An onion on stage at the Zuoz Globe #Lyceum Alpinum Spotlight
Are we shell or core? That was the philosophical question of the new play by the English Theatre Company of the Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz. Normally the students work with the material from known playwrights to put on current and modern plays in English, but with "Nothing but Swathings?" the students took a new approach. This semester they developed the idea and the script for a new play in workshops by themselves. The idea was based on the question of one's own emotions. Who are we? What makes us unique? Are we many or one? The group of 12 students identified emotional topics that were central to the development of their own identity, and placed them next to moral values and societal norms. What is good and what is not? And why? It was the first time that Ivo Bärtsch, the director of the theatre, tried this method of play development with his students, and he was pleasantly surprised by the process and the outcome. "It was worth the try!" he explained in an interview. The fact that the young actors put themselves out there when planning the improv play and learning the unique acting technique, is proof that they have the skill to reflect on difficult topics. Acting, improvisation and musical interludes all came together in the school's theatre, the Zuoz Globe, creating a new play that was complete only once performed on stage.
Shell or core? Young people tackle very personal topics in the school's theatre.
But what does all of this have to do with an onion? In the world-famous play, 'Peer Gynt', the protagonist holds an onion in his hand and asks himself: “Are we shell or core?” For the theatre director, Ivo Bärtsch, this sentence was the inspiration for this year’s play. Do we all have a true self that we cover with layers, a costume, or a mask? Or is it precisely these layers, these diverse shells, that make us who we are? The students asked themselves this profound question first and then, in a staged improv show, asked their audience. The staged scenes were not planned down to the smallest detail. Provocative questions were intended to engage the audience and stimulate discussions. Every teenager and each audience member was encouraged to question his or her own views and reflect on controversial topics. As an example, the issue of sexism is not only prominent in the news, but it is also on students` minds these days. It was addressed with a scene in which a girl in a very provocative outfit put on a burlesque show, for which she received thunderous applause. But in the midst of the enthusiasm for this provocative number the question was thrown into the audience whether they knew how old the girl was. In the context of the values of our society, the 12 year old girl should have never performed in such a revealing outfit. The audience was quickly engaged in conversation – “they are still children”. This is how the play brought up the question of who we are at our core and whether we use our shell to cover our true identity, or if the shell is who we are. This play of the theatre academy did not only take place on stage. The actors and the audience interacted with each other and the audience in the theatre Zuoz Globe became part of the performance.
Playing and writing theatre – acting in a different way.
Where did the idea of creating their own play come from? Ivo Bärtsch explains that he usually chooses a very current and modern play for his theatre group. Since he could not get enthusiastic about any existing production this year, he simply decided to develop the play himself together with three long-time theatre students, who were to function as a link to the rest of the group. Adriane Longhurst, David Rausch and Clara Fortis formed the artistic team around theatre director Ivo Bärtsch and developed acting scenes that are hot topics young people experience: controlling parents, adults, children and adults, teachers, the choice of clothing, and the image of women. They learnt to increasingly reach deeper into the layers of emotion in their search for the core. Short musical acts, accompanied by a guitar enhanced the right atmosphere for the play. This kind of performance theatre is demanding for actors and is not something every student is comfortable with. Many need the predefined structures of a classical play, the prescribed dialogues, a role into which they can slip. This is how the English Theatre Company is formed new every school year - and that is a good thing, explains Ivo Bärtsch.
Since the play is shaped through the interactions with the audience, every one of the four performances was a bit different. The twelve students developed and rehearsed the piece for about five months and turned a fundamental question into a play with depth and numerous thought-provoking moments, which continue to resonate with the audience today.