Thursday, June 8, 2017

Living Room Love

Every time I introduce my friends Kati and Thomas to someone, I'm looking forward to the moment when I drop the sentence "They initiated Living Room Love" - and the other person also drops something, namely their jaw. Actually I call it by its German name "Wohnzimmerliebe" which doesn't make it less kinky.

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Wohnzimmerliebe November 2015: Actress Eva Engelbach, Organizer Kati, Actor Marcel Weinand, Organizer Thomas. Engelbach & Weinand performed "Taschenhonka", a morbid chamber drama about the ripper Fritz Honka, killing mainly prostitutes at Hamburg in the 70s.

Of course this is just a silly joke because although these two fantastically creative and ingenious people indeed did initiate the Living Room Love, it's not kinky at all, but a very good and quite successful cultural project: they organize lectures and song recitals and jazz concerts - whatever tickles their artistic fancy.

And it goes like this:

Their first - and basically only - investment was the purchase of twenty five black IKEA folding chairs and two embroidered pillows. In October 2011, they placed these chairs for the first time in neat rows in their friends' living room - a venue was founded, even though only for a couple of hours. The audience of this premiere consisted of their friends, and they had the pleasure to hear Musical singer Stefanie Köhm singing songs from the (tragic) musical "Wenn Rosenblätter fallen" ("When Rose Petals fall off"). The initiators, the host, the artist, and most of all the audience - everybody was delighted and agreed to do this again as soon as possible. And they sticked to this plan, since already two months later they organized a dramatic reading with texts by Victor Hugo, David Forster Wallace, Jon Kalman Steffansson und Herman Melville, read by the actors Kerstin Pietsch and Mirko Thiele, and this time the hostess with the mostest Kati took part in the show singing, accompanied by Ralf Lehnert's accordion.

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"Sweet Remains Trio" has remained in our memories since April 2016 

It's not only for the fantastic performances and the really special atmosphere where you have a glass of wine rubbing shoulders with the evening's star; and often you literally do rub shoulders because not every kitchen is made for 30 people. Talking 'bout the kitchen - another charming side effect is that you get to see many different apartments and styles of living. Looking for the bathroom, you accidentally open doors to closets and bed rooms. You get a really good glance at some stranger's life. Of course like at any other cultural event, most people talk about the performance, but you hear also conversations like "...and how much is the rent for this?" or "Wow, where did you get these darling wine glasses?".

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To this day I'm remembering with envy the Wohnzimmerliebe taking place in May 2016 - when we had the chance to admire the host's roof top terrace overlooking Hamburg and the river Elbe.
(bye:myself with Thomas and Kati before the show (right to left))

You can help yourself to wine and water that Kati and Thomas bring to the show - you pay by putting 1 Euro per glass in a piggy bank - and the respective hosts offer whatever they please. It can be bread and butter, cheese and crackers or even a variety of delicious homemade spreads on home baked bread. That's always a nice surprise for the guests. And the guests are a nice surprise for the hosts who sometimes have a flat full of people they've never seen before.

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Having a drink with the organizers, hosts, and artists at someone's kitchen
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Although the first events were mostly advertised through their circle of friends, today their mailing list consists of around 300 addresses, thus the 'ticket sale' is similar to a Robby Williams concert: If you don't answer Living Room Love's invitation email right away, all twenty five folding chairs will be taken.


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Theater Company EAT.PLAY.LOVE performing at a Living Room in February 2012

To grant the hosts' privacy, only the confirmed guests get an Email with the respective address 24 hours beforehand.
Welcoming them, Thomas always reminds the audience that whose cell phone rings during the show, she or he will host the next event. Although this hasn't happened once, they never have a problem finding hospitable people. Many love opening their home to such a special event, and if I had enough space, I would volunteer my place in a wink of an eye.

Before the artists begin, Kati announces an important detail: the top hat that goes around during the performance so everybody can pay their gratuity. The money goes of course to the artist, the host gets a nice gift from Kati and Thomas like for instance a CD by that evening's singer or the book the respective play is based on or something of this kind. With this concept, everybody wins.

By this day, over almost six years, 27 distinctive acts have taken place in 27 different living rooms in front of 27 varied crowds.
This is a lot considering the fact, that the Living Room Love is very enriching ideally and artistically, but it doesn't pay in the sordid but necessary material way. So Kati and Thomas have regular jobs to bring home the bacon, and since 2013 their little son Julian to look after.

So there are enough spaces available, there are many artists willing to perform - time is the only factor that holds Kati and Thomas back from making Living Room Love more often.



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