I am excited to see great parties at the Schauspielhaus again

published on 14. November 2019

How did you both end up at Schauspielhaus Zürich?

Asma: I am a part of Wu Tsangs ensemble, or crew, or whatever you call it. I have been collaborating with Wu for over a decade. It all began when we started a party called “Wildness” which she ended up making a film about, which I scored. So we had a collaborative relationship for many years when she got invited to be a director here at Schauspielhaus and she invited me to be a composer with her ensemble. To work in a theatre and to be able to create in that kind of space, sounded super exciting to me. And I have been to Zurich before to dj and have always enjoyed it here. I have good friends here, some still live here, some have moved abroad. I was excited to live in a smaller city than LA. I personally prefer that.

Robert: I used to work in costume departments in different theatres and later in a school, where I taught theatre specific tailoring. But that didn't end well, and I ended up in a company for pattern designing, which never seemed very interesting to me. I always wanted to go back to theatre, but not necessarily in costumes.

And then 14 years ago, there was a newspaper ad, that Schauspielhaus Zurich was looking for a fronthouse manager. My very first job was in a hotel, so I thought putting my experience as a host and my love for theatre together could be a nice way to end my career.

But, I remember, the ad was already three weeks old, when I saw it, so I called to check whether they were still looking for someone or if the process has already been completed. They told me that the position hadn’t been filled yet, because they had to go through 200 applications. But the responsible HR person told me: "you never know, maybe we’ve just been waiting for you". So I sent an application and in the end, I got the job.

Did your job profile change over the years?

Robert: At first, I was only responsible for the lobby, then after one year also for the artist entrance at Pfauen, after another year also for the artist entrance at Schiffbau, then the administration of the artist flats. And finally the parties were added to my list about 7 or 8 years ago.

Did the parties change in those 7 to 8 years?

Robert: We used to have the parties downstairs in the Kammer, people used to smoke and nobody would care how many people would be in there. And afterwards you had to get rid of your clothes, because they stank so much. But the parties were great. And the barkeepers left at some point of the night and said: "You now have the responsibility for yourself", and we would continue dancing and drinking until 5 a.m.

I remember the first non-smoking party with a very sad, frustrated DJane downstairs, while 50 people were smoking outside and then the police came, because neighbours were complaining about the noise. Because of that, we decided to move the parties into the foyer, because here you can go outside for a smoke and come back and the party isn’t being torn apart. And the neighbours won't complain. But of course, it isn't the same atmosphere as downstairs, where it is warm and cozy.

Also, I think people have changed a lot. We used to have a lot of parties here after the shows, a lot of drinking and smoking. Nowadays the artists go home and they don’t drink that much anymore. They go jogging in the morning and want to eat healthy. 30 years ago, when I worked at the opera house, the stage crew was starting at 10 a.m. with a big sandwich and a beer. To drink beer during work is not allowed anymore, which is a good thing because there were a lot more accidents on stage in those times.

Do you (already) have favourite party stories from Schauspielhaus?

Robert: Once we had a very famous director here. We were warned that he’ll get "very special" once he starts drinking. So I informed my staff, that he is the most important man of the night. Don't judge him, don't throw him out - no matter what might happen. If there'd be a problem, they should inform his crew, but don’t do anything. So first he collapsed, and we thought we had to go to the hospital and the crew said: "No no no, he does that all the time, and we have no money for the hospital anyway." And after a while he felt fine again, but then took off his pants and danced butt-naked.

Asma: I wish something like that will happen at my parties. For me, it was so cool to see an older generation of people at the first party we did here in September - way past 2 am. That made me happy. I don’t know how old, but definitively over 60, but looking so vibrant and young. That’s what I am noticing in Switzerland, that the older community still goes out to have fun or work out. It’s not like the States. There, if you get to a certain age, you’re grumpy and old. At Schauspielhaus, we had a very diverse audience, not standing there bewildered, but dancing. That made me very happy.

When and where are you having the next party?

Asma: At the moment we have a lot of issues with time and capacity. For November we’ll be at the Kammer again but with a smaller setting, maybe some visual projections or special lightings. At the moment we are figuring out, what is possible and what not. And for January we're talking about having the party at Zeughaus, which seems to me like a big "work in progress"-space.

With what vision did you come here?

Asma: I guess my vision was very similar to what Robert has described before. What’s so cool about the theatre community is that people are more in tune: The actors and dancers here at Schauspielhaus dance so much more than when I used to come Zürich and just dj for the regular crowd.

But I wanted to show you a book: It’s all about designing club culture and how they used to set up parties in old spaces in New York. It's about stories like the ones you told before, about opposition. A club is about the experience. It's not just about dancing and being drunk. It can also just be crazy lights or performances. I feel like there is a connection between theatre, art and clubs. Because in a club, people are other people, and become a mass. That’s when they let out their departerous side.

Underground club spaces tend to be in the basement of a bank, or a school or a theatre. I think that’s cool thing about club spaces, that they are temporary and you can have so much fun. They are warm, cozy, everyone can do what they want.

Robert: You would have loved Zurich in the eighties. There were a lot of illegal parties. The most important thing was to know where to get the flyers which would tell you where you had to be. For example, one party label owned an old perfumery logo. They handed out perfume-flyers with an address and a time, and insiders would recognize that peculiar perfume logo and know this was the place where the party was happening.

There was one place - now it’s a bookshop and café called Sphères - which used to be an atelier on weekdays and on the weekends they had a DJ in an elevator and as soon as the police was spotted, he would unplug all the speakers, shut the door and disappear to another floor.

Asma: You should be in this book!

Robert: I am excited to see great parties at the Schauspielhaus again – and some opposition against all the rules.