We spoke to theatre maker and actor Kristin Winters about her upcoming show Hildegard Von Bingen at VAULT Festival 2023.
Tell us a bit about your show Hildegard Von Bingen
Hildegard Von Bingen is an exploration of the inner life of Hildegard, a woman that was – and still is – revered for her contribution to so many different fields – Composer, Doctor, Poet, Prophet… She has been claimed,in a way,by all of these different fields, but she was not just a symbol for these fields of study but a real person. She was a child who was locked away at eight years old, and who, at 80 when she was in her last year of life, still had to answer to the male clergy, who stripped her of her right to sing or pray out loud, something that was fundamental not only to her practice, but her very being. We want to explore what the different facets of Hildegard were. How afraid she must have been of revealing her visions, how much was she playing the game and saying what she needed to in order to be heard, how painful was it to be silenced and be called scrumpilgard (wrinklegard/ wrinkled thing) in her old age, in spite of all that she had achieved. She had the ear of three Popes, king and clergy. She was the architect of two abbeys, and was a woman’s woman, and yet was never allowed to be more than just that: a woman.
Do you believe that Hildegard is someone that women can still relate to today?
Absolutely! Whilst obviously the 12th century is an entirely different time than ours, she faced judgement, condemnation, and silencing that will be familiar to a lot of us, and that women across the world still face today. We still see on the news everyday women being silenced, controlled, called sensitive, hysterical… being judged for choices, biological realities, behaviours and daring to age in a way that men simply aren’t.
There’s this beautiful community of women that she led and surrounded herself with. She stood up for herself and her sisters, and was insistent that women were not the root cause of all evil (shocker). We still need and relish in the safety of all women spaces, regardless of who we are or what our background is.
But of course men can relate too, and this isn’t a piece just for women! We can see Hildegard as a human being who just couldn’t contain their creativity. Even just looking around at this festival, everywhere you turn are people bursting with creativity, a desire to share their art, and maybe even heal those around them.
What were the main challenges of creating the piece?
Honestly the sheer volume of her work is incredible. Trying to sort through what really needs to be in the piece and what we (heartbreakingly) need to leave out (unless someone wants a durational piece… wouldn’t be opposed!)
Really I think it’s been finding a delicate balance between her actual words, what is to be explored physically, and when to use our own words to support and highlight the similarities and differences – between Hildegard and a modern woman.
What would you like the audience to take away from your show?
I want the audience to take away some element of the human that was Hildegard. To remember that she was first and foremost a woman – before her faith comes into it. She was successful, respected, and widely known before her death. And yet was neither given a sainthood or had her word circulated after her death because it was deemed ‘too complicated’.
She felt pain and sadness, rage and awe just like we
What excites you most about taking part in VAULT Festival 2023?
Being in this extraordinary space surrounded by so much creativity! It feels like a real privilege when I look around and see so many shows in one place that look exciting and inspiring – that doesn’t happen often.
Also the Pit space is uncannily similar to what is left of Hildegard’s first abbey (that she built) – Rupertsberg – which obviously makes it all the more space to explore this first outing of the piece.
See Hildegard Von Bingen at VAULT Festival between 21st – 26th February, more details here