Luxembourg European Annual Theatre Summer School

2017 Theme Projects

All the best performers bring to their role something more, something different than what the author put on paper. That's what makes theatre live. That's why it persists.

Stephen Sondheim
(composer and librettist)

Theme Project Work : Forging Ahead


2016 was a year of considerable political turmoil. An onslaught of wild claims and offensive jibes now seems to be the prevailing recipe for electoral success. Facts are ‘forged' and crude and simplistic solutions peddled as ‘wonder drugs’, guaranteed to solve all problems. Cheap slogans catch the eyes and hearts of disillusioned citizens, desperate for a ‘quick fix’. How will theatre respond to the current crisis? Ranging from optimistic diversions to bleak predictions, playwrights have historically made significant contributions to similar challenges.

From Shakespeare “… one part does disdain with cause, th’other insult without all reason” (Coriolanus) and “O, while you live, tell truth and shame the devil” (Henry IV Part 1) to Brecht “Unhappy the land that needs a hero” (Galileo), playwrights have sought to reflect and respond to the world they live in by creating work that exposes and challenges injustice, attempting to shine a light on a way forward.

In the Theme project at summer school this year we will be looking at playwrights and theatre companies that have sought to respond to similar upheavals and injustice in their particular era, including a wide range of material from tragedy, documentary drama and satire. Some examples that we may look at are: Miller’s The Crucible, Brecht’s Arturo Ui, Bernstein’s West Side Story, Kushner’s Angels in America,
Richard Bean’s Great Britain and Gogol’s The Government Inspector.


“Music must have a social as well as artistic base…” Mark Blitzstein

Musicals can often be thought of as ‘fluff’; insubstantial pleasures designed for an audience wishing to escape from life’s gloomy realities during a couple of hours of lightweight Musical Theatre entertainment. Many shows do of course tick the above box. However, during M.T’s history and development; composers, lyricists and book writers have sought to reflect upon, investigate, challenge, satirize and discredit oppression and injustice in world they live(d) in. Shows have concerned themselves with racism and bigotry (Ragtime, West Side Story, The Scottsboro Boys, Parade) or power and corruption (Urine Town) gender and sexuality (La Cage Aux Folles, Rent, Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens) anti -establishment (Hair), anti - war (Oh, What A Lovely War, Johnny Johnson) or the more specific examination of anti- Semitism and corrupt power (Cabaret) through to the searching and unsettling commentary on the ‘American Dream’ in (Assassins).

Musicals will continue to expose exploitation and injustice in challenging for change. Can we expect Trump the musical?

We will be taking examples from some of the above existing pieces, working on ensemble songs, duets and even solos if we’re brave enough. The course intends to combine singing with ‘acting through song’.


"As an absurdist essay on politics and warfare, Duck Soup can stand alongside (or even above) the works of Beckett and Ionesco” British critic Patrick McCray.

He’s new in office, obfuscates with words and manhandles women – it’s Rufus T Firefly in the Marx brothers iconic movie Duck Soup. When asked: ‘Tell us how you intend to run the nation?’ He replies: ‘The last man nearly ruined this place, he didn't know what to do with it…we stand 'em up against the wall and pop goes the weasel.’

Let's explore responding to uncertain times with the creative force of anarchic humour. The chaos of comedy is supported by clear, learnable skills and you’ll learn to apply them step by step as we journey with bitter irony and hints of satire from tragic farce to utter comedic anarchy. 
You’ll get to work on and play scenes from Duck Soup, Dario Fo’s The Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Macbett by Ionesco, The Ubu Plays by Alfred Jarry, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard and The Revenger’s Tragedy, among others.
Might we also find some catharsis by looking at the unstoppable Mr Punch from Punch and Judy shows. And how about giving your inner rebel a moment in the sun by working with the lyrics of the seriously subversive songs of Pussy Riot?

The world is random, but the craft of comedy is concrete. Comedy can divert but it can also provoke and provide catharsis. The times may seem dark but laughter always lightens hearts.



"A theatre, a literature, an artistic expression that does not speak for its own time has no relevance." Dario Fo. Nobel Lecture 1997.

Does an Actor have to be aware of what is happening in the world in order to create theatre that has a contemporary relevance?

This course will explore the content and practice of various theatre writers including Thornton Wilder, Brecht, Arthur Miller, Noel Grieg, Lee Hall and Mike Kenny who have struggled with breaking the fourth wall, the American dream, gender and sexuality and verbatim theatre.

Possible texts include Our Town, Fears and Misery in the Third Reich, The Crucible, Death of a Salesman, Pitman Painters, Plague of Innocence, The Laramie Project, London Road and Follow Me.

"I want theatre to be continuously disturbing” George Devine, first Artistic Director of The English Stage Company

Sue Colgrave (acting) UNLEASHING THE SPIRIT

“Great Theatre always dances with danger” Robert Cohen

The last fifty years has produced some provocative and innovative writers, actors and Theatre Companies.

This course will look at some of these practitioners who challenged and provoked the status quo –from the Farce of Dario Fo, the sensitive verbatim theatre of the Tectonic Theatre Company, to the sharply observant political satires of Richard Bean – and many others in between.

The work will include theatre games and exercises in order to explore approaches to performing these ‘up front’ forms that can be hysterically funny, poignant and often controversial, as well as monologues, duologues and scenes from the above writers. In a challenging and most importantly, supportive environment the course will seek to nourish the imagination, encourage spontaneity and unleash the participants revolutionary spirit. Who knows? Maybe as a group we can create our own theatrical response to ‘Forging Ahead’.

Come prepared to sweat a little, expect the unexpected and laugh a lot.