For well over 25 years, and despite the changes we experienced over this period, both in style and personnel, one thing stayed the same: locality. From the beginning we saw ourselves as a Viennese group, aiming to build a long-term relationship with the city we made our home, and with the public that kept visiting our shows. In designing our shows we kept thinking about the audience that continuously attended our performances and formed an alliance with us over the years. We still believe that theatre has the possibility to let people in, to make them feel part of something. Yes, theatre should also pay attention to technology and expand its horizons to avoid getting stuck. But we feel – and this is most fundamental – that theatre is still a place where people can toss ideas and feel safe in a sense for an hour or two to share an experience.
Our commitment was, and still is, not to specific formal strategies but, simply put, to challenging and provocative art, to work that asks questions and fuels dreams. In some way, one can say that the only commitment we have is not to commit ourselves. Especially not to any fashionable flavor of the month. Our work employs different genres, aesthetic categories, and political-philosophical approaches, and we ask the audience to go on this journey with us while taking a new path every couple of years.
But we think that, in the end, the most important insight into our work methodology has to do with the fact that first and foremost we are a group. Our modes of creation can only be understood in that context. Our shows are deeply personal, intimate – emergent, to use a buzzword. By contrast, most plays are built along an assembly-line model: The playwright writes a play, if they’re lucky a theatre produces it, a director comes on board, the appropriate actors and designers are hired, and so on.
Neither method is more or less “right” than the other, but our work can’t be understood using the play-directing model. Instead, our work responds to the group members: the physical voices and bodies of the performers, their skills and talents, and their craft. Like any organism, our ensemble is full of contradictions and resists analysis, which is one possible explanation as to why toxic dreams have been simultaneously so beloved and so misunderstood at times.
The way we create theatre, the need to examine a topic is just the antithesis of making a play to demonstrate a theory. Our process is something akin to nest-building. It’s an assemblage that takes a little from here, a little from there, found objects and detritus, and uses them to create a show. Texts, forms, and performers swirl around like particles in a supercollider, waiting to meet and, hopefully, spark.
And that’s where we are, more than 25 years later, still looking for the spark.
toxic dreams was founded in 1997 by Yosi Wanunu and Kornelia Kilga.
Associated members: Susanne Gschwendtner, Isabella Händler, Paul Horn, Anna Mendelssohn, Anat Stainberg, Michael Strohmann, Florian Tröbinger, Markus Zett
Contributing artists: Stephanie Cumming, Marietta Dang, Nina Fog, Anna Rot, Theresa Martini, Barca Baxant, Martin Siewert, Peter Stamer, Timotheus Tomicek, Charlotte Zorell
Past contributing artists: Irene Coticchio, Alexandra Sommerfeld, Elisabeth Prohaska, Michaela Hurdes-Galli, Lonesome Andi Haller Band, Andreas Strauss, Elisabeth Löffler, Cesary Tomaszewski, Charlotta Ruth, Cornelia Scheuer, Agnieszka Dmochowska, Claribel Koss, Fuckhead, Philippa Galli, Johannes Hoffmann, Daniel Aschwanden, Laia Fabre, Bilderwerfer, Onur Poyraz, Mathias Gmachl, Jeannie Mayr, Alexander Mayr, Alexander Kranabetter, David Schweighart, Katharina Höltermann a.m.o.
toxic dreams is funded by the Department of Cultural Affairs of the City of Vienna and the Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sports. With continuous support by TON & BILD Medientechnik GmbH.
Photo credits for this website: TimTom, Barbara Palffy, Felicitas Kruse, Daniel Kovalenko, Karl Michalski, Nikola Milatovic, Sandra Fockenberger, Stefan Smidt, Erich Goldmann, Robert Radelmacher, Marietta Dang