“I thought, why Down syndrome, why a handicap? But then I realized, we are also just people. It doesn’t matter if I have a handicap." Juliana Götze
“I want to work with a lot of actors. Leonardo DiCaprio for example, he is so cute.” Juliana Götze
In the Kulturbrauerei, a former brewery in the heart of Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg, you will find one of the most cheerful places of the city. ‘Theater RambaZamba’ is both a theatre, and an artist’s workshop. Its outstanding feature are the people acting there – most of them have Down syndrome or learning disabilities. Juliana Götze is one of their actors and on her way to become a true star. Juliana: “This theatre is my second home.”
The 28-year-old Juliana has Down syndrome and has been is working at the theatre for more than 15 years. She has become a well-respected actress in the crowd. A colleague of hers makes jokes about her stardom. “Hey, Juliana! Should I roll out the red carpet for you today? Another interview?” He starts laughing, Juliana smiles back at him.
Down syndrome is a chromosome defect that is accompanied by physical characteristics; you can often recognize it from the eyes for example. People with Down syndrome also usually have an intellectual disability – learning is a bit harder. When Juliana first heard she had Down syndrome, it was a shock to her. “I thought, why Down syndrome, why a handicap? But then I realized, we are also just people. It doesn’t matter if I have a handicap. I don’t feel like I have a handicap.”
Juliana grew up in Berlin Buch, in the north of the city, with her parents and her brother. The fact that she has Down syndrome never stopped her to pursue her dreams of becoming an actress. “I started when I was nine years old. I went to a regular school as well, but I also did a lot of theatre. I started working full-time at Theater RambaZamba when I was 20.”
Juliana, with her vast experience on stage, is Germany-wide known for her role in the popular crime series ‘Polizeiruf 110’. In 2008 she had a leading role in one of the episodes. “Wow, that was something totally different with all these cameras!” Juliana says. “I also had to play a love scene. But I just met this guy! I felt so strange; I just couldn’t do it in the beginning. But then I thought of my brother and how he is with his girlfriend, and then it worked.”
Together with her parents she watched the episode on TV. “It was so crazy to see yourself on TV afterwards. But you get used to it too.” It didn’t go unnoticed; Juliana received a lot of fan mail after the episode was broadcast. “Really, I got mail even from people from other countries. I thought, I don’t know them and they know me through TV. I sent them my autograph. And other people who recognized me on the street, that was also strange. I also gave them my autograph.”
Juliana has played in many plays over the years. And more than once she had the leading role. “In the play ‘Alice on rabbit hunt’, I was Alice. It was so great, so many strange things happen in the play and it was also with a lot of dancing, which I love too.” Many professional actors and dancers do workshops with the actors of RambaZamba and teach them the tricks of their profession.
Learning a new script is always a challenge, agrees Juliana. “That’s a lot of work. We have to learn the script by heart. I practice the whole day here, and then later at home as well. And then I need to learn how to express myself physically as well.” A bigger play, like Orpheus, takes about six to seven months to prepare. Due to the professionalism and experience of the actors, some plays can also be prepared in just three months.
Juliana’s performance on TV gave her a taste of stardom – she liked it. “I want to work with a lot of actors. Leonardo DiCaprio for example.” She loses herself for a moment in her own thoughts. “Aaah, he is just so cute!” If she would consider going to Hollywood? She laughs. “I need to learn English then. But I would always want to be here, this is my home theatre.”
In the meantime, Juliana is preparing for a show tonight. “Of course, I still get nervous before I have to go on stage.” But Juliana has a trick to cope with it: “I go back to myself then, I meditate a bit. I calm myself down, and in my mind I go through the script again. And then, when I go on stage, that feeling, whaaa!”