Church history on a wonderful “travel stage”

A thrilling play through the times in and around Wilhering Abbey; Actors include Henry Mason, Nora Deressamer, Harald Buddingbauer, Sven Cashe, and Thomas Kasten. © theaterSPECTACEL Wilhering

A mobile theater usually moves from one place to another and presents itself to the audience. In Theaterspectacel Wilhering it is just the opposite: here the audience moves from one stage to another. Dramatically and organizationally, a challenge that is mastered in an impressive way. It premiered Thursday in and around Wilhering Abbey.

“The Monks” – The Monks – is the relatively humble title of an elaborate theater evening lasting about three hours. It has been about Wilhering Abbey since its founding to the present day, 875 years ago. The checkered history of the monastery and its monks also represents the fate of many other monasteries, and indeed the fate of the Catholic Church as a whole.

“The Monks” was written by Spectacel chief Joachim Rathke – also directed by him – and writer Rudolf Haberinger of Walding. Kurt Bennett took care of the equipment, and Karlheinz Schmid contributed the music.

Two groups of visitors

Visitors are divided into two groups, with different starting times. Rise begins. In the courtyard of the monastery barn, the incorporation document is delivered by a messenger “rider” – a bicycle disguised as a horse. Outside in a meadow, the monks begin to build the monastery. Unfortunately, God chose the barren land, and hunger and despondency reign.

Donations, the commercial acumen of the monks and the taxes of the inhabitants allowed the construction of the first monastery. But the people are starving and the monks are torn between mercy and securing a livelihood for their monastic community. The theater makers reported that scenes like this and many others were based on real circumstances and events in time. A little theatrical fantasy.

The misery and despair of the peasants are transmitted directly to the public, when they are often accompanied on a walk by weeping, screaming and begging. Not to be forgotten: The Role of Women in the Church – which focuses on a nun – the production also dedicates the necessary space to this topic. The historical emphasis in “Monks” is, of course, on the themes of “Reformation” and “Counter-Reformation”.

The collegiate church is burning

In the 16th century, Upper Austria was 90 percent Lutheran, and monks and nuns left the Catholic Church. “Which side is God on?” It is the central question in the great collegiate church of all places. The question was finally resolved by violence: any non-Catholic person should leave the country! He moves to the baroque hall, it is not by chance, because the baroque at this time is a clear sign of the lifestyle of the abbot and the church as a whole.

A highlight of the 18th century is the fire of the collegiate church, which is represented in the theater scene by a fiery red light shining from the church windows. In addition to crackling wood burning. An almost strange experience for visitors to the Stiftshof. And no less terrifying: the arsonists end up in the crematorium. The last stage: in the barn of the monastery. The time: 1945. The monks do not know how to deal with the unimaginable and live on what happened under National Socialism. Nor is it specific to church people.

65 contributors

The performance of the actors and actresses – there are 25 of them – is impressive, with most of them having to embody up to three completely different roles. Apart from the representatives, about 40 people participate in the organization, for a total of about 65 participants. This was also duly acknowledged at the premiere, and the continual applause, but certainly also the consideration of the audience after the walk through the abbey and 875 years of church and social history.

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