I really miss hanging out with people

How did you both end up at the Schauspielhaus Zürich?

Liliana: This is my first experience at the Schauspielhaus Zürich and in Switzerland as an actress in general. Normally, I work in Italy. My work with Christoph Marthaler has brought me here. Das Weinen (Das Wähnen) is my third production with him.

Björn: I’m also quite new at the Schauspielhaus Zürich. Like Liliana, this is my first job in Switzerland. Before, I had my own company based in Berlin. Das Weinen (Das Wähnen) by Christoph Marthaler is the first production I am a part of at the Schauspielhaus and I’d just started planning the international tour of this production... (laughs)

Yeah and then suddenly, we’ve all been faced with this new situation; with the coronavirus. Liliana, I’ve just remembered, when we first started communicating, it was just a few days before the end rehearsals of «Das Weinen» started at the Pfauen. In our very first email, we already talked about the coronavirus and we both were very anxious due to the situation; me from an outside perspective and you were already affected by it but in a different way.

Liliana: Yes, because in Italy it had started a bit earlier than in the rest of Europe. So here everybody thought it was still far away... And I was scared at first because I didn’t want to give this premiere up because of this virus in Italy. So, I thought I had to run to Switzerland. My hope was that the virus would not arrive here as well. The atmosphere while rehearsing at this time was very strange, but we couldn’t imagine that we wouldn’t celebrate the premiere. Every day we received different information; that maybe we could only perform the premiere for a smaller audience or play it only for the Schauspielhaus crew. But in the end, we couldn’t perform the premiere at all. It was very strange and sad not being able to do it. It was a very long preparation time with a tour ahead that promised to be great. And I’m sure that it will be great, as soon as it will be possible.Björn, how did you experience the cancellation of the premiere?

Björn: It was weird. I remember that a few days before the premiere Liliana asked me if I would come to see a dress rehearsal. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it, but I was so excited to see the premiere. And I remember on the night when the premiere should have taken place, I was at the Pfauen and it was so strange to see the house this empty. Usually, when we celebrate a premiere, people mingle in the entire house. And on that day, it was just quiet.

And then, from Monday on, I started sending out emails to the team asking how they were holding up and to inform them that we had already decided to postpone the first three stops on this production’s tour – which would have been Nanterre, Modena and Bergen. It was an interesting exchange, because in the conversations with our partners in these cities, the severity of this situation became clearer by the minute.

Now it’s been four weeks since the cancelled premiere. How are you both feeling right now? Liliana, you are stranded in Zurich…

Liliana: Yeah, I’ve decided to stay here. At first, when it seemed as if the problem was just affecting Italy, everybody was worried about the touring dates. Because if I went back home, it wouldn’t have been possible to come back. I’m from Milano and that region in the North of Italy is affected the most. So, when they cancelled the performances in Zurich, they told me that I could stay in my guest apartment if I needed to. And now it’s quite difficult to travel. So, I’m waiting for the second phase in Italy to start so I can go back home.

And - it might sound a bit crazy - my weeks here are not so bad. It’s incredible how many things you can do in an apartment. I’m not bored. I’m doing a lot of things: I can read, I can watch movies, I can do Yoga. I’ve even discovered that I really like to braid my hair (laughs). But sometimes it’s not easy to find a sense in all these actions and hobbies when the world outside of the window seems like a nightmare.

What about you, Björn?

Björn: Personally, I’m ok and I got to know my apartment – where I’ve just moved in at the beginning of March – quite well by now. So, in a way, I also feel very lucky. I have two close friends just next door and I am meeting colleagues over Zoom. I’m quite happy that I can work from home. As you’ve said, what is happening is sad and it’s so unclear how everything will continue, but I’m glad that we’re trying to prepare our business to get back on track – so that the artists can present their work in the future and that we can finally celebrate the premiere. I really want to see the production live! Because I didn’t have a chance. I just got a glimpse during a rehearsal and I can’t wait to see it on stage!

What are you missing about the theatre right now?

Björn: I miss being at the theatre in the evenings; watching performances as a member of the audience. I really miss hanging out with people – with friends, with the audience, with the performers... I miss this live moment.

Liliana: Yeah, me too. Of course, I miss being able to touch people and hug my colleagues. I miss going out for dinner with my colleagues. I miss working in the theatre. And I miss studying something for my performances. Because one of the things I love most about my job is that you always have to study something. And the things that you can learn are quite infinite. Of course, I can do this at home a bit - but it’s not the same. Because it’s not a practical application of it. I miss being in the audience too, because, normally, I go to the theatre quite often and I don’t watch a lot of movies. Now I’m watching a lot of movies and that’s fine too... (Björn starts laughing and Liliana joins in).

Björn: I‘ve asked Liliana for some Netflix recommendations as well…

So which Netflix recommendations did she give you?

Liliana: Actually, I’m not using Netflix so much, I’m using Mubi

Björn: Ah right, that’s even better!

Liliana: Yeah, it’s good because every day there is a new movie on this platform. Yesterday I watched a movie by Godard that I liked a lot. There’s a great selection.

Björn: It’s good that you reminded me of that! I’m still using my Netflix account. I’ve also just started with the series «Tiger King» that everyone is watching. I am also refreshing my French which is almost gone. So, I watched «Jules et Jim» by Francois Truffaut; I can recommend that.

Liliana: Yeah, of course, «Jules et Jim»! Do you also watch series?

Björn: I haven’t until recently. On my travels with performers, everybody was always talking about these series and the latest episodes of «Game of Thrones» and so on – and I didn’t know any of them. But now I have Netflix and I must admit I really like spending four of five hours just watching one episode after the other. There’s definitely something about binge watching. (laughs)

Liliana: Well, yes, now it’s fine, because we have more time than normally to watch series. But normally, I think it’s not good to waste so much time with it.

What do you think is most important right now? Have you found something positive in this situation?

Liliana: This is definitely a good opportunity to understand how lucky we are to work in theatre - and to be alive in general. It’s also a good opportunity to discover how all the simple things can be special. I’m trying not to go out so often these days even though I know that in Switzerland it’s still allowed, but I think it’s better not to do it too often. But every time I go out it feels incredible, because I am more and more sensitive in a way. And this spring is so beautiful! I think we have an opportunity to become a bit richer - not in terms of money but in our souls. And I hope that the world will keep this. But I’m not sure that it will happen… And I don’t know if it will make sense to do the same productions as we did before the virus; when and if we will go back to normal. Artists and audience will have changed and they will need a higher quality, and new points of view, for sure. Now I can’t imagine myself going to the theatre, watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Romeo and Juliet without having done any profound research. I hope that everything will change for the better.

Björn: There’s really nothing more to add. I agree with what Liliana’s just said; it’s really important to see the small and positive sides each and every single day and try to enjoy them.