In a small, two-room cafe, I take refuge from the rain, which falls in steady, gentle sheets, coming down slantwise. Perhaps an hour ago, I was shuffling my feet at the back of the group, while the tour leader spent too much time telling us boring facts through a gray drizzle. When I saw that everyone had turned their head and begun moving forward, I stepped to the side, passed around the corner of a building, and crossed the street. By the time anyone missed me, I would be gone.
I had continued down the street and back to the Institute to check the map on my phone before leaving in the direction of the theater. The tickets had been paid for, and my plan was to wait in a local cafe until our meeting time outside the theater. After I oriented myself with the map and took my bicycle out from underneath the tree, I rode away, across the bridge over the Hauptbahnhof rails, and down Engelbergstraße, Klarastraße, and then right. I found the tiny theater behind an antique shop, and noticed that there was a little cafe where I could wait out the rain. Feeling hungry, I rode back down through the neighborhood, and found a small bakery, where I bought a sandwich and a croissant. As I returned to the cafe, the sound and intensity of the rain increased, and I was beginning to feel the water on my skin through my clothes.
The cafe was just a few steps from the theater, and I could wait there and write for the next few hours until the meeting time, drink coffee, and enjoy the company of the people around me. A dark-skinned man who seemed to be the proprietor sits on the sofa next to where I sit, and speaks with the delivery man. The barista gives him a hug and a kiss and prepares to leave. A customer comes in and asks a question. African music streams from the speakers, and carved pieces of wood hang as sculptures on the walls.
Tonight Inka and Sabine have arranged for our class to view a performance by a local, well-received group called “Theater der Immoralisten.” Their topic is historical, their stance is provocative, and the theater is tiny. While ordering a Milchkaffee, I asked the barista about the theater, and she motioned to the man next to me. “You should ask him. He’s part of the theater.” I glanced at the thin, older man with a silver hoop earring and gray, close-cropped hair standing close by me, waiting for a coffee.
“Are you an actor?” I asked him.
“When does the show begin?”
“Eight.” He accepted the espresso handed to him, stirred in a spoonful of sugar, and stepped outside.
Within a few hours I saw him again as a prison guard in a short docudrama called “Stammheim,” a piece which portrayed the prison experiences of four members of that Roter Armee Fraktion before their deaths in the late 1970s in Stuttgart. The entire piece was performed by six actors- five on stage and one at the back of the theater on a mic. The audience couldn’t have seated more than 40, and the stage itself was a white triangle, with styrofoam walls that the actors burst out of during the first scene and later functioned as jail cells. Minimalistic, modern, and intense.