Actors Repertory Theatre Luxembourg (Actors Rep), the professional English-language theatre company founded in 2012, has announced its world premiere production of a trio of new, linked theatrical pieces collectively titled Vignettes of a Pestilence.
The three original pieces, written for either online or the stage and connected by subject, theme, structure—and casts—will be presented online for multiple events in August and into the autumn. To watch the trailer, see https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_ncAKre7ABPtjkQHKJKeKg
First up are two international festivals: The Minnesota Fringe Festival (5 – 15 August 2021) and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (6 – 30 August 2021). The company is also scheduled to present the Vignettes of a Pestilence trio in the Festival des Égarés, which Théâtre Luxembourg – Le LabO Théâtre Differdange is producing in late August. Actors Rep is also hoping to show the trio in a possible event in Luxembourg Ville later in the autumn.
Co-Artistic Director Christine Probst said that the company continues to research additional potential online outlets for other international festivals — noting the recent increased emphasis on exporting Luxembourg created cultural experiences. It is, she said, "Something we’ve been doing for a long time."
The company has brought in artists based outside The Greater Region to collaborate on more than half of its productions, as well as hosting multiple international artists to present workshops. Actors Rep’s production of #WTF Happened? On the Phenomenon of Trump was featured in festivals both in the US and Belgium (plans to present it live at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019 fell through due to inadequate financial support; discussions regarding a possible London run were in progress just before the first lockdown in early 2020.)
The Pestilence trio was written by Luxembourg based playwright, actor, director, and Actors Rep Artistic Director, Erik Abbott, who has written over twenty plays, two of which were previously produced by Actors Rep. He explained that the three pieces all take place within the context of video calls, during three different time periods over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and thus build on each other. Each confronts emotional aspects of pandemic life: fear, depression, grief, etc.; however, Abbott and Probst emphasised they are also interwoven with humour and hope.
The first, Apokalypsis: Quarantine, is set in the spring of 2020 and involves a husband and wife who are separated when he is stranded on a business trip abroad by the grounding of flights. Their story unfolds over a series of calls and messages. Supposedly, there is a cat. (Actors Rep audiences may recognise the characters, who also appear in the Christmas play, Dear Santa…, presented in multiple locations by Actors Rep in 2017 and 2018.)
The second, The Last of the Cousins Beckwith, is set in the autumn of 2020, and features two cousins / best friends — one of whom communes with the dead — whose stories conjure a shared history of their eccentric family, the struggles of and frustrations from continued lockdowns, and depression.
The third, When We Get Back to Normal, is set in the spring of 2021. In it, two colleagues from the same large company, but who are in different locations and who have never met, are the only ones to show up for a scheduled video conference meeting. Their separate stories spark conflict and ultimately reveal their mutual loneliness and grief.
Both the Minnesota and Edinburgh festivals have limited live performance schedules this year, but are offering video platforms for artists around the world to present productions, both as streaming events or on-demand. Artists from around the world will feature work in the Minnesota festival (which is offering more than 70 online performances—including the three from Actors Rep), with many hundreds more participating ‘in’ Edinburgh.
Performances for both Fringe Festivals can be accessed during their respective runs by anyone, anywhere with an internet connection. As multiple people can watch based on any single ticket purchase, the festivals offer the opportunity to present work to audiences larger than those in any single physical venue.
The Festival des Égarés will feature both live and film / recorded pieces.
The plays will be performed by Abbott, Probst and Lolly Foy, a Minnesota-based professional actress, director, singer and acting teacher who, like Probst and Abbott, has had a decades-long professional theatre career. Foy said she has long wanted to have a chance to work with the company (she and Abbott trained together early in their careers.)
Rehearsals were "interesting" to schedule, she said, as "we had to juggle being seven time zones apart" and Foy’s commitment to directing a production of Little Shop of Horrors in Minnesota.
These productions mark Actors Rep’s 14th, 15th and 16th productions of thirteen plays and three revivals since its debut show, The Goat Or, Who is Sylvia?, in 2013, a co-production with the Théâtre National du Luxembourg.
The company is working with Philip Taylor, founder and CEO of Morpheus Marketing in Luxembourg, who is doing the video editing and assisting with marketing. "He has been outstanding as a collaborator," Abbott said. "We feel very fortunate to have been able to have him on board for this."
Additional information can be found on the Actors Rep website (https://actorsrep.lu).
Tickets can be purchased and information found on the festival websites as well:
• Minnesota Fringe Festival (https://www.minnesotafringe.org). For Minnesota, the three parts of the trio are being offered as separate pieces, each
about 30 minutes long.
• Edinburgh Festival Fringe (https://www.edfringe.com). Tickets for most Edinburgh Fringe online offerings (including Vignettes of a Pestilence) are
handled directly through the festival’s box office: https://tickets.edfringe.com
Information on the Festival des Égarés can be found on the Théâtre Luxembourg – Le LabO Théâtre Differdange’s website -- https://theatre-luxembourg.com