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A blast from the past:

an article I wrote so many years ago (2002) for the Snark (title link) a magazine by the English Lit and Philology institute I used to study at.


I can explain...

PrOmpt! - formerly known as the FU Institut für Englische Philologie Drama Group
By Caram Kapp

Think of theatre: Shakespeare, Moliere, Goethe, Pinter, maybe some Ionesco.

Think of actors: those glamourous beings on stage, performing the works of the abovementioned with such skill and cunning that sometimes you think that the middle ages got it right; players are the devils pawns.

Dream of yourself, standing where the chap with the felt hat and the rapier is standing now.

It won’t happen anytime soon, will it? He has, after all worked his way through the ranks of theatre, from waterboy to fool, from fool to understudy from understudy to a five- line, from the five- line to lead until finally, he became the star he is, performing in front of you in life size.

There is another way, slightly less glamorous, to end up on a stage: Anyone who has ever been to school has heard about it: School theatre. It’s the fun innocent way to let the kids express themselves. However, once these kids graduate, having received proof for spending a great deal of time at a small desk, what do they do? They enroll at university.

Now, let me, former schoolboy, invite you for a peek behind the curtains of a drama group that was founded three semesters ago, before I had even thought of visiting the Institute for English at the Fu- Berlin.

We visit, on a Tuesday evening, at five ("Please don’t be too late for rehearsals, will you" is the sentence we hear), the Theatherhouse Mitte, in which we are going too meet the principal characters of this little drama. A few short flights of steps upwards, a long corridor, leading towards the only door that is open- precisely because everyone is late. Behind the door, standing and looking frustrated out of the window, waiting for the players, we meet one of the most important characters within any theatre organization: the director.

Maybe here would be the right place to give you the short history of this theatre group: Formed in 2000, three semesters ago at the time when this was written, the theatre group started out as a one of the famous FU Projekttutorien, aiming to "further the command of the English language for students of the language." Their first performance, or so I am told, as I joined in as soon as I started University, was Dogg Hamlet, by Tom Stoppard, followed by Words, Words, Words by David Ives, both performed by Students of the Anglistic Institute.

This changed in the second term, when the group opened up a bit more (or so it would seem) to the general public, with a bio-physicist and an economist joining the group, plus a few more English students, making up the eclectic mix that set out to perform "Pullman Car Hiawatha" by Thornton Wilder, a an abstract play on life, the universe and everything, set in the universe of a train carriage. The success of this play hinged too heavily on two things: Democracy (that great all- encompassing western value) and Dissimulation of Imperfections. It was clear to us from the beginning that, this being a newly- formed theatre group, with slightly less than two months to get our act together and another two to rehearse, we had to work as hard and fast as possible. Democracy proved to be more of a hindrance than it was a help: Theatre, like teaching, requires a benevolent dictatorship with right of free speech (a.k.a: feedback) thrown in to make it look good, or else everything gets swallowed up by discussion, which finally took up most of our rehearsal time.

What saved this first performance, although we all lost quite a few hairs and teeth on the way, was the art of dissimulation. The audience clapped.. but I suppose that was because the play was over and they knew nothing of the naked Claudia Schiffer poster that was in the Stage Managers folder. The second performance, the performance no-one attended was… a joke which has been gratefully forgotten (or is it traumatised?).

Now we’re back here, early June 2001, a short month before the first performance of our next play, which according to Marieke Zwilling, our current director, is going to be a hilarious orgy called, in all simplicity "I can explain", by Bob Kane.

It’s a play about relationships. No more will be said here about content or plot, we do want people to come and watch it. However, what will be said is that the words "chaos" and "group psychology" are often mentioned in connection with this play. Sometimes we even dare mouth the word "fun", but then again, chaos usually is a lot of laughs.

Laughs are not everything in a theatre group, nor are rehearsals. Behind the scenes, behind even the room in Mitte, there is a lot more going on: lights, props, costumes, music, psychological counseling, screaming, pleading whipping lazy actors… "We’ve done it all" laughs Marieke.

The laugh having rung out, the other actors start to arrive. "They’re good considering that we’re all amateurs, I think we’re doing a good job with what we have." This doesn’t stop her from fuming at them for being late.

The rehearsal in itself is a long, convoluted path, which we will not dare to tread on right now; it would simply be too revealing about the inner workings of the play. Let it be said that it goes down quite smoothly, ridding me of the impression that I am spying on my own theatre group.

The second most important thing, outside of rehearsals, are the pub crawls that ensue after a rehearsal is over. That’s what actors are supposed to do after all; drink, do drugs and die young.

As a newcomer to Germany I must admit, the entire "Works’ over, lets booze!" principle slightly confuses me, though it does allow us to get to know the other actors better (with a few of the usual intrigues thrown in) and further improve "group dynamics".

During the course of this, I find out a few thing about the didactic part of the PT, from the only person at he table who was not in any way inebriated, Grigoris Panagiotides. It would appear we are actually meant to learn something useful (outside of acting) within the framework set by the Projekttutorium, even though I wasn’t able to figure out what in the five minutes I had for the interview, although he assures me his English has improved, as have his social skills.

After the pub crawl, I drag myself home on the bike, wishing everyone in the group to hell for being able to drink so much. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to next Tuesday, when my hangover will have worn off and we will rehearse anew!

Many tuesdays later, I found myself sitting with what remained of Prompt in a beautiful flat overlooking the Neues Kranzer Dreieck on the Kudamm.. the once proud cast had been reduced to Six.. what to do, what to do was our thought. One thing was sure, and here I quote proudly:
THE SHOW MUST GO ON!

Those of you who have been roaming the halls of the Anglistica may have noticed a little colourful sign hanging on some of the doors... Prompt is back again this semester, with a revised cast (some of the originals had to get back to their lives, Congrats on the scholarship Inga!), a play written by the famous Joe and a lot of renewed enthusiasm for acting. The only difference is that we no longer are a PT and that, excpting our student time, we are no longer bound to the Institut der Anglistic. But we still meet on tuesdays, at 1900 in the Theaterhaus Mitte. We still anarchisticly rehearse and perform plays. And if things go on the way they have, we will be proud to present once again.

Prompt was quietly disbanded after we all moved on to other projects. It remains a fond memory.

Comments

animaldelmar said…
oooh! prompt! caram! 'ullo! thanks for re-posting this, i just found it... yes, it does remain a fond memory, even for me, the ever-fuming directress. küsschen, marieke
Caram said…
Incredible! Marieke! I hadn't noticed this up to now, but everyoe give a big hand to the director of the group!
She made our lives hell, but damn, is she GOOD at it!
Caram said…
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Caram said…
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Caram said…
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