THE CHILDREN IN OBERAMMERGAU REHEARSE AND PERFORM THEIR OWN PASSION PLAY. PREMIERE IS IN THE LAST WEEK OF THE SUMMER BREAK.
Other children go to the open-air swimming pool during summer break, go on vaccation or simply do: nothing. Most of the children in Oberammergau perform theatre throughout the summer during the Passion Play season. As part of the children's groups, they stand on the stage of the Passion Play Theatre during the "Entry into Jerusalem", take care of the sheep and goats in the merchants' scene or set the table for the Last Supper. But some of them have not had enough of the theatre even after a good half of the performances. On 1 August, about 100 children began rehearsing their own plays in parallel, the "Children's Passion". The project is an adult-free zone, the participants organise everything themselves and independently. It is not quite clear how long this tradition has existed. However, images of children's passions already appear in documentaries from the 1950s.
At the announcement of the cast on August 1st (Foto: Sebastian Schulte)
Play director Ludwig Freier at the announcement of the cast (photo: Sebastian Schulte)
This time, Ludwig Freier and Seppi Flemisch took the initiative. Both are eleven years old, go to the same class and play in the big Passion Play like everyone else. Together they took over the direction of the play, asked around in the children's dressing room who would like to take part and wrote lists. Their brothers Fridolin Freier and Carl Flemisch (9 and 8 years old) are also part of the extended management team: Fridolin plays Jesus, Carl plays Pilate. Together they take care of the props like the crown of thorns, the Last Supper table and chairs.
Play director Seppi Flemisch at the announcement of the cast (photo: Sebastian Schulte)
"They sometimes ask the adults from the last Children's Passion for help," explains Seppi. He himself has distributed the roles, thinking about who would be good as Jesus, Judas or Mary. Since, of course, there are far fewer roles for girls than for boys, he quickly cast two apostles as females: Leni Schmid plays James Alphaeus, Sophia Schmid Bartholomew. Ludwig, meanwhile, has shortened the text of the adult Passion Play: the music is omitted anyway, and they have also cut out the "Bethany" scene, for example. Their play version now has 67 pages, a little more than half of the "normal" Passion Play text.
The youngest in their ensemble are four, the oldest fifteen years old. If you look at the role lists, it reads like the big ones: People of Jerusalem, Romans, Executioner, Merchant, Thief, Apostle, High Council, Priest, Adulteress, Mary, Mary Magdalene and of course Jesus. Everyone who is in the big ones is here too. They rehearse "every day", as the two directors emphasise. After all, there is not much time left until the premiere in the last week of the summer break. And they have set their sights high: their performance should last two to three hours. Whether they want to take a break, the two are not quite sure yet. Seppi would rather play through, Ludwig tends towards a break. The two play leaders see themselves as a team and always perform together. On this day, they were measuring the crosses before the rehearsal. Because yes, of course there is scourging and crucifixion here too, even if it is a little different than with the adults. To put up the cross with Jesus or the thief would be a bit dangerous. "There's a bar at the bottom of the cross, so they can stand on it," Seppi explains. "And then they are nailed to it," says Ludwig. They can choose their costumes in the school storeroom, where the costumes from past Passion Plays are stored.
Jesus actor Fridolin Freier at the first rehearsal (photo: Sebastian Schulte)
Play director Ludwig Freier at the rehearsal of the Last Supper (photo: Sebastian Schulte)
Jesus actor Fridolin Freier with the apostels (photo: Sebastian Schulte)
Today, the Last Supper is being rehearsed. In the car park between the open-air swimming pool and the St. Gregor Chapel near the Laber mountain cable car. The apostles come by bike, in shorts, caps and sneakers. Unlike the big Passion Play, it is warm at these rehearsals, only thunder rumbles in the distance. Because the apostle Thaddeus is missing today, Carl spontaneously steps in. There are no props yet, but that doesn't bother them. "Between the two bicycles is the stage," explains play director Seppi. "So you can't just come from the side." Of course, phrases like "There's the centre stage" or "You have to go around the back, that's where the table is" fall. You notice that everyone has internalised the procedures of a theatre rehearsal. They know what to look for. Since Seppi also plays John and is involved in the scene, Ludwig (who plays Nicodemus, by the way) takes over today.
Angel actress Rosalie Wolf with Jesus actor Fridolin Freier (photo: Sebastian Schulte)
And off they go, everyone is immediately in the middle of the scene. "Why are you standing so far away and hiding your face?" asks Seppi as John. "Jerusalem, that you might recognise it," answers Fridolin as Jesus, who stands apart from the others. Most of them still need their textbooks, but there is still a little time. Who will get up when? Who will remain seated? And: How do we make the transition to the Mount of Olives without music? These are the questions on this rehearsal day. The actors are all different sizes, girls and boys, children and teens. But this is their common project, their summer in the name of the Passion Play. When it starts to rain, the rehearsal is moved to the hall next door.
Adults are kept out here. Only selected confidants may and were allowed to help a little: the second play director Abdullah Karaca with the shortening of the text, the production assistant Kilian Clauß as - yes: - production assistant. And the "mamas" then at the performance, when it's time to make up Jesus and the thieves with theatre blood.
Text: Anne Fritsch
Photos: Sebastian Schulte