«The Other Side»
A play for two venues in real time, connected by the internet
by Thomas Oberender / Sebastian Orlac
Translated from German by Gunda Mapache und Helge Hübner
© Verlag der Autoren 2005
Premiered at the Kammerspiele Magdeburg and public theatre Nashville / Tennessee
Cast per theatre
M1 – Old man
M2 – Man around forty
F1 – Woman around forty
F2 – Very young woman
M3 – Man around thirty
Two cameramen per stage
The performance takes place at two venues simultaneously. At each venue a steep risers are set. Opposite the stand there is a screen of the same size, in height and width, as the stage. Via live broadcast the audience of the other side is being displayed on the screen in real time. Among the audience members five actors sit in casual dress. The actors use wireless microphones. The spectators are the actual »players” – the stories being told by the actors on the respective other side are about them. The actors on the other side should not be shown while they are speaking. The actors will appear onscreen players only while they are not talking – i.e. while acting mute and expressing states or events on behalf of the audience. They either remain invisible narrators or silent characters, which are in turn being described. The spectators appear as immovable displays of the narration. If they join in the action, that is very welcome.
The captions of the shots of the audience could be as follows: stories in wide shot; full shot for 24 people. Medium shot for 6 persons, 2 persons – head & shoulder shot, close up or extreme close up for the mouth, the eyes. Turning points in the narrative will be marked by a sound. The sound should be raised in volume, but not harsh, rather like the soft ticking of a pendulum clock.
The audience of the other auditorium is being displayed on the screen. The five actors enter the stage; behind them the five other actors are visible on the screen. They take their seats in the auditorium. The screen is showing a wide shot of the audience at the other venue. Among them the actors. One of the actors, without being singled out among the crowd, begins to hum a melody, amplified by the wireless. One after the other all actors join in. Abrupt silence. Beat. People are watching themselves in the mirror of the others.
M2: (portrait of an elderly man in the audience)… Out… into this world… this world… while I was going up the stairs to the station platform in the city of M., a young man was staring down from above. He was looking past me, behind him on the ground a man was laying, surrounded by passengers. A lady with a yellow pullover and a bun was standing apart, facing the tracks and speaking in his direction over her shoulder: just breathe steadily, inhale deeply, you have to take a deep breath. I saw how heavily the man was breathing; he was in his mid-sixties, sitting legs apart motionless on the pavement, his eyes vacant. At his feet a blond girl was kneeling and his back was being supported by his wife. A boy in a red baseball cap, maybe his grandson, was crouching beside him and was jumping up again and again looking for help. I walked on, slowly.
M1: It was early morning, a sunny day and the platform was full of people, passengers as on every day at every hour at this place, their bags beside them, they were reading the paper or looking to the display, the train was delayed and time was getting long.
M2: The old man was lying down on his back, someone bent his knees, stretched his arms, the man’s face was as white as his hair. His wife put her jacket underneath his head und knelt down, leaning towards him and supporting her upper body with one hand; with the other she stroked his cheeks softly and persistently. Her face was above his and they looked at each other from time to time. I hadn’t seen what had happened to the man, a sudden swoon, a dizzy turn, a fall. Maybe he had just made it to sit down deliberately, as fast as possible, five meters past the last step and with the hand on one of the cast-iron pillars of the station’s roof.
M1: From time to time I opened my eyes and looked for my wife.
M2: He was heavily built; his shirt was still neatly tucked into his waistband. I was walking up and down, talking on the phone, and suddenly young men in white pants and T-shirts saying »Red Cross” appeared on the platform and with them emergency doctors in jeans and red waistcoats. The woman stepped aside and while the doctors questioned the man, a paramedic unbuttoned the man’s shirt and another opened the cuff links to take his pulse. They placed a plastic respiration mask over his face, then they examined his chest with a stethoscope while a paramedic fastened the devices for the electrocardiography. His wife watched them do all this
quickly and expertly and saw him lying on the floor, unaffected by everything around him, the world in his eyes pastel colored now and unseen, as otherwise only the fringes of the field of vision where everything slips off into the distance, a mere premonition.
M1: (Portrait of an elderly woman among the audience). The doctors started the electrocardiography and my wife went from one to the other, watched as they uncovered my calves, bent my arm to the side and tapped on the inside looking for a vein.
M2: She didn’t notice the train pull in, it was the one they had been waiting for, didn’t see how the people around her got on, how the train departed and how the platform got deserted and quiet again, for she was already worrying because she’d have to get the necessary things for the hospital from the apartment and how is it supposed to go on now, what ails the husband and what will become of him –
F2: - She has to call the kids –
M2: - and sometime, late at night, the old woman will sit in her kitchen, and suddenly the world will be there again, the ticking of the clock will be loud and –
M1: - you have to eat –
M2: - but all alone she is not used to doing it. And she will prefer to sleep on the couch in the living room and the bag is already standing in the hall, packed with new pajamas and his shaving kit, on top of it the ticket for the suburban train.
M1: (Portrait of an elderly man in the audience) what is the singular of people? A »peop”? No, not that. Man. Human?
F2: (full shot) You lie in order to live on. People lie, out of hope. Hope. The lie, even if it beautifies the past or makes empty promises for the future, is an expression of hope. Hope that it was worth it, that it will be all right.
F1: (slow fade from a wide shot to the portrait of a woman around forty among the audience. Beat.) I noticed it observing my colleagues, you change with time. Before I would have said: you progress. But where to? I bought a pair of pants yesterday. I have bought approximately 100 pairs of pants in the course of my life. No skirts, never. Blue jeans. Black ones. White ones. A green one. Suit pants. Woolen slacks. Duck slacks. With flare. Without. Hipsters. Stretch pants. Checkered. Striped. Tight. Wide. Nowadays wide. With tuck. Or crease. Stonewashed. With applications. Or embroidery. I have changed so much that I cannot possibly be the same person I was 15
years ago. I was. I used to be the woman with the batik linen pants. I cannot possibly be that same woman today. Me. A completely different picture of me. I wanted, to be what? The woman with the frayed rip at the knee. In buckskin. Casual. A different person. Each time. If I imagine – that heap of pants. Every one of them. Given away. Thrown out. One after the other. 100 at least. 100 people. In one. In me. (Zoom to full shot, later to wide shot.) The person I used to be 15 or 25 years ago could not now, sitting next to me, be stranger to me than any neighbor. A stranger is, on closer examination, sometimes more familiar to me than me myself seen from today’s perspective. I have been all this: the woman with the plait. With the pageboy haircut. With the fashionable quartz wristwatch. All those faces have been mine. I can see myself in all this. (Beat). I am exaggerating.
One of the actors begins to hum a melody. One after the other all actors join in. Abrupt silence. Beat. People are watching themselves in the mirror of the others.