, we need to remember that those fleeing include professionals who have completed specialized educations in their home countries before being forced to leave. Focusing on a German man hosting six new arrivals in Berlin, “Winterreise,” offers a telling production that not only shares the pain of leaving home, but also examines the shock of facing a foreign culture.
To read the full article from the New York Times, click on the link below:
Compiled and edited by Naomi Pham