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.