Zermatt Open-Air Theater: It is simply overwhelming

"Romeo and Juliet at Gornergrat": the ultimate love story. Two Zermatt locals, Theo Romo Lauber and Tina Müller, play the main children’s parts in the Open-Air Theater. How do they master the challenge as amateur actors? And why is this entire situation "simply overwhelming" for them?

The Open-Air Theater production is under the motto "another story." This play does not follow the well-known version of Romeo and Juliet. Yes, it has to do with childhood friendship and later love; it has to do with jealousy and hatred. Yes, it is about the deepest feelings among human beings. But this love story before the face of the Matterhorn takes a different course – more than that would be saying too much.

In this story, "Romeo" is named Jakob, and "Juliet" is called Maria in Zermatt. Each role has two players with a younger and an older actor. All four of these players grew up in Zermatt. Rehearsals have been taking place for weeks, with Tina Müller, 14, and Theo Romo Lauber, 13, practicing the main children’s roles.

Not their First Time on Stage

Both teenagers have already played their first parts in school. "Back then, I never thought that this could later become something bigger," said Tina Müller with a modest smile. Theo Lauber also looks back with amazement: "Who would have thought back then that I would be standing here and playing the role of a young Romeo." Now they rehearse their parts at home and during rehearsals. "My family and above all my sister, Romaine, help me a lot. In the play, she plays the older Maria," says Tina. Her brother also often helps her with her lines. "His voice is very much like Theo’s, and that often helps me get into the part a lot," she explains. Sometimes the director works with these teenagers individually so that they can get into their parts perfectly: "The work with the director is great," says Theo thankfully about Anne Richard.

Both teenagers acted on an open-air stage when "The Matterhorn Story" was performed on Riffelberg in 2015. Tina and Romeo were farm children with small but important speaking parts. Both are very talented and therefore were given the young title roles.

Understanding How Life Was Back Then

The play takes place in the mountain village of Zermatt 150 years ago, when backbreaking work, poor harvest, all for little money defined the life of the mountain farmers. Tina and Theo carefully imagine the situation in order to play their parts as well as possible: "When I am playing Maria, I feel just like she did. I am really back then and experience everything the way that I act it out," said Tina. She also likes to wear the clothes from that time and is proud to be integrated in the ensemble of actors. Theo is also completely focussed: "I experience what I act out. Sometimes, I am so deep into my part that I forget everything else around me," he said thoughtfully while also analysing. "And even though I have memorised the part, it still just comes automatically."

The director tells them about their lines, gestures and moments of tension, but both teenagers know that acting is also always about the here and now. They emphasise that they may be in their parts but also listen and watch carefully about what is said and done so that they can react authentically to changing situations.

Sunset on the Matterhorn

What impressed each of them the most? Theo does not have to think long: "It is the performances in the evening, when these unique sunsets can be seen on the Matterhorn. All I can say is "wow", he says wide eyed. Tina doubles down: "I just think that the entire thing is simply overwhelming."

Information

Romeo as a child in the story is called "Jakob" played by Theo Romo Lauber
Juliet in the story is called “Maria” played by Tina Müller
Juliet as a young woman is Maria played by Tina’s sister Romaine Müller
Romeo as a young man is Jakob played by David Taugwalder
Author and director Livia Anne Richard, known for "The Matterhorn Story", which was performed for the first time at Gornergrat in 2015 and is one of the most successful open-air theatre performances ever in Switzerland
Music Hank Shizzoe. He was on tour with the Swiss musician Stephan Eicher
Dates 6 July to 27 August 2017
Performances Wednesday to Saturday at 7:30 pm, Sunday at 3 pm
Location Open-Air Theater at Gornergrat, Riffelberg train stop, at 2,600 m
Languages Valais dialect, with scene descriptions in German, French and English
Number of seats 700
Food and drink on site
Weather performed in any weather conditions as long as it is safe
Wool blankets and capes are available and distributed when needed
Clothing warm clothing is recommended
Reached by Gornergrat Bahn to the Riffelberg Station, 23-minute trip