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May 4, 2021

Students perform theater together online

In the winter semester 20/21, the Steinfußtheater, belonging to the Center for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning (zlw), began an online experiment. Students met up online once a week to rehearse a poem. Two videos of their work have been created.
[Picture: Steinfußtheater]

"At the beginning acting together online was a big challenge", says Daiva Sell from zlw. Nicole Schütte, Director of the the theater group, explains why: "All alone in your own room, sometimes with inquisitive housemates listening from the other side of a thin bedroom wall, you need to be brave enough to come out of yourself, to dance around, to do speech exercises, to shout or scream, to laugh or fool around." She adds that the students missed the rehearsal room and its perceived protective framework.

Because of feedback problems, it was not possible for everyone to leave their microphone on. A maximum of three people were able to speak at once, and the participants were often only able to hear the voice of the director during rehearsals. This situation was unusual even for Nicole Schütte. She says, "I couldn't hear the students doing their speech exercises, so I was only able to offer general tips for improvement. Exercises for improving group dynamics were restricted by the situation, and it is also not possible to carry out important group exercises". 

Students create roles based on a Beckett poem

The winter semester was used for process-oriented work, because it was clear that these rehearsals would not result in a play for the stage. During this time, focus was placed more on practicing and considering how roles can be created and so internalized that it is possible to act freely. The students concentrated on physicality, speech and examining the biography of the roles. The rehearsals also focused on training improvisation skills and flexibility. In end effect, authentic, sensual acting is what the audience later understands, and what moves them. This type of acting demands lots of practice and being brave enough to leave your comfort zone. The theater group practiced this using a Beckett poem. This poem is well-suited to this kind of work, because it is written as a short monologue and can be used for almost any situation or role:

ohne Titel

stell dir vor wenn dies
eines Tages dies
eines schönen Tages
stell dir vor
wenn eines Tages
eines schönen Tages dies
stell dir vor

The students devised their own roles and situations to suit the poem, they worked to make the roles their own and to feel them with all of their senses. They filmed the results themselves using their mobile phones. Assistant Director Laura Birkenfelder used these to make two videos: a trailer and the actual video showing the results.

Camera acting brings new challenges

There are big differences between stage acting and camera acting. The camera registers every little emotion or mimic that doesn't fit the role. Also, any pantomime seems inappropriate. The theater group tried lots of different approaches; they advised each other and adapted their acting to produce a video that everybody was happy with. "Authentic" acting has become increasingly important to Schütte, and that's why there is no trace of pantomime or slapstick in the videos.

Over the course of the semester, the students began to realize that not only monologues are possible online, but that it is also possible to act together and to interact. The Steinfußtheater wants to use these realizations next semester and produce a short play or at least a collage of scenes.

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