Welttheater Einsiedeln edition 2013

Einsiedeln World Theatre

A tiny village creating a big stir

The legendary ‘World Theatre’ returns to Einsiedeln from 11 June. Hundreds of amateurs will bring the monumental play to the stage. We visit a community where a huge effort is being made.

Michael West

Just a moment ago the sun was shining, now gloomy storm clouds are gathering over Einsiedeln. But Dave Leuthold and Klaus Annen aren’t put off by the change in the weather. They are busy working with hammers, thick nails and milling cutters. At the foot of the two church towers, they are constructing a quite remarkable stepped wooden stage, which even has chambers concealing fog machines. At the touch of a button, the stage can spit flames – highly flammable pollen from the lycopodium plant is set alight.

The two men are part of the team working on the foundations of the ‘World Theatre’: they are building the floor on which parts of the huge play will be performed from 11 June. 66-year-old Leuthold is a professional set designer who is coordinating the work on Klosterplatz. 69-year-old Annen used to be an IT specialist and is now retired – he’s one of around 500 volunteers, actors and actresses who make the ‘World Theatre’ happen.

“I'm not a long-standing resident – I’ve only lived in Einsiedeln for eight years,” says Annen. “But I couldn’t resist the appeal of the ‘World Theatre’. Lots of people asked me to join in. It’s wonderful to see the whole village pull together as a team as the premiere approaches.”

The ‘World Theatre’ celebrates its centenary

The big day everyone is looking forward to is 11 June – when the ‘World Theatre’ will celebrate the 17th premiere in its history as well as its 100th anniversary. This summer, a very distinctive story by Lukas Bärfuss is being staged – no longer the mystery play by the Baroque poet Calderón, which was performed in Einsiedeln until the turn of the millennium. In contrast to the past, Bärfuss has just one main character – a woman called Emanuela. Born a simple peasant child, she becomes rich and powerful and ascends to a towering throne. But she learns the hard way that nothing in the world lasts forever, and even a kingdom is transitory.

Emanuela is played by a different actress in each stage of her life. One of them is 60-year-old Rita Noser, who works as an assistant at a pharmacy in Einsiedeln. Today she stood behind the counter for eight hours, recommending sore throat lozenges and medicinal teas to customers with a cold. Now she is preparing for her performance in the rehearsal room of the ‘World Theatre’ which is located in a sports centre. She is engrossed in a thick book, going through her lines over and over again.

Strong connection with the audience

Noser is a seasoned ‘World Theatre’ veteran – she was involved in 1981, 2000, 2007 and 2013. In past performances, for example, she played a sales assistant and the wife of a powerful president. “I always find the strong connection with the audience fascinating,” reveals the actress. “Sometimes it would start pouring down during a performance, and although the seating area was uncovered back then, almost the entire audience stayed put. It was as though they didn’t want to let the actors down.”

Sometimes the ‘World Theatre’ is part of someone’s life story, as in Noser’s case, and sometimes it becomes a family tradition. That’s true for 15-year-old schoolgirl Leonie Lang and her 40-year-old mother Rita, a middle school teacher from Einsiedeln. The two of them are trying on clothes in the costume studio, which is right next to the rehearsal room. They put on black, ragged clothes in front of a mirror, as they will be playing homeless people in the play. In one scene, the mother also plays a vicious policewoman with a steel helmet and balaclava.

“One of my grandfathers and a great-grandfather performed for the ‘World Theatre’,” explains Leonie. “My mum didn’t need to persuade me – I definitely wanted to do it this time too.” The teenager is fascinated by how the vast production is gradually taking shape. She is looking forward to the first rehearsal on the real stage tomorrow evening.

The costume studio reveals just how dazzling and colourful the play will actually be: countless hats hang from a whole host of racks, and there is a seemingly endless row of shoes and boots.

65-year-old professional set designer Anna Maria Glaudemans created all 350 costumes. She relies heavily on used fabrics because they “have a special patina and are very vivid,” according to the well-known theatre producer. However, Glaudemans’ vision would not take shape were it not for the 23 highly dedicated tailors from Einsiedeln who take turns working on the project.

Feverish hunt for props

Props maker 37-year-old Désirée Knüsel also makes a vital contribution. She usually runs an upholstery studio in the village, refurbishing old sofas. Now she is looking for the most improbable items to be used in the theatre. The collection of props already includes a series of retro pushchairs and a pitch-black coffin. “I do a lot of online research and look for suitable materials, objects and specialists. The ‘World Theatre’ and also Anna Maria have a large pool where we reuse a lot of things and, if necessary, change them.”

That’s the great thing about ‘World Theatre’: it brings out new passions, talents and strengths in everyone involved. That’s what enables us all to get the monumental performance on stage in a joint effort.

Five theatre tips for this summer

There’s plenty of other productions being staged besides the ‘World Theatre’. These five open-air productions are well worth watching too:

  • ‘Da chönnt ja jede cho!’ (Anyone could come)

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    The hero of this satirical play is Wale Wüthrich from Hinterschnösligen. He prides himself on being a wealthy Swiss individual until he realises that some problems simply cannot be solved with money.

    Good tip: On Bern’s local mountain, children can take a ride on the miniature railway, while their parents enjoy looking at the impressive sculptures by Ursi and Bernhard Luginbühl.

    From 27 June to 31 August on the Gurten.

    • “Auf Umwegen in bunten Schuhen” (Detours in colourful shoes)

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      This play is all about travellers. They are seeking happiness, wealth and eternal life. But they often end up in dead ends.

      Good tip: The Orange Gardens at the ‘Park im Grüene’ are well worth a visit. Here the history of Migros can be experienced through the senses.

      On 28 and 29 June in the ‘Park im Grüene’ in Rüschlikon.

      • “Prometheus – Revolution im Götterreich” (Prometheus – revolution in the kingdom of the gods)

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        An ancient legend is told on the shores of Lake Constance: Prometheus rebels against the rule of the gods and brings fire to mankind.

        Good tip: Take a wonderful river cruise between Kreuzlingen and Schaffhausen.

        11 July to 7 August in Kreuzlingen.

        • “Der Liebestrank” (The love potion)

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          In Gaetano Donizetti’s opera, the hero buys a bottle of magic potion from a charlatan to beguile his beloved.

          Good tip: The castle has a wonderful art gallery. Historical figures can be made to speak at the touch of a button.

          2 to 17 August at Schloss Werdenberg.

          • “Julius Maggi: Ein kräftig gewürztes Freilichtspiel” (Julius Maggi: a well-spiced outdoor play)

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            This humorous play is about the inventor of the most famous Swiss liquid condiment.

            Good tip: The theatre restaurant serves food that is, of course, seasoned with Maggi.

            7 to 31 August in Illnau.


            All five productions are supported by the Migros Culture Percentage.

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