Ogmius: Skill based residency: Textlab, preparations

The last skill based residency for artists during the Ogmius project was hosted by Moomsteatern and went under the name Textlab.

The idea of Textlab grew out of the residency at Moomsteatern during the Crossing the Line project in 2015. Artists from all three countries had been given a scene from a play, written in their own language. They all rehearsed their lines before coming to Sweden and during the workshop they staged rehearsals of the scene, co-acting in each their own language. Rather than focusing on the actual words of their co-actors they automatically focused on how the other person was delivering their lines. All three theatres found this workshop to be a good way of training the actor’s skills in communicating, focusing on your co-actors and finding acting nuances when delivering your lines.

During Ogmius the same three theatre companies decided that the residency at Moomsteatern would be a longer and deeper version of this process, where three actors – one from each country – would rehearse a full play together, each in their own language.

Harald Leander was invited as an artistic lead of the Textlab residency. Harald is an experienced theatre director that has collaborated with Moomsteatern on several occasions. He also has educational experience and has been involved in training actors at Moomsteatern as well as being a teacher at Malmö Theatre Academy (at Lund’s University) and he is fluent in Swedish, English and French. Harald decided to use “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry as the text material to work with. It seemed perfect for the project, since it contains several characters for the actors to portray, and great possibilities to work with understanding the story through body language rather than words.

The original plan was for the team of three actors and the artistic project leader to meet for a first week in Malmö, Sweden, a second week in Bradford, UK and a third and final week in Roubaix, France, where the result of the process would be showcased in front of a live audience. The three Textlab weeks would be spread out over a period of five months, allowing each actor time to rehearse their lines individually in between the residency weeks. But before the project was allowed to start Europe saw the outbreak of the pandemic and travelling to each other’s countries was no longer a possibility. A new plan had to be made.

The radio theatre version:

Harald Leander came up with the idea of moving Textlab online by letting the actors meet over Zoom to rehearse the script together. Removing the element of using body language they would instead focus completely on the intonation, pace, tone and emphasis of the text, acting through their voices, much like a radio theatre play. Meeting and rehearsing over Zoom would still allow the actors to interact with each other. By creating a filmed version of the radio play we could use subtitles and facial expressions to communicate the story to the audience. “The Little Prince” is about creatures that do not understand each other, but manage to communicate anyway, and the material still seemed perfect.

The three companies decided to keep the planning of the project by sticking to the three weeks in February, April and June that they had originally planned to meet. Now they would meet on Zoom instead. An extra week was added in December, before the start of the project, for everyone involved to meet and have a first look at the script.

> Watch a film documenting the process of Textlab by clicking here.

> Watch a selection of scenes from the work made during Textlab.