(To view the program for this reading, go to Dresden-Program)
I traveled to Dresden in the spring of 2006 and met with faculty at the Technical University there -- Elisabeth Orrison, Ulrich Mohr, and Laura Park -- to arrange for a reading of the play in October.
Thereafter, Marisa Giannini, also at the university, agreed to direct the play, three university students to read the roles of the younger characters, Elisabeth Orrison to read the role of Hildegard, and Jochen Kretschmer, a professional actor, to read the role of Herr Vadim.
Rehearsals began in early October 2006, involving not only the actors but also a group of musicians taking responsibility for background music and songs. We all got to know one another during this time, and I now have some Dresden friends!
About a week prior to the performances on Sunday October 22 and Monday October 23, my "entourage" from the States arrived: the play's co-author Joanne Brasil, my brother Peter and his wife Margret Schaeffer, and my wife Pam Montanaro. Having the four of them there with me was wonderful -- they helped in many ways to make the reading successful. We had quite an experience in Dresden, a city that especially for Peter and me harbors so much meaning.
There were a number of problems with our preparation for the readings. I was residing in a hostel in Dresden's old town, and not available by telephone. A day after arriving, my billfold was either lost or stolen. The actors, all German, had varying degrees of familiarity with American-style English. We didn't have enough time to rehearse or to coordinate the reading of the script with the presentation of the music and the images. Our director and actors first saw the community room of our venue -- the community room of the Synagogue -- on the first day of performance, so we didn't have time to prepare the stage properly. Notwithstanding these obstacles, we worked together well as a team, getting to know one another and dealing with conflicts as they arose. Our first performance on Sunday was pretty rough -- that really should have been the dress rehearsal. But having learned from our mistakes, the performance on the next day went well. The party for cast and friends, hosted by my brother Peter and his wife Margret after the performance on Sunday evening, was cozy and pleasant.
Poster for the Dresden Performances
At the upper left is the "Sundial Angel" sculpture at the Chartres Cathedral, about which Rilke wrote a poem that Hilde reads in the play. Below the angel is a photo of Hilde's father Alfred, who proudly served in the Kaiser's army in World War II. Below him is Dresden's famous Frauenkirche, a cathedral that was destroyed during the 1945 firebombing (as represented in the poster background, along with the Augustus bridge across the Elbe) and restored in 2005. The center photo is of Hilde playing St. Joan in Shaw's play. To her right is a photo taken in the mid 30s of Hilde's husband David, Hilde, her first son Peter, and Hilde's father. Above them is a photo of Hilde's brother Ralph.
The Jewish community in Dresden generously allowed us to use the Community Room in the Synagogue for the readings. The poster mentions only one performance. After it was printed, we arranged for an additional preformance, also held in the Community Room, on Sunday, October 22.