On 22nd October, performances took place that were the first ever acted scenes of the new mystery drama, The Working of the Spirit.  This happened at the Annual Conference of the New Zealand Anthroposophical Society in Hastings.

The evening opened with the fairy tale from scene two. We had a mixture of music specially written by former Emerson College music director Julian Pook and improvised singing by Aethea Pereira who is studying Werbeck’s “School of Uncovering the Voice”, and the evening was framed by lyre music from a group of lyre players led by Robert Simpson.

Our international cast for Scene 10:

Benedictus (John, New Zealand), Felicia (Himnee, Malaysia), Maria (Daneeca, Slovenia), Ms Bell (Alev, Poland and Germany), Hilary (Andreas, Cyprus), Johannes (Marcel, Germany), Ms Torquatus (Gesa, Germany), Trautmann (Michael, NZ – standing in for Paul, Germany)

Scene ten of the new mystery drama is a scene that shows the worst ever meeting you have been to. It made a good stand-alone scene to do this with young people; the people of my generation saw themselves portrayed by the ones that we hope will not have to make the same mistakes that we have all made in our meetings. We got our cast from teachers and volunteers at Hohepa Home School. They only had their free time to rehearse in, and right up until six days before the show I didn’t know if it even would happen, but it came together wonderfully. We practiced every day from Monday to Friday (one practice for everyone and various other one-to-one practices for individuals) and then did the scene as our final item on the Saturday night. Many of the actors had the words written in front of them and used this as the financial report handed out by Ms Bell, but that was just for a bit of security; no one read their words. A speech colleague, John Jackson, played Benedictus, but the rest of the parts were done by the young Hohepa teachers and volunteers.

Benedictus was the only character to have a kiwi accent; the other countries represented were Germany, Poland, Cyprus, Malaysia and Slovenia, so there were lots of different accents in the boardroom. (I had to fill in for the young German playing Trautman who went down with a severe temperature the day of the performance. He had brought a real bite to the words; perhaps it was too much for him!) We also wrote in a special part for our manager, Nicholas Findig, as he got the room ready and spoke a few lines with Hilary. This was played by Hohepa resident Luke Blair who, many years ago, had done the main part in Parsifial, which I’d directed as his class 12 play. When the ad was placed, looking for actors, he had been the first to apply for a part.

Curtain call with musicians

The audience, who had been quiet for the fairy tale and scene three, laughed a great deal for the boardroom scene. It went very well and Benedictus’ vulnerability came across strongly. This is actually the last time we see Benedictus alive in this play; in the next scene we learn that he has died. Gradually the company must realize that it is their inadequacies that have brought about his death and it is Hilary who faces this first.

As the writer it was quite special to see the play acted at last. Learning parts by heart and bringing them to life with blocking and with gestures, not only through the speech, takes the play onto a whole new level. I could see how there were superfluous words in scene three, but I had the sense that scene ten, perhaps because I was directing it and could do it the way I heard it, was exactly right – not a word too many or too few. I also understood things I’d never known before – Hilary in scene three is being brought towards his personal abyss (the breakdown that will happen to him in scene eleven) through the way Benedictus is teaching him and at one key moment I realized he was seeing a replay of the time when, as Templar Grand Master in the year 1314, he is waiting for inevitable death during his castle’s attack from the Christian army. Another realization was how the dynamics of scene ten takes place – how everyone else follows the repeating strife on escalating levels between Hilary and Trautman.

Scene ten can be seen as the externalization of the soul of one character, Hilary. As acted by Andreas, he was the Master of Ceremonies at the beginning of the scene, ebullient and in control of all like a father-figure to the others who work in his factory. But when things went disastrously wrong Hilary saw himself in the picture of the different soul forces that had gone quite out of control. For this performance we were able to make it very clear by the acting that Trautman, Torquatus and Bell are willing, feeling and thinking, in that order. In reading a play such things probably won’t come across, but in acting it the inner dynamics of the scene are made visible. Whether or not the audience was conscious of this or not, the one-sidedness of human beings was revealed. Hilary, seeing the chaos of soul forces reacting to each other and not under the control of his ego, is forced to change. We see him shocked and in the next scene he is a broken man but in the scene after that he has done the great deed of inner transformation and is resurrecting to a new state of inner harmony. Mystery dramas are merciless – they expose our faults but they also show us the way to become reintegrated individuals again.

In a discussion the following day I asked who would like to buy a copy, and at least 80 hands went up. There is great enthusiasm for the project, and people in NZ are certainly looking forward very much to seeing the whole play. It made a strong impression on people; show them a little and it leaves them hungry for more!

The two of us who had acted scene three were asked to do this again at a company in Auckland, Ceres, that sells biodynamic food and has become a multi-million dollar business. The CEO was overseas but an assistant said that the subject matter was very relevant to the company. So the scene acted will become the basis of a discussion within the company of what their task is today and the reality of the Threefold Social Order.

I think what we have done could be replicated in many other places. To my mind, this is a wonderful way to make the play live and begin to generate audiences, giving people a feeling that they are stake-holders in the project and making them look forward to it. In consecutive weeks the play was read in Stroud and East Grinstead and two scenes and the fairy tale were done in Hastings, New Zealand. This should give a boost to our efforts to carry the play into production.

Michael Burton, Auckland