GREENVILLE, Pa.—Thiel College Assistant Professor of Performing Arts Pete Rydberg, Ph.D., and student researcher Austin Hall ’17 are preparing to debut their original documentary theatre performance “Berlin ist Gefallen!” (“Berlin has fallen!”) on Sept. 9 and 10. Shows will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the William A. Robinson Theater.
The performance will culminate two years of research as a part of the Greenville Neuromodulation Center Faculty/Student Research Institute, which focuses on connecting science and the liberal arts.
“The stage is our laboratory,” Rydberg said.
The show will examine how Germanic traditions simultaneously strengthened and undermined the stability of the Weimar Republic (1919-1933).
“Berlin ist Gefallen!” will be primarily a one-person show with multimedia elements. The show will utilize Berlin’s Romanisches Café—where many artists, writers and actors of the era congregated—as a backdrop.
“Our goal is to premiere a historical performance event, drawn almost exclusively from period documents, which will convey a sense of the culture of the Weimar Republic to an audience largely unfamiliar with that time and place,” Rydberg said. “It is not our intention to perform a rote history of the Republic, rather it is to allow narrators in the form of individuals from the period—many artists themselves—to serve as the audience’s tour guides in a cultural collage. We hope this production will leave audience members educated, entertained and intrigued by the cultural turmoil that preceded the Third Reich.”
The idea for the production originated with Hall, who attended a class on Nazi Germany in his second year as a Thiel student. He presented his ideas to Rydberg, and together they began the research process with funding from the institute. They worked with Thiel College librarians and visited the Library of Congress to collect source documents, music, images and video to be woven into what they call “performative pedagogy.” Rydberg and Hall will be collecting data before, during and following performances to evaluate the effectiveness of the piece on audience comprehension of the complex topic.
Hall, of Beaver Falls, Pa., is a 2013 graduate of Riverside High School.
Rydberg earned his doctorate in theatre and drama with an emphasis in theatre for young audiences and his master’s in theatre and drama from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College, also in theatre and drama. He began teaching at Thiel College in fall 2013.
About the GNC Faculty/Student Research Institute
In 2015, Thiel College alumni Fred Haer ’65 and his wife, Jill (Shackett) ’66, pledged more than $400,000 to fund the institute from 2015-2017. It is open to all Thiel College faculty members. In its second year, six other research projects are part of the institute.
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