Life at LISPA

Life at LISPA

Classes have been in session for a few weeks, and our days have been packed but have sped by. We are settled in, but I already feel the ways I move and think shifting. I’m not sure what time looks like anymore.

I’m not even sure what my definition of “school” is anymore.

Let me lead you through a typical day at LISPA.

Your alarm goes off at 6 a.m. At LISPA, the students are responsible for keeping the studio spaces maintained, and you’re on cleaning crew this week. You make the 25 minute trip to Dock 11 Eden in the neighborhood of Pankow, where LISPA is located. Eden caters to physical art creators and is extremely environmentally conscious (compost pile included). You open the doors of the front building to the cafe, a warm, rustic stretch of rooms that serves only vegan food. You pass through the garden full of trees, planted flowers and vegetation, and picnic tables and chairs to gather around on a sunny day. You have an extra appreciation of the trees covering the grounds after learning that the architects wanted to cut them down when building the property, but the owners were adamant about making the structure as environmentally friendly as possible. You head to one of the studio buildings and up to the third floor, leaving your shoes at the door. You step onto the black marley floor, taking in the light from the enormous windows on all sides. The view shows you a hundred shades of green and is rich inspiration for practicing theatre that imitates the natural world. For the moment you have it all to yourself…now it’s time to mop.

Half an hour later 32 students (12 of which make up the Columbia cohort) trickle in to warm up before the 9 a.m. session. You start with Movement Analysis, which may sound dry, but there are no lectures here. On the contrary, an objective of the class is to learn how you can express with your body what many schools of training have you express with your face. You might use red nose, neutral mask, and improvisation as lenses for exploration – today is improvisation. Though classes are taught in English, you and your classmates are challenged to improvise in your ‘mother tongues,’ as you are from 13 countries and speak 10 different languages.

The next session you have dance and Alexander Technique. It would be inadequate to describe what kind of dance you would be doing, but know that it is solo, in pairs, in a group, in lines, on the floor, in a plank position, running, swaying, jumping, rolling, and stretching…and you will sweat.

At lunch you eat a yummy vegetable and rice hot bowl from the cafe because you were too tired to pack lunch this morning.

Now it’s time for a small group class called Personal Creative Process. You enter Studio 2 to find the typically bare floor covered in color – pencils, watercolors, oil pastels, markers, and charcoal. In this session, you stretch your means of expression, reflection, and comfort zones with visual art. Being that you are usually a studious note taker and documentarian, working with a different tool is both challenging and liberating. You get to experience the parallels between collaboratively creating visual art and theatre, but on paper the process is right in front of your eyes.

Now you have to throw all your lessons out the window and throw yourself into the lion’s den: devising. Each week you meet with a small group to devise a short piece of theatre which is presented in front of all the students and faculty on Friday. Sometimes it isn’t easy, pleasant, or even fun, but its the core of what you’re here to do.

Rounding out the day is a session of singing and rhythm, no choir experience required. In this session the time is split between you and your classmates exploring rhythms collaboratively and singing a wide range of international songs as a chorus. You might sing a song from Georgia, Brazil, Nashville, or all three today. It doesn’t matter if you know the language; what’s important are the sounds you learn to make together.

It’s 6:30 p.m. and your day has ended. Hopefully you’ll have the energy to heat up your leftover chicken…but if not, there’s always 3 euro falafel a few doors down from your place. These are your thoughts while getting on the tram, but they quickly turn to the other passengers. Could one of them be the ticketing police disguised as a pedestrian? You definitely ‘forgot’ to get a new train pass this morning. Oh, well. You’re living on the edge. As you settle in to your seat and cue up your “Heimreise” Spotify playlist, it hits you that you’ve been at the studios for 10.5 hours today, and you’ll be back in another 14.  You are exhausted, but you are full and grateful. This is the journey you came for, and you have no clue what tomorrow will look like.


Wait…did that guy just yell to see our tickets?