It’s been quite a roller coaster ride. In March, during dress rehearsal, COVID-19 stopped Romeo & Juliet in its final stages, moved it onto a digital stage but yet we had great hopes to go up in summer, in 3D. We didn’t. We stay digital.
Then came autumn. We started a new project — Much Ado About Nothing. And what can we say, despite it all, we’re still in rehearsal. Still working on it. Admittedly, we were moved back to the digital stage, but we hope this is only momentarily so. Because this production is different from all others that ESM Players have done before. This production will be a cinematic experience.
So, what have we been up to in the last months?
We did many close reading, trying to get actors into character — all safely distanced, all with VERY basic blocking: “Now, imagine that Benedick were to your left, Beatrice, and on line 25, you blow him a kiss.” And all this, with masks. Communication signals are sent via eyes, mostly. Be careful, enunciate but don’t project too much — this would help aerosols to spread. Who would have thought that directors were ever going to request less projection of their actors? Oh, corona.
But, there are some positive moments, too.
And yet, we’re still hoping that after the lockdown we’ll be able to start filming for this wonderful project.
But now let’s hear it from the team.
Look at those fabulous costume drafts!
This is one of Lise’s works. Enjoy!
Stay tuned for more updates in the next months — Messina High School is awaiting prom night!
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.
This week caused a bit of a stir among the ESM Players!
To Shakespeare, or…?
In the last years, team ESM Players has brought two of Shakespeare’s major tragedies from the page to the stage (Richard III and Macbeth), exploring how kings and queens strive and how they fail, how private decisions thwart the course of politics, how fleeting a moment can be and how desperate we often cling to exactly those fleeting moments. They also explored enchanted woods, fairies and elaborated on Bottom’s dream, and last year they took the complete works to stage (well, sort of, anyway). It was thus about time for teenagers to claim Shakespeare, his language and a story that is about them. No kings, no queens — but teenagers: young, untamed, ready to make their world a little better. Can you guess, which play it is?
The play’s the thing: why theatre matters.
Theatre is about all of us. And so is this play. Hailed to be the iconic play about true love, Romeo & Juliet is a play about our emotions: falling in love, falling out of love, quarrelling, rebelling against parents or authority, challenging or being challenged by peers, eating your greens… Ok, perhaps not quite about the last one, but how much more can a student theatre group ask for?
But it’s old-fashioned, boring!
I hear you. But that means you probably haven’t read closely enough and not had a chance to taste Shakespeare’s words. Taste again. Look again, allow the language to guide you, let us on your imaginary forces work. And work we will, we have set the play into a modern context, thus translating it into a feud that is very close to us and will make it all the more plausible, why Juliet’s and Romeo’s fates are indeed star-crossed. Which context exactly we have chosen, psssss! This remains a secret for a while, but we’re sure, you’ll have a ball with it once you see it. (Uh oh, hidden clue.)
The Casting: lead actors
Meet Laura: Juliet Capulet
Laura has been with the ESM Players for several years and starred in many different roles. This year, she’ll take on the play’s tragic heroine — she can’t wait to give Romeo a pep talk from that balcony!
Meet Anna-Lena: Romeo Montague
This is Anna-Lena’s first year with the ESM Players. She has vast stage experience from other theatre companies and is ready to don some pants this year.
Meet the rest of the cast in the following weeks. We can’t wait to present Romeo & Juliet to you. This play is for you.
What a week! Outdoor theatre holds a lot of surprises, from dogs and small children running onto the stage, to (un)expected rain showers — and sometimes to having an opening night in a hut.
Since the weather gods were not in our favour for our premiere, but we still didn’t want to disappoint our audience, we spontaneously turned opening night into a command performance for 26 audience members, when we moved it into our backstage/storage hut. We set up the Capulet and Montague towers, the tomb, altar and even managed to bring Juliet’s bedroom alive — and all this without ever rehearsing an indoor version. That’s great team work! Below you will find a few impressions from that night.
Photos: Dora Lutz
If you have missed it, here is a review from audience member, Michael:
mit noch feuchten füßen, und augen, schreibe ich diese zeilen. auch wenn am ende noch der klang der gläser stand, heute bevorzuge ich das echo des gesehenen und gehörten. das besondere fand seinen anfang schon im außen: regen. auch wenn ich meine finger 6 tage lang kreuzte, krämpfe mit eingeschlossen, der himmel tut, was er will und so wählte er den ort für dieses schauspiel. und so fanden wir uns im inneren eines art zeltes, gerade so, als säße man selbst in dem turm von julia, so als ringe man selbst mit all den gefühlen die sich in den wunderbar besetzten rollen nach außen stülpten. es war nah. und gibt es einen besseren ort für all das ringen um die liebe, als die enge, die einem herzen gleicht? wo capulets und montagues ins herz hinein- und hinausströmen, wunden hinterlassen und es beschwingen, manchmal im lachen, manchmal im weinen und der glaube hilflos dazwischen steht? und im zentrum weilt ein bett und eine gruft…beides todesnahe orte…und zugleich frieden-bringende. so sind diese worte noch trunken von dem erlebten und die geschichte die schon hundertmale erzählt und durchlebt wurde, erlebte ich heute wie das premierenspiel, so frisch, als wäre shakespeares feder noch feucht. jede rolle fand ihren passenden lebenshauch, wie wunderbar sie nachhallen: romeo und julia, vorallem aber meructio, friar laurence, county paris und julias amme. wähle ich morgen die montagues? auf welche seite werde ich mich schlagen? auf die seite der liebenden! habt dank….und alles endet mit einem tanz…
And although the whole week was a mixture of sun and (sadly, quite a lot of) rain, we managed to perform in the open — our actual venue.
Photos: Dora Lutz
The weather gods seem to be more in our favour next week, so if you haven’t seen R&J yet, you still have a chance!
Tonight, 14 July and 18-21 July, 7pm, Theatron, Westpark