The .EVOLve Theater company delves into the love that binds
Ms. Barbara Wolfram glides into Café Goldegg, a stone’s throw from Belvedere Palace. No jewelry or make up. Nothing fancy. She takes a moment. Gently spoken, she begins. We sit, mindful of our comfort and privilege.
Something the .EVOLve Theater Company, which she co-founded and directs, does not take for granted. As a response to the plight of Vienna’s asylum seekers, this established ensemble of exchange students from all over Europe has assimilated eight refugees into their latest play, I Think We Called it Family. A one-hour exploration of familial ties, this original production will be hosted for three performances at the Schauspielhaus this month. Wolfram’s mission is so heartfelt, that taking the actors into her fold might be the more pertinent description.
“I have a very personal relationship with refugees,” Wolfram told Metropole. “We are asking questions. We asked what is missing. And it was just wanting someone to talk to, normal things like going to the cinema or having someone to have a coffee with. This is something we can actually offer. We can build a support system.”
We asked [the refugees] what is missing. And it was just wanting someone to talk to, normal things like going to the cinema or having someone to have a coffee with.
What’s your story?
Wolfram has the quiet confidence that befits an actress and accomplished student of psychology, with an additional PhD from Vienna’s Film Academy. Working with non-professionals , this promises to be immediate theater, adding a risk factor that a fully prepared script might avoid. Here an Afghan woman grows up feeling less worthy than her brother, the property of her father or husband; here is a young Kurdish man whose family hid their books in the backyard, who talks about what freedom of speech now means to him here in Austria; here are the conversations of three young men from Afghanistan and Turkey, talking about a mother or father who died when they were young, about living with a missing half.
A few of her actors were in the recent production of Elfriede Jelenek’s Die Schutzbefohlenen (those in need of protection), which was gatecrashed by right-wing protesters, leaving many of the audience thinking it was part of the performance.
“Well, I am not Jelinek. Our production is not about people en masse. Not about the moment you leave the country,” says Wolfram.“It is about the whole personality, about what unites us. We all have a mother, a father and know what it is to have a sibling.”
She lists endless questions to undermine the self-evident. “We have such prepared answers for things. Our stories (we tell) are like coins polished on one side: Stories you tell, what you say about yourself. And then we flip the coin, to the unpolished side: Love, hate, troubles, what pushes us away. We try to capture what is going on underneath.”
The refugees are like us, yet different. “It is very hard to measure pain,” Wolfram says. “Which is worse? They have lived through the threat of losing their life in Syria or Iraq. We have no idea about the life-threatening part.”
Two of the cast have left for fear of the exposure, anything that might help authorities find and punish family members still back home. Wolfram quotes Hamlet: “But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue.” She is committed to the long haul, the decades to come with her ensemble.
A quick break and she has disappeared, in an ephemeral moment, leaving an empty space. Such is theater.
Jun 9, 10, 12, 19:30-20:30, Schauspielhaus