Up close and personal with The Tempest director, Conny Loder
How does this project differ from the summer open-air productions? In our live open-air productions, we take down the so-called fourth wall: the actors play to all sides and enter from all sides (sometimes even through the seated audience); they engage with the audience and this interaction boosts the live performance – it gives something back to the actors. Anything can happen. These moments of intimacy, collectiveness, “live”-ness fall flat during a recorded performance without any audience present.
What were the main challenges in this production? The actors all had to settle for their own private film sets: spaces needed to be adjusted, as well as lighting, the virtual backgrounds had to function with the costumes, sound difficulties needed to be sorted – all this on top of the actors actually not seeing each other and not seeing the actual perspective of the director. Because Zoom puts participants into a specific order on the screen by when they enter the meeting, we had to think about where we wanted each character to be positioned in relation to their scene partners. So instead of an actor coming from stage right, stage left, moving up or downstage, actor X signs in first, then actor Y, and so on. This require a new blocking format, which we referred to as “digital blocking.”
What was your favourite moment of this project? That is yet to come: the premiere. It almost feels a bit like a premiere at the Theatron since we know that our audience will join in all at the same time to follow the show, only that this time we won’t be able to share this moment in the amphitheatre, but more with a global audience. Exciting!
“Somehow this bottle completely disappears into the background. Got a different bottle?”
“Alonso, Sebastian is to your right and Antonia above your left shoulder.”
“No, your other right.”
“Here’s a sreenshot, everyone.”
“Why is this not working? I can hear everyone now but nobody can hear me. Now I can’t hear anyone anymore, but they can hear me… what’s going on?”
I stopped counting how often these sentences were uttered in the last four weeks. But we managed — sound, video, backgrounds, passing props from one frame to the next — all sorted. It’s been quite a journey. Now let’s start acting.
“Oh brave new world that has such people in it” or: theatres are allowed to open again, so why keeping the Tempest digital?
While the Bavarian Government opened the possibility for theatres to be back from 15 June, albeit with mighty restrictions, team Tempest decided to remain digital. I believe that outdoor theatre carries a specific mission. This mission is based on the idea to be open for all and everyone to come by, drop in, to join us without restrictions, bring along their family and friends and seat themselves in their convenient way, as outdoor theatre does. Currently it is impossible to accommodate for this. So, let’s stay digital. Let’s stay safe. Let’s entertain.
Why choose The Tempest? The Tempest is believed to be one of Shakespeare’s last plays, if not the last. As such it lends itself to be read as Shakespeare’s farewell from the professional theatre business, with Shakespeare rendering his farewell with Prospero’s epilogue. Maybe one can also read it as a farewell to lockdown? What will the world be like when we all meet again?
The play, specifically written to be performed indoors with its first recorded performance dating to 1611 at the court of James I, rings in a new staging practise. Similarly, for this digital project, directors and stage managment had to come up with some unique ideas to adapt to virtual staging. This also meant that actors had to accommodate for the missing scenery and set by setting up a home film-studio in their living rooms or bedrooms. Some were even banned to the cellar by their families for rehearsals. It’s a hard life in theatre business… Isolation fun?
In Renaissance time, the shift indoors also brought along opportunities. The different acoustics allowed more subtle and quiet music to be used; a candlelit theatre created the famous fourth wall and as such drew the audience into an illusion, created on stage. Think about all the magic tricks that could now be performed. And we also have some that we can’t wait to show you.
Costumes became more precious as they no longer were exposed to the wind and the rain… We know that Inigo Jones (1573-1652), architect and contemporary of Shaksepeare, designed the costumes for the play’s sophisticated and stilised Wedding Masque.
Our Wedding Masque looks superb. Beautiful music and singing, and wonderful costumes. But beware when those spirits turn into harpies…
So here we are. Are we “such stuff as dreams are made on?” Possibly. Stranded in the virtual world, we’re trying to connect to the real world. We’ll zoom ourselves to you. The first four weeks have been quite an interesting journey.
How interesting? Stay tuned. I’ll talk some more about it next time. There are some entertaining facts coming up to be shared with you all.
We hoped. We waited. We rehearsed online. And yet, we still don’t know if we will be able to go up this year with our romantic tragedy. We therefore thought we might want to shift Shakespeare’s Verona to an online, digital place — and bring an adapted version of this play to via social distancing means.
Accordingly cast and crew continued to work together through video conferences, and we managed to edit a little show for you to watch. We hope it pleases you.
Enjoy — and thank you all for your generous support! We will be back.
So a virus has brought a standstill to the arts, a tiny virus that can be rather lethal. This standstill prevented us from going up for our premiere, for all of our scheduled shows. While this puts us into line with Shakespeare and his fellow actors when their shows in the seventeenth century were halted due to an outbreak of the plague, it is undoubtedly an experience that we would gladly have passed on. It creates a vacuum, because cripples the actor; it silences the actor.
It is also ironic that we should be halted in our production with a play such as Romeo & Juliet. The text offers a dramatic rendition of our current situation, does it not?
But the show is only one side of the production. While of course it matters that artists are made visible through being on stage and engaging with an audience, for the artists the journey towards the show is equally important and mind-opening. Engaging with their roles and positions within the team, engaging with the text and bringing it to live, bit by bit, the artists offer so much of themselves to the production — and most importantly, offer so much support and friendship to their fellow artists that one could almost say, the performance ends up as a commodity.
Anna-Maria: What I like about theatre is that it gives you the opportunity to explore your creativity and develop as a person. it’s amazing for building up self-confidence and really learning to trust yourself. another amazing thing about theatre is meeting a group of new, motivated and so supportive people who you can share all the priceless memories along the way with. in addition , theatre is so much fun and I really enjoy acting , as you can learn a lot by portraying a character. Theatre is also great for learning valuable life skills which are sure to be helpful in many different aspects of your life. for example, teamwork , discipline , achieving your goals and so much more ! furthermore, theatre leads to countless opportunities which you can explore in both artistic as well as creative aspects. one example of such an opportunity for me is helping direct this year’s production of Romeo and Juliet. through his I have had the opportunity to be creative and present my ideas on the stage as well as gain valuable leadership skills and learn how to motivate the team and guide them through all the rehearsals to that they can deliver to the best of their ability and present a show that we all can be proud of. as for one thing that theatre has thought me , that would be self-confidence and to believe in myself. and from starting off as one of the princes in Richard iii , to playing the iconic role of lady Macbeth , all the way to directing Romeo and Juliet , I would say that theatre has shown me that if you work hard and set your mind on a goal , you can achieve anything!
Conny: Ever since I started teaching at the ESM, I had a theatre group to keep me busy in the afternoons and weekends. I remember the very first time that I intended to put on a Shakespeare production, it was Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was anxious and wondered what it would take to persuade a group of teenagers to put on a Shakespeare play. How silly of me to think they needed to be persuaded!!! And so it all begun, the ESM Players were born, and have been going strong ever since. And will continue, doubt not…
Laura: Every theatre performance has something magical to it. It can make the audience laugh, cry, angry and makes them sit at the edge of their seats. It is astonishing to see a story coming to life and enchanting the spectators. The fear of the unknown is always present. For example, the fear of standing on a stage for the first time. Theatre taught me to try things out first, before throwing the towel and saying, “I can’t do it”.
Anna-Lena: Theatre is like a room where I can try everything, I can be mean, nice, cute, funny, stupid etc. It is a place you can be who you’re not and at the same time who you truly are. Theatre isn’t all about being on stage, reciting your lines and moving to it, it is about working in a team, having fun and meeting new people.
Arian: What I like about theatre is getting to know new people and expressing your acting skills, this has taught me how to speak up and being confident about yourself.
Anna: I have been doing theatre for as long as I can remember. The first performance I ever did was when I was 1 month old. I was admittedly only playing baby Jesus. It has taught me a lot of things but to me the most important is theatre taught me how to speak up.
Malou: One thing I like about theatre is the way you can stand in the spotlight. You are one stage and there isn’t a better feeling or another place you would like to be . I’ve done theatre all my life and I haven’t gotten bored of it once. Theatre has taught me to express myself better. I’ve always made great friends in theatre. The Team is always very nice, and I gained very good friends that are as crazy as myself.
Joao: Theatre is fun. Besides, if People think I’m a weird, I can just call it ‘method acting’. And, hey, staying late in School can apparently be fun sometimes!
Clarisse: The thing I love about theatre is the satisfaction when we perform. I love the feeling of being on stage, of people praising you, the mingled sense of excitement and nervousness that you feel just before the play starts ( and also during the play ¯_ʘ‿ʘ_/¯) Theatre has mostly taught me how to be less shy. I used to be extremely shy, and now, thanks to all the other actors, and Conny, I have learnt to speak up and be proud of it.
Jolanta: Theatre and acting within makes me forget about my own problems and it let me live in someone else’s shoes for a moment. Theatre brings books, especially dramas come to life, so people can see and enjoy it. It also creates a little family within the cast. What I really like about theatre, is that it lets me create memories and happy times for myself, to remember for the future, when I’m going to be 20, 40, 60 and maybe even 80. I want to be able to look back and think about those happy times without having any regrets. Theatre and acting within makes me forget about my own problems and it let me live in someone else’s shoes for a moment. Theatre brings books, especially dramas come to life, so people can see and enjoy it. It also creates a little family within the cast. What I really like about theatre, is that it lets me create memories and happy times for myself, to remember for the future, when I’m going to be 20, 40, 60 and maybe even 80. I want to be able to look back and think about those happy times without having any regrets. I haven’t been acting for a long time and I haven’t performed a play in front of many people, but it has for sure taught me one thing. I should hold my head high, be confident and be who I really am, because putting out an act belongs into a play and not real life. I want to show people who I really am, instead of pretending to be someone else, and if anyone doesn’t like the real me then I just shouldn’t care, no I just won’t care.
Lea: What I like about theatre is that I have found a safe place to talk and to have fun without anybody judging, it’s a family. The attitude, the fun we have in theatre is the best part of my week!!! Theatre has taught me to be myself around other and if they don’t like it, eff ’em.
Michaela: Theatre has taught me to be self-confident about myself and to not give up. What I especially like is that I can be whoever I want to be and every character I can only imagine, but at the end I am still me.
Lise: There’s an atmosphere during rehearsals you can’t really find anywhere else. I like how the whole cast interacts with each other and it’s fun to watch as scenes come together. I learned that there is more to a play than learning lines and reciting them. I was more aware of the overall process than last year and I realise how much work and effort goes into a play before it gets to be performed. I had a lot of fun this year!
Clementine: I like that I can be myself in the craziest way possible. Theatre has taught me that I can do everything I want if I have the imagination necessary. Sophie: What I love about theatre, is that I can be someone else for a little 1h or 2 and that’s fun. Theatre has taught me how to free my emotions and it me that it’s not because you have smaller role that you’re not as important to the play.
Malena: I love theatre, because it is a safe place where I can express all my feelings. I also enjoy spending time with the group, there’s always something to laugh about and overall, we are having a great time. heatre has taught me how much work you put into something your passionate about. But at the end you can see how all those rehearsals have paid off and created an amazing play!
Sophie: What I love about theatre, is that I can be someone else for a little 1h or 2 and that’s fun. Theatre has taught me how to free my emotions and it me that it’s not because you have smaller role that you’re not as important to the play.
What more can we say? As a director it breaks my heart that we can’t go up and bring our production to you. As a teacher, reading up on what the team has to say tells me that I’m doing the right thing when we spend afternoons and weekends at school. As a friend I feel privileged to see how Shakespeare, how theatre, the arts bring people together and allow them grow and find friends for life. Theatre matters.
What can be done? The ESM PLAYERS aim to go online with a reading of their production. At least we’d like to bring Shakespeare to you, to your home. We’d like to bring our version of Romeo & Juliet to you. If the audience cannot come to the playhouse, the playhouse will come to them. Stay tune, we will update you on the when and how we will meet again.
So, a final word. Let’s stay safe, let’s stay indoors. Lest it will befall on us what hath befallen Londoners back then.
It’s been a few busy weeks and we’ve accomplished quite a lot. Let’s start with our poster, designed by the wonderful and talented Clarisse Bourgoin.
As you can see, we stuck with our colour themes red/blue. Soon we can lift the secret as to what these colours designate. Well, you might be able to guess when you see our team photos…
Next, we finished our trailer. Hurrahhh! Taking full advantage of this mild winter, we were able to shoot it at the European School — and mostly outdoors, too. Well done Clémentine Zimpfer, creative adviser for the trailer, and Léa Mayoral who stars at the narrator/Chorus.
And finally, we’d like to present to you our three teams: red, blue and black. Can you guess who’s who?
Team Red — The Montagues
Mercutio is just too stylish in his Hawaii-shirt, how could anyone not want to be his best friend? And Lady M sure knows how to wear sparkle. Benny’s always ready for some good joke, while Romeo is going through a tough time at the moment — Rosaline didn’t text him back…
Team Blue: The Capulets
Did you spot Tybalt’s tattoo? Better not mess with him. And what about Lady C’s makeup? Very eighties, she surely rocks that look. Peter has always been the Hippie in the family, but Lord C doesn’t really care much. Juliet and Nursey are best friends and share all their secrets. Until one day…
Team Black — The Prince, County Paris and the Citizens of Verona
Team Black is all about installing order in Verona. Or, at least, if they can’t do that, marry rich Capulet’s daughter (Paris’ cunning plan), or marry rich Capulet’s daughter to someone different (Sister Laurentia’s cunning plan). The Prince would prefer just a bit of peace occasionally, and not having to use his whistle all the time (guard your ears). Chorus and Co-Director just try to keep the story rolling. Spoiler alert: it won’t be a happy ending.
And then, there is this important prop. To some it’s just a football, to others it’s a dangerous weapon while someone will be biting their thumb at someone else…
What it all has to do with Romeo & Juliet? Stay tuned….
2020 started with lots of colour! In October we announced that we’d channel the two “households both alike in dignity” into two teams: Team Red and Team Blue. And so it has begun: Team Red, the House of Montague; Team Blue, the House of Capulet; and those not clearly aligned with one of the house, constitute Team Black. As we decided to set the play’s background into modern times, we were looking for these three colours that could be visibly worn by all actors. Last week our costumes team handed out some essential items for all actors — highlighting the colour theme of and, of course, adding some bling! So here is the cast, donning their red, blue and black bandanas.
And because bandanas go really well with a bit of bling bling, we weren’t hesitant in adding some jewellery. Here’s a first glimpse of County Paris, sporting his fashionable look. Clearly, all this bling bling convinced Old Capulet that Paris is just the right husband for Juliet.
Since Verona is ruled by a Prince whose loyalties are torn between the two families, we wanted to combine this twist into his costume thus showing off both Team Blue and Team Red.
To add some more sparkle, the mask ball that seals the fates for Romeo and Juliet will also feature some shiny items.
Our tech and props team was working very hard on some cool belt buckles, have a look — isn’t is amazing what one can do with 3D printers?
And what would be more bling than an opulent belt buckle with your initial on it? Correct. This is where our tech experts when to work and designed some Capulet and Montague belt buckles for the actors.
Juliet and Lady Capulet surely fell in love with their bandanas. We think that they look gorgeous in it.
Finally, Benvolio and Mercutio throw in their summary of the play — it fiteth well, we think. Although they seem to have a wee bit too much fun with it… someone needs to remind them that R&J is a tragedy… 😉
Stay tuned for the next update when we introduce our creative team and their plans for the poster design.
The ESM Players are wishing everyone a very merry Christmas, happy holidays and all the best for 2020!
As you can see, we now have a mascot and his name is: William P. Quackspeare. This jolly guy will follow us on our rehearsals, he may even report on some of our adventures with the Bard. You may wonder what the P stands for, well, wonder on! We will only lift this secret at our premiere in March, so come and see us then!
What else have we been up to?
Well, for a start, we have now blocked all scenes of Romeo & Juliet and can now start working on details. Well, first however, we’ll take a short break, but when we’re back in January, the actors will be off book and can dive into bringing their characters to life, all hands free (apart from those moments that they hold daggers, guns, or poison…). The fight scenes all have been securely blocked and tested now as well. And of course, we have started on selecting costumes — in January we’ll bring you a first glimpse of them.
Apart from that we had some fun with some of those stage-corpses…
Romeo & Juliet is a fight-laden play. There are three scenes in which fights take place, one scene that features a fake death and, we thought, why not add another one? So we will initiate the production with an unusual scene that is not originally part of R&J (albeit it, it is originally by Shakespeare, we promise!).
Our actors have a lot of fun with their theatre daggers, but before they may use them to rehearse the fight choreographies, they rehearse with rather unusual items. Anna-Maria, AD, is very keen on having the actors be comfortable with their movements and blocking before she hands out the theatre daggers. She explains that first she has the actors dry rehearse in slow motion, to emphasise and set blocking. Then they get their ‘replacement daggers’ — and since everyone shows up with their school utensils, what better to use than good-old highlighter pens. Only when neon-green and neon-pink have made it safely into the choreography, will Anna-Maria hand out the real props. And this we do every single rehearsal. We’re not there yet, but with the coming months ahead of us, by March it will look quite like the real thing.
Here’s a sneak peek of Tybalt (Lise) and Mercutio (Malou) — in slow-motion. The bags around the two actors, you ask? Well, you need to get the actors used to the proper stage dimensions of Galli Theater.
Reminds you of something? Monty Python and The Holy Grail?
We started to work on setting the scene for feuding Verona. The feud between Capulets and Montagues, dating back to ancient times, still sits deep in Verona and affects every citizen, whether they are a Capulet or Montague, or a simple bystander. We have chosen a modern theme for this feud and why it is impossible for Romeo and Juliet to unite in peace, but we don’t want to give away yet which theme it is. One thing however we can announce, it’s Team Red versus Team Blue.
So here are a few sneak peeks from our last rehearsals.
Assistant Director Anna-Maria explains the fight choreography to Malena (Peter) and Anna (Benvolio). This fight-team faces a particular challenge since they are set to work downstage (and close to the edge of the stage), therefore every single step needs to be firmly memorised.
Here you can see Lise (Tybalt) and Malou (Mercutio) in action, while the rest of the cast is trying to learn lines. On a stage with only 2,5×1,5 metres, a fight scene is extra challenging. So our big question was, how can we come up with a fight choreography that is safe for the actors and yet engaging and with an air of menace? The micro-movements that these actors employ are simply stunning. Lise and Mercutio fully embraced the challenge and bring scene 14 (Tybalt accidentally stabbing Meructio under Romeo’s arm) to life. Bravo!
And here we see the actors setting the scene for feuding Verona. Enjoy!
And now to something completely different… when the director isn’t watching… ART!