The Comedy of Errors

Alan Taylor, Gastdozent an der Freien Universität in Berlin hat unsere Proben für The Comedy of Errors begleitet und Artikel geschrieben, die in der Online-Zeitung Weltexpress erschienen sind.

Inzwischen sind sie nicht mehr online, aber nachfolgend kann man sie lesen.

Ganz am Schluss gibt es eine deutsche Rezension der Aufführung am 17.6.2008 von Patrick König.

Shakespeare for Berlin, 2008

No Comedy of Errors in this Rehearsal

by Alan Taylor


Berlin (Weltexpress) - On a cold wet November afternoon as Christmas comes knocking, there are some committed school students and their enthusiastic teachers, The Shakespeare Players of Berlin, who are doing the unusual - already in eager preparations for their 2008 performances of the Bard’s Comedy of Errors.
From a dank day in Brandenburg to a warm Ephesus in Classical Greece, rehearsals are well under way at the Friedrich-Ebert-Oberschule, Berlin, on the latest of what has become a series of critically praised performances that began in 2001 with A Midsummer’s Night Dream.
The initiative to directly engage school students with the words of Shakespeare - and in English - has been spearheaded by teacher Martina Baasner and as ably assisted by her husband, former teacher, and actor’s language coach, Peter. Their inspired work began in 1999 when they headed to the UK with 14 students as part of an open competition to perform pocket scenes from Shakespeare (they covered 7 sequences from five plays). Their work was enjoined with visits to professional performances - at the Globe in London and the RSC in Stratford itself where they saw As You Like It. As a spur to their later work, the troupe of pioneers returned triumphant to Berlin with two acting prizes, for Tina Lorenz and Jan Pohl.
Celebrated performances since 2001 have included Twelfth Night (2002), Much Ado About Nothing (2003), The Merry Wives of Windsor (2004) and As You Like It (2005). Their more recent 2007 production of The Tempest was well received both in Berlin and in Bochum to which the Shakespeare Players were invited to perform at the German Shakespeare Association Conference. Their April 21st 2007 performance, that also included the school’s orchestra, was critically applauded by both the Association’s Vice-President Roland Pertersohn (“großartig”) and the local press of Bochum.
Back in Berlin in the middle of a gray November afternoon, such informed praise and press attention sits comfortably on the students as they assemble their play in carefully choreographed stages. As Director Baasner leads rehearsals centre stage with one group of eight student actors (the wandering troupe), husband Peter Baasner provides small-unit training in dialogue and accent in a corner off; meanwhile in a separate room Romy Kramer, Hannah Efrat Voltmer and Berlinda Neumann can be found preparing the intricate details of stage design, costume and hair design - their detailed production folder of actor photographs, line sketches and colour drawings attest to the professional approach that now informs the work of the entire company. And this is before the appearance of the main actors - “they have music lessons before us”, says Baasner as she proudly hands over video copies of previous performances - filmed and edited by the Fremdsprachenmediothek (LISUM). As Shakespeare himself might have noted, “Nothing comes from nothing”.
The pedagogic benefits of undertaking such ambitious projects are of course numerous and obvious - we cannot lose by ‘doing’ Shakespeare - but what strikes the visiting observer more immediately is how well such tasks as voice training, listening - even balance - can fast-forward student’s cognitive awareness and sharpen their interpersonal skills, making the entire project from first to last a truly interdisciplinary undertaking of lasting value. A point not always easy to appreciate on a late Monday afternoon with another busy week looming.
Student actors featured on the day were: Arlina Benson, Pedram Mirzaee, Patrick Tschoepke, Ann-Kathrin Lazar Ghezelbash, Nelson Antonio, Garry Fischmann, Maria Canzoneri, Tim-Patrick Limmer, Kilian Peters, Dilara Dodurgali and Laila Lala.
Weltexpress returns in the weeks and months ahead to shadow them and their colleagues as costumes are donned and lines are learned for the actual performances in 2008.


Author: Alan Taylor (23-11-07)

from the rehearsal of November 12th, 2007

The Dromios

The Shakespeare Players for Berlin, 2008
From Page to Stage: Rehearsal Update for Unique Summer Performance

by Alan Taylor

Berlin (Weltexpress) - On our last visit to Berlin’s Shakespeare Players on December 3rd, 2007, the preferred attire amongst the student thespians was jeans, T-shirts, and scarves. Group blocking, line delivery, and story understanding were the separate building blocks of the programme. Several months later, however, buckles, robes, crowns, crucifixes, caps, corsets and aprons are standard costume as the troupe take Shakespeare’s words from the page to the stage at the Friedrich-Ebert-Oberschule.
Their weekly rehearsals, as directed by Martina Baasner, now focuses story and character understanding towards more concrete dramatic effectiveness on the school’s newly-furbished stage. The strategic decision to co-join line readings, blocking and costume, arises from the awkward demands of Shakespeare’s play The Comedy of Errors, widely believed to be his first.
Though his shortest play (1, 778 lines) it serves up an intricate plot of doubles and false identities that, if rushed, might lead an audience, like some of the characters, bewildered and lost.
Keeping the pace high, audience empathy engaged, and story understanding in place needs careful preparation. This is the biggest challenge for Baasner and her colleague Peter Baasner, as individual students become rounded characters, testing with each other their learned words through knowing gesture, response, and nuance. It is at this point that the actors, like many before them through the centuries, can engage more fully in the rich potential of Shakespeare’s text - the one that allows for creative interpretation by those who have volunteered to walk the talk.
In many respects the Shakespeare Players' project - pioneered by Baasner in 2001 - fulfills the best intentions of the `project method` of learning (`Foundations of Method`, William H. Kilpatrick, 1925). For the American educationalist, what all learners found truly rewarding was 'a wholehearted purposeful act' that, with guidance, would produce learning that, over time, was both substantial and unified.
Hence on our January 23rd 2008 visit, the real-time focus of the 20-strong ensemble was clarifying and coordinating the complex last act denouement. What impressed the observer was the high level of motivation and jovial engagement of the actor-students as, over three hours, they attended conscientiously to both close textual analysis and then slow-motioned their individual performances towards a fluent and unified group signature on the stage.
And they still had enough energy and spirit at the end of the afternoon for their mighty group roar that, hand-in-hand, celebrated their accomplishments so far.
Not that their learning is stage-bound. The Players and their teachers have been invited on a working exchange visit to the F. E. College of Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales. Their March 2008 visit is the latest of ventures to the UK, which began in 2001. Then it is back to Berlin to refine and shape up for their public summer show that, with buckles and beards and caps and crowns in place, should easily qualify as a wholehearted purposeful performance of great merit.

Author: Alan Taylor (22-2-2008)
From the rehearsal of January 23rd, 2008

Berlin`s Shakespeare Players Fine Tuning Their 'Comedy of Errors'
21 actors, two musicians and a few puppets in final rehearsals

by Alan Taylor

Berlin (Weltexpress) - On our first November 2007 visit to the Shakespeare Players at the Friedrich-Ebert-Oberschule, Berlin, June 2008 seemed a long distant prospect, further, perhaps than the boards of Shakespeare's own Globe. Since then Director Martina Baasner and Text/Language Coach Peter Baasner have shaped their spirited students into a working ensemble that explores, celebrates, and seeks to share the richness of Shakespeare's world. Now, on our third visit of June 6th, 2008, 26 actors, two musicians, and a few puppets, ably supported by a team of set and costume designers, lighting technicians and make-up personnel, were fine-tuning their show for its June 17th, 23rd and 24th outing.
For all the mystique of Shakespeare's life and work, it is well-known that the world's greatest dramatist started his writing career with, amongst others, The Comedy of Errors, a quick-fire confusion of identities within state rivalries in sunny Ephesus that set the format for his latter work. It's his shortest piece and, as pointed out during our visit by Martina Baasner, observes the classic unities of time and space - it all takes place in a 24-hour window of time. As a further foreshadowing of things to come, it fuses the light 'comedy' within a dangerous world of 'errors' which can easily turn to tragedy. Thus Egeon (Tim-Patrick Limmer), a merchant from Syracuse, Italy, who comes impoverished to Ephesus in search of his lost wife (Maro Schulte) and sons Antipholuses (Kilian Peters & Dennis Gierig). He is soon arrested for trespassing and must either pay 1000 marks or be executed. Thus the clock ticks and the plot fires into action.
It is to Baasner's credit that performers keep this crucial balance in view, alongside a rich tapestry of character developments that ensures that they are in role across the arc of the performance.
Not that the students need so much guiding as several of the cast can claim to be veterans already of previous Shakespeare Players' outings: Berk Yagci (Solinus, Duke of Ephesus), with Maro Schulte, and Dilara Dodurgali (Luciana) performed with Dennis Gierig (Antipholus of Ephesus ) in the 2006 performance of The Winter's Tale. Gierig also featured as Antonio in The Tempest (2007) alongside Nelson Antonio, Nurhan Hayta, and Almila Bagriacik who then was in the choir and who now plays the Courtesan. And finally, there is Kilian Peters (Antipholus of Syracuse) who was Ariel in The Tempest of 2007, Much Ado..., 2003, The Merry Wives of Windsor 2004, and As You Like It, 2005 where he played Orlando.
As usual with Shakespeare, it's hard work for the standard figures since the Shakespeare Players' world gives dramatic space to all-comers. Theatre-goers should be particularly appreciative, then, of Bagriacik, Dodurgali, and the work of Tim-Patrick Limmer whose well-paced parental woes give due weight to the play's opening. His darkness is neatly counter-balanced by some frantic pacing which is finely achieved by the dexterous buoyancy of the wayward twins, Alexander Daberkow & Nurhan Hayta.
So, we left the Players as actors were negotiating for the first time with 'real' doors, as costumes were needled for the last time and when a golden Mediterranean sun was being hewn from its hard-board wooden backing.
Full details, including cast bios, crew, & past present and future projects see:- They can also be heard here:

Author: Alan Taylor (7-6-2008)
From the day rehearsal of June 6th, 2008

Shakespeares „The Comedy of Errors“ Ein Jugendprojekt in Berlin

BERLIN (Weltexpress) - The Comedy of Errors hieß es am Dienstag, dem 17.06. in der Friedrich-Ebert-Oberschule. Wieder einmal haben die Shakespeare Players ein Stück englischer Tradition auf die Bühne gebracht und überzeugten mit einem jungen Ensemble, das frisch und komödiantisch die Bühne bespielt und mit einem Zusammenspiel von Klassik und Moderne die Zuschauer verzaubert. Ihre jahrelange Erfahrung mit den Kontroversen der Shakespeare-Stücke lässt sich nicht von der Hand weisen. Inszenierungen, wie A Midsummer Night`s Dream (2001), Twelfth Night (2002), Much Ado About Nothing (2003), The Merry Wives of Windsor (2004), As You Like It (2005), The Winter`s Tale (2006) und The Tempest (2007) und ihre Aufenthalte in Wales und Bochum nach ihrer Gründung im Sommer 2000, wurden mit großem Erfolg belohnt und zeigen sich nun mit sympathischem Selbstbewusstsein im freudigen Auftreten der Jungschauspieler, sowie deren engagierter Unterstützung hinter der Bühne. In einem passend mit Säulen umrahmten Saal der Oberschule in Wilmersdorf erzählen Schüler der Jahrgänge 8 bis 13 bildnerisch eine Geschichte voller Verästelungen und Schicksale einer Familie und Stadt „Ephesos“, die an Aktualität nicht verloren hat.
Durch ein Schiffsunglück wurde eine glückliche Familie getrennt. Während der Vater „Egeon“ mit einem der Söhne „Antipholus“ gerettet wurde, schien der Rest verloren. Beide lebten in einer italienischen Stadt namens Siracusa, bis Antipholus sich mit seinem Diener Dromio auf die Suche nach seinem gleichnamigen Zwillingsbruder machte. Es wurde nämlich noch ein Zwillingspaar, das für die Söhne Egeons zu Dienern erzogen werden sollte, bei dem Unglück getrennt. Ebenfalls tragen beide denselben Namen, Dromio.
Als Egeon, ständig auf der erbitterten Suche die Familie wieder zusammen zu bringen, in der im Kriegszustand lebenden Stadt ankommt, wird er festgenommen. Ihm droht der Tod, würde er nicht die 1000 Mark aufbringen können, um sich frei zu kaufen. Doch der Herzog Solinus fühlt mit dem familienlosen Vater und gewährt ihm einen Tag Aufschub.
Zwischenzeitlich hat auch sein Sohn mit Diener die Stadt erreicht. Überraschenderweise leben hier der verloren geglaubte Zwillingsbruder mit seinem Diener. Es entsteht ein Gewirr von Missverständnissen, die die ohnehin schon strapazierte Stadtbevölkerung in ein Chaos stürzen soll.
Eine belebend gespielte Inszenierung voller Freude, Frust und Lust, sowohl für den Zuschauer, als auch für die Darstellenden. Ein Wechselspiel der Gefühle. Ein in Comedy getarntes Drama. Alles in allem ein Projekt, das gerade durch ihr altes Englisch weit über die Schulmauer Wirkung zeigt und einen integrativen Charakter innehat. Man kann gespannt sein auf eine Fortsetzung im nächsten Jahr.

Autor: Tobias König (27-6-2008)
Aufführung am 17.6.2008