I Just Died and Went to Theatrical Heaven

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I am in theatre heaven! During our tour of the castle on Thursday, our guide was kind (and sneaky) enough to escort us into the baroque theatre, a destination not on the normal list of sites for the tour. The interior of the castle was of course amazing. After fleeing the Nazi’s, the last family to live in the castle left everything in its place and opted not to return after the war. Thus, the castle ground became state (country really) property and is now being re-situated to look as it once did during its time in the control of about 3 different families over the course of a couple hundred years. In restoration terms, I appreciate the minimization of disturbance to the historical structure and interior designs immensely, in particular, the baroque theatre that rarely was used. They found thousands of sheets of music, a hundred or so gently used set pieces, and one of Europe’s largest collections of antique costumes within the storage parts of the stage. All of which are now stored in an archive only accessible by researchers and theatre theorists, a place I will definitely have to attempt to visit for myself.

However, what really made me short-circuit with excitement was the 1958 theatre, tucked away in the castle’s garden. Theatre in the round? No, theatre in the anti-round is more appropriate. This huge open air amphitheater contains a rotating center piece that seats a couple hundred, maybe a thousand even, spectators as it moves from scene to scene in a circle carrying the audience and any players standing on the small platform with it. What a marvelous idea! And to further explain my excitement, rehearsal for a performance on Friday night was underway both Thursday and Friday afternoon when I so happened to be snooping around the space.

It was amazing to see this type of ‘queer’ theatre in action. The stadium moves quicker than you think and the actors were as lively, and well, theatrical as ever. It was Friday that I finally understood the performance better. Sets somewhere in Spain in the late 18th century with elements of mysticism, the costumes were amazing. I do believe there was some cross-dressing happening for comedic effect, but one particular costume caught my eye. It was magnificent and cleverly made! A giant bird contraption consisting of mesh and bamboo construction to eliminate weight issues: GENIUS! Not to mention the vibrant colors, or the fact that the actor was using the landscape to hide from the audience view instead of a normal concealed backstage area.  The production looked fantastic and energetic, and I was rather sad to not be able to attend the evening performance. However, I believe lurking around for about an hour and a half was enough to spark some creativity in my future work as a designer and collaborator. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up working on a production there some day.

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