A Bewitching Production Born out of a Pandemic
My musical “Hexen” (“Witches”) is back on the boards, or rather the foyer, in Theater Hof in Germany. Originally premiered in the fall of 2020, it is back in repertory this season, performing tonight and sprinkled across the season’s schedule over the next several months as is customary for repertory theaters.
This production has a remarkable history. Its original production plans had to be completely rethought when the Covid pandemic hit. Germany allowed theaters to reopen in the fall of 2020, one year before Broadway ultimately reopened, but they had to be Covid safe productions. Which in the case of Hexen in Theater Hof meant that they couldn’t perform in the theater, but would stage the musical in the capacious foyer, where audiences could be seated in family “pods” at individual tables safely spaced out. Hexen performed for two months in the fall of 2020, but then a pandemic surge brought on new restrictions that shut down all live performances again in Germany. Performances didn’t resume again until this past summer.
Ed and I got a chance to see “Hexen” performed in July, when the production’s director Florian Lühnsdorf took us behind the scenes and showed us part of a performance via Skype. A Skype screenshot is not exactly the ideal glimpse of a theatrical performance, but from these shots you can get a good idea how the whole space of the foyer, including the balcony above, was used in performance by the two talented performers playing the two witches, and how the audience was safely spaced apart in the space. What was enforced because of extenuating circumstances during a pandemic has yielded an exciting singular performance experience.
Possibly now with vaccinations and amended safety protocols it may be possible to add more tables for a larger audience in the space. And also now that it’s autumn and the northern sky no longer stays bright deep into the evening, complete darkness around the wide windows will enhance the lighting design in the performance space.
If you happen to be in Germany this theater season, do check out this unique production of women’s/witches’ tuneful trials and tribulations in nine lifetimes over the centuries.
Thank you, Florian Lühnsdorf, for letting Ed and me take part in “Hexen” from abroad (see us in the screenshot’s upper corner?), lurking over the Theater Hof foyer balcony via Skype.