Tjaša Ferme    

My Marlene (Dietrich) I want you to keep your illusions

Year of writing: 2017
A one woman show about a cross-dressing bisexual pioneer from Hollywood's golden era.
Total cast size: 3 (1 f, 2 m)

young adults, grown-ups

grown ups, youth
play for one performer, one person show
love, war and post-war years, class and cultural criticism of the society, interpersonal relations, violence, death, inter-partner relations

My Marlene is an immersive confessional theatre experience addressing the audience as soldiers that Marlene was entertaining in 1944 on the French front. Marlene Dietrich unveils her contradicting faces – seducing,  pampering, singing to and cooking for the audience of soldiers while bombs are dropping. Fleshing her out as a selfless war hero, tyrannic mother, unreined lover and insatiable romantic. Sprinkled with her songs, private letters and video projections. Intimate and controversial. 

One time we went to a Russian dinner; vodka and caviar… My child saw us sling vodka shots, she poured herself some water in a shot glass and perfectly did it herself. She does it. Bravo Maria! Wunderbar! Einmal bitte, fur deine Mutti! She heard my plea and did it again. (she takes the shot) Sehr gut meine Kleine! and we got an audience. People thought I really let my eight year old child drink real vodka. This time we did it together for the headlines in newspapers. “Movie star and her child take vodka shots in synch“ HAHA!

Do you know this story?

Once upon a time there was a poor fool who loved a young girl. But she pushed him away and said to him “bring me I tell you, your mother’s heart and give it to my dog.” He went and slew his mother. He took the heart, it was burning red, he carried it, but he stumbled and fell, the heart rolled
away and let out a cry “Did you hurt yourself, my son?”

I always thought that being a mother was the most important part of me. Nothing was ever more important to me than the wellbeing of my child. If she ever felt uncomfortable in America, I would immediately pack up my suitcase and leave. But she loved America, Americans and hamburgers and everything that came with it.

That summer in Paris I found out I had to renew my German passport if I wanted to apply for American citizenship. By that time I had already gotten some offers from Hitler that if only I returned to Germany, my fatherland, I could become the queen of the German movie- so I knew it was a trial before me!

I gingerly ventured into a lion’s den, German Embassy in Paris. Count Welczeck welcomed me in, surrounded by four tall gentlemen introduced as Princes Reuss. A lineage of German nobility that named all of their
male borns Heinrich. Creepy. They told me I’ll be immediately granted my passport and that they have a message for me.

“If Miss Dietrich comes back to Germany she will have a triumphal entry into Berlin through Brandenburg Gate, Miss Dietrich shall be able to work on any film with any director she wants!”

“Jaaa, aber ich habe ein contract that binds me to Mr. Von Sternberg but if you like I’d be more than willing to shoot a film with him in Germany!”

An icy silence fell on us.

“Do I rightly understand that you refuse to have Mr. Von Sternberg make a film in -your country- because he’s Jewish?”

Then they all started mumbling at the same time: “Ah no, this is just American propaganda you were naïve enough to believe Miss Dietrich, there is no such thing as Anti-Semitism in Germany…. “Well then we’re all agreed (I said, rising up). I’ll wait for the result of your negotiations with my director and I hope that the German press will change its tone towards Mr. Von Sternberg and me.”

And I walked out, a little amused by the game. The next day I got my passport in the mail and a note that I pleased Adolf with my answer. That evil clown!

Meanwhile, jealous of Paris, Wienna and Salzburg, Von Sternberg demanded me to immediately return to Hollywood to work on the next film, Catherine the Great! But when I got there nothing was ready! He was still hammering out the damn script! 

Jo was very difficult in this film, he was screaming, dictating and insulting everyone left and right, but geniuses must do what they must do to be great! We took fifty takes of ringing the cathedral bell. Twenty pounds of dead weight, the end of rope in a shape of crucifix slamming against my legs till I started bleeding- in a while suit- and still when I saw the rough
cut I thought he should have made me do it another fifty times to really get it!

“Miss Dietrich, what do you think you’re doing? Ringing for the butler at an elegant dinner party in Vienna? Miss Dietrich could you manage some expression of exaltation on that pretty face of yours? You are not an Austrian milkmaid calling in her cows, you are seizing a throne!”

It was our best movie! At the wrap party I showed my thanks to everyone by bringing presents and for Jo, I made a special announcement:

“For my master! The only man who knows how to make me beautiful, how to light me, the genius that guides me, and makes me do what he  wants, because he alone knows what is right. I SALUTE YOU!”

It was our best movie! After this we only made The Devil is a Woman a year after, now eight years ago and that was it! Jo and I were finished! He had to move on! Move on, he is like a fish out of water, he completely stopped working! A copy of a German article is projected on the wall

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