The New Age of Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Photo: @unitheater_ma

A couple of weeks earlier, we at bAStA had the honour of interviewing the brilliant team at Uni theatre and here’s a glimpse of how we felt about it:

The University of Mannheim has one of the oldest Uni-theatre in Germany but for some reasons it lost its path for a long time. In 2019, it was jump-started only to face the pandemic finally, overcoming these difficulties, they had their first show last semester which was a Comedy.

This year the Uni-theatre is all set with their production of “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?” best described in their own word’s “The roller-coaster that went off tracks”. As chaotic as it sound’s the synergy of the theatre troupe was amazing, especially learning more about their long-mind boggling audition stories. The play has a double cast, meaning each character is played by two different actors which already seems like an interesting concept. The cast represents almost all departments: from Law and BWL to English and Politics.

The cast:

Marta (daughter of rector): Valentina Turturo and Sajra Tyrbedari

George (professor of history): Erik Kovalik and Jan Dombrowski

Honey (housewife): Alina Müller and Laura Schrörs

Nick (professor of biology): Felix Zimmermann and Leon Ramsaier

Under the Christine Heinzel guidance’s the team has pushed through and have created piece that could transport you to the stage and make you feel things you may have not felt before. We got a sense that they all bring out the best in each-other.

The actors found describing their characters as:

Martha, “Go Get me a drink” Unstable drunk and vulgar.

Nick, ”Moment mal” Ignorant intelligent and workaholic.

Honey is Often found in the Bathroom. People pleaser, In denial and Insecure.

George is a realist at heart. Calm, Smart and Vindictive.

“Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is a classic American play written by Edward Albee, published, and produced in 1962. The play is often revived on the modern stage as it presents itself with relatable characters and teaches us a thing or two about relationships more so Toxic relationships. We look forward to seeing how the playfull and dynamic Martha – George compare to the new couple Nick – Honey.

The crew agreed that as much as it was nicer to have fewer lines to memorize it was also hard to portray only one part of the character and other aspect of it:

Laura (“Honey”): In the beginning we started production by playing scenes without knowing background-story. This was quite difficult, but we could establish the basic mood. But then we always sat down with second halves of our character and discussed the background story of our characters, their personality traits and reasons for later actions. We also tried to look deep into the character: their childhood, relationships with parents, which helped me personally a lot. We had to learn how to pick up emotions and feelings that person has in the scene and then continue it by ourselves.

Erik (“George”): Now I would say that we have reached the moment where the characters or the relationships between the actors on stage and the existence of  “chemistry” has become better. We focus on showing what is behind the characters to represent that later.

We have also asked the actors some questions about their play, experience in acting, about connections to their figures and much more. So we want to present you the theatre piece and to show that everyone can try their hand in something new, for example acting:

To what extent have you progressed with your characters: what differences or similarities have you noticed and how would they feel during the game?

Erik (“George”): It was a process during which you got further and further with your character and developed. You’ve already noticed in some scenes that the further you get, the closer you get to a certain character and the better you understand the person you’re playing. This also influences the other scenes.

Alina (“Honey”): I don’t identify myself with my character, but you have to know the personality of the figure. And, of course, it helps that we have looked throw the backstories and developed them further.

Leon (“Nick”): I agree with everyone, but what I can say is that there are quite a lot of stage directions, also relatively detailed ones, where everything is implied, e.g. in moments when what is said is not meant. The whole context of methods is very important, especially at the beginning, when you play individual scenes and have to understand which mode you are going into now, what the person has experienced before etc.. But the strength of the concept is that we can show different assignments through roles.

Valentina (“Martha”): What I found very difficult at the beginning and what I still find difficult sometimes is that my character Martha is very unstable in her emotions: in one second, she is totally flirty and in the other – she totally despises them. Sometimes you don’t understand what this switch of emotions is based on.

At the beginning I was confused because I didn’t know how to play it, but then it helped to understand that Martha is so dependent on the recognition of other people.

Is this play your first experience in acting?

Erik (“George”): We did some plays at school and then in my first year at university here: I was in an English drama group and I got a role of crazy man (laugh).

Laura (“Honey”): I also started when I was at school, we also had big public performances. That was great.

Alina (“Honey”): I have had no experience, but wanted to try something new and so far I am satisfied.

Leon (“Nick”): I also have basic school experience, but I was also once at the Uni Theatre in Konstanz, which was not a relatively large group – 15 people. And I have decided that when I do my Master’s in Mannheim I will look for a theatre group.

Valentina (“Martha”): My mother worked at the theatre, so I was automatically taken along and put on the stage, I was in costume and make-up, and I thought it was great (smiles).

To what extent have you developed as personalities through this play? Perhaps, you have learned something new?

Erik (“George”): For me it was not so easy because I have to change my emotions very quickly. You have to stay focused all the time and what is even more difficult is, when there is a conversation where you have no emotions. I don’t find it so easy to be a good actor in this situation because when you have emotions and feelings – you have something to show and experience.

Alina (“Honey”): That was difficult for me, to behave like a drunk person, I worked a lot on it.

Leon (“Nick”): For me, that was also difficult, to play a person who has very many differences from my own. It’s a challenge, but also a sense of development. But everything gets better with time.

Valentina (“Martha”): For me it was hard to learn to be an impulsive person, like my character Martha. I study Master’s in clinical psychology and I got overthinking everything: Why do I feel this way? What consequences can this lead to? And Martha is completely the opposite of me: if she has emotions, she will make it a problem for everyone. I have learned to be loud, selfish and careless.

In conclusion, we can’t wait for all of you to experience this amazing interpretation by our Uni-theatre on 17th May when the curtains open and till 21th May in german language. We also wish the best to the brilliant minds behind this creation and would love to Thank them for their time and cooperation.

by Simran Biliye and Arina Vlasova

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