I look teasingly into my own eyes, telling myself this is me for now. (You can find my new demo at the end of this article, in case you prefer to go immediately there.)
It’s a recent picture I am looking at. My mom took it last Christmas, because I needed a portrait for an actor’s application and I didn’t have any up to date ones.
As an actress I come with a good dash of mischief, intensity and presence.
Although I don’t quite like the word actress, because it’s too confining in a way. I prefer the word performer. There’s more room to play with. It encompasses the possibility of dance, movement, creating original material etc. Calling myself a performer rather than an actress, gives me permission to be doing something, that’s more out of the box, different.
Funnily enough, I am a rebel in disguise. In my personal life I often want to accommodate others, but when it comes to my work, I tend towards being edgy or quirky.
Maybe that’s why I didn’t do the classic training as an actor run by official state schools in Germany. It did cross my mind, but I decided to chose another more unconventional path. Experimenting with many different theatre approaches instead and eventually training in the Lecoq method in London. Always searching for ways to create from instinct and physicality, rather than a concept born solely in the mind.
That’s probably why I love improvisation so much. It is born in the moment and asks the performer to be authentic within his choices of play and expression, taking the audience on a journey simultaneously.
No Ordinary Theatre, the company I was with in Cornwall, for example has been solely based on improvisation, working with live musicians. It felt exhilarating.
Here’s what Daniela Schlemm, our director, had to say about me as a performer:
‘Anja Kersten has been a part of my Theatre Company “No Ordinary Theatre” for almost two years in Cornwall 2016/17, UK. We have been a company working with the archetype of the fool, playing theatre out of the moment with no script, using dance, movement and music . I can highly recommend her as a solo, as well as a group performer. She is incredibly creative in her approach and confident in holding the attention of an audience with ease, improvising out of nothing. She got a great stage presence and deeply impacts people with her performances. Her work is authentic, emotional and sometimes on edge.
She is political, she understands to guide people to the cliffs of what they dared thinking about or speaking out loud. She always comes up with food for thought and is funny at the same time. Her ability to be in the moment and tune in with other players and the audience is stunning. Anja Kersten is mesmerising.
I wish her all the best on her journey and I am convinced we will see and hear more from her.
Daniela Schlemm, artistic director’
I remember Ron East, the director of the School of Physical theatre in London, telling us, that the more you dive into creativity, the stronger the destructive forces get as well.
Still now, years later, his words resonate in my head. Especially when I get overwhelmed with my own doubts. Which most probably, every single creative out there knows so well. Unfortunately, because most of us want to be seen as these wonderful, confident artists, we often don’t talk enough about it amongst each other, I feel. Honestly, all my close creative friends know this demon, telling you, you’re a fake or you’re not good enough.
It hits you, when you haven’t been working in your field for a while, or when you want to put something you created out there like a new demo… Or when you’re in the middle of the creative process as such. I think doubts can be a good thing to a certain extent, since they make you strive becoming better at your craft. At the same time, when they rule, nothing seems possible anymore and they keep you from making yourself seen with your unique talents. Too many doubts can burden you like a heavy coat, making you feel invisible.
I have to admit I certainly know this struggle very well and often become prisoner of my own doubt- demons, undermining me. I am sharing this on purpose, because I want to be honest.
Also my new demo I created is everything but perfect; on purpose. I didn’t use expensive equipment and there was no professional camera man filming me. Nope, just my mobile camera, a tripod and me. Trying out different monologues every day for 50 consecutive days. I originally wanted to do 100… Using different monologues. Existent ones mixed in with some I wrote myself.
Of course I test run my new demo with some friends of mine, before putting it out to a wider audience.
An actress friend of mine, Ulrike, said it was intense, as well as mysterious and George, a member of our former company ‘No Ordinary Theatre’ wrote:
‘Jesus, look, listen…she’s putting it all no holds barred out there.’
Now you can form your own opinion. I hope you enjoy it. The demo is exactly 4:56 minutes long. Enjoy!