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Posted on: Friday, April 25, 2003

STAGE SCENE
Updated 'Robbers' dramatizes post-9/11 fears

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

The Kennedy Theatre stage at the University of Hawai'i is transformed into a post-9/11 airport lounge with soldiers manning security checkpoints, something audiences can relate to. The production surrounds an acting troupe's performance of Friedrich Schiller's 18th-century play "The Robbers" while waiting for their flights.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

An airport waiting lounge probably isn't the first place that leaps to mind when compiling a list of ideal spots for staging a play. But it's sure to appeal to any commuter with a fresh memory of having wasted valuable life minutes equal to the entire running length of "Les Miserables" near a boarding gate.

"Traveling from Germany to here ... I've spent a lot of time waiting in the lounges of international airports," said Markus Wessendorf. "And I've always kind of fantasized about how great it would be if (airports) offered not just a VIP or business lounge, but also a theater lounge where you could watch productions."

Wessendorf, a University of Hawai'i-Manoa theater professor, has channeled that fantasy (and then some) into a contemporary staging of German dramatist Friedrich Schiller's landmark 1781 play "The Robbers." Under Wessendorf's direction, the politically violent drama of two rebellious brothers in 18th-century Germany is staged as a straight-on performance by an acting troupe waiting for a flight in a raucous post-9/11 airport lounge. The audience is asked to imagine themselves as commuters watching the play while waiting for the same flight.
'The Robbers'

8 p.m. today, Saturday and May 1-3; 2 p.m. May 4

Kennedy Theatre, University of Hawai'i-Manoa

$12 general, $10 seniors, military, faculty, staff, $8 non-UH-Manoa students, $3 UHM students with ID

956-7655

"People have a very special relationship (with) flying and airports now," said Wessendorf. "After Sept. 11, no one feels safe anymore. We're now living in a society where surveillance, or the notion of the security check, has become increasingly prevalent. Your civil liberties are no longer as guaranteed as they were before. And the airport is probably the first environment that comes to mind — the most evident environment — where those changes have been implemented."

To set the required mood of anxiety, audience members entering Kennedy Theatre (renamed Kennedy Airport) will be escorted through faux metal detectors before finding their seats. On stage, actors will be screened in full view of the audience by security staff as they move from a waiting lounge area into a performance area, and stripped of questionable prop weapons.
Annie Lipscomb and Blake Kushi perform in "The Robbers." Director Markus Wessendorf asks the audience to imagine they are commuters waiting for their flights.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

"There's one scene where someone has to strangle someone else with dental floss, where in the original play that person would've shot the other person," said Wessendorf, smiling.

Events are a bit more extreme than, say, an average day at Honolulu International — gunshots are often heard off stage, and the National Guard and FBI occasionally interrupt the performance. But Wessendorf insisted there was a method to his on-stage madness.

"I didn't want to entertain the audience with a play that was critical of political violence, (have them) pat themselves on the shoulder for seeing it, and then walk home," said Wessendorf. "There should be a sense of uneasiness. ... And that's really to make them think — to make them aware of an uneasiness that they may also feel in their daily life that they suppress."

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