Interview by Dimi Theodoraki for ETL
Josiane Segar has been involved with the English Theatre Leipzig since 2021, as an actress, member and now first-time director and writer. She has her PhD in ecology and biodiversity from iDiv.
Sebastian Geiger is a professional actor from Leipzig and he is 25 years old. He has been actor for almost 3 years now and he is eager to learn all the aspects of theatre and art in general. He came in contact with the English Theatre Leipzig by the end of last year, as he auditioned for a role in the play Scab and fell in love with the theatre and the people working there.
About the play Echolalia, devised and directed by Josiane and Sebastian
The play is about an argument between a romantic couple that has been in a relationship for a few years. At first, I had the initial idea of what I wanted the play to look like, the direction and the characters. We started with improvising, directing the actors with situations and ideas. The reason that we did that was because we wanted the final script to feel as natural as possible. After four improvisations we had a break of a week to write the script, based on our ideas and based on the improvisations. It’s semi-written by all of us, in that sense. Ever since then, we’ve been working with the script.
The play is a dialogue between the two characters, Mateo and Sofia. The idea for the play is based on the fact that all people in arguments or conversations understand and interpret things very differently. What Sebastian Geiger and I did is that we have split the play into two sections. In the first half you will see the argument from the perspective of the one partner in the couple, and then in the second half, where the argument repeats itself, you will see it from the perspective of the other person. So, it’s the same argument repeated twice, but not the same, because every person is influenced by their own experiences, biases, traumas, needs, desires.
The plan inevitably has biographical elements from us. We were all bringing in our own experiences into the project. It is influenced by our past lives, past relationships, but the exact situation is fictitious. It’s not based on anything explicit.
The work with the actors
We have two actors: Letizia Rivera as Sofia and Pablo Franchini as Mateo. It’s great because we’ve all worked together before and our actors are extremely talented and experienced. A lot of their input, a lot of their ideas were brought into the play. We wanted to give the actors as much freedom as possible and work collaboratively. We also have Nadja Bonk with us, as production and stage manager. As all of us our friends, it meant there was a lot of trust and support and because we needed to get quite a lot done in quite a short space of time, that helped tremendously.
The play lasts 30 minutes, but you really get an insight into how there is no objective reality when it comes to interpersonal relationship. We have had to find ways to communicate that to the audience: using the same words with very different intentions, you must make it clear to them, that they’re seeing the argument from two different perspectives. And so of course everyone is going to see it differently, interpreted it differently. Therefore, it’s really a complex interplay of Mateo, Sofia and the audience.
The English Theatre Leipzig
I’ve been involved with the English Theatre Leipzig for a couple of years now, since 2021. It was during my PhD in Ecology at Integrative Biodiversity Research Halle-Jena-Leipzig (iDiv), that I started getting involved in ETL and then it’s just become bigger and bigger part of my life. I´ve done a few plays with this theatre, but always as an actress. I was also in another play this summer with a different organisation. This is my first time directing so I am learning by doing and making mistakes but luckily, I have an excellent team.
Sebastian Geiger and I were in a play together last December, acting together and now we’re directing together. It’s a fun transition to working in a very different capacity. The nice thing about working in Neues Schauspiel with ETL is that it allows people a chance to get involved regardless of their background. With ETL you can get yourself informally trained, if you are already passionate about it.
Q: How do you see yourself, from the position of a director? Considering that you had until now been only in the position of an actress.
It’s just very interesting being on the other side of things. I think it’s a good practise as an actress to get a better sense of what the directors looking for, I like it! I mean, it’s obviously very challenging! You have to think about many different things and find ways to maintain a vision of the whole process. You think about the play in a very different way. And then you try to bring some of that empathy of the “acting” into “directing”.
With Sebastian Geiger, we’re always together in rehearsals and we always talk. It is necessary to settle on one vision between the two of us, which also requires constant communication. It is a really comforting process when you direct for the first time, that there is also another person with you, because you can both help and support each other.
I’m a fan of Caryl Churchill. She’s fabulous.