Geneva Amateur Operatic Society
While theatre groups have provided a community space for expats for decades, now, as Hello Switzerland discovers, a new generation of Anglophone performers is giving the tradition a fresh new perspective.
ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Since 2006 Londoner Guy Stevens has brought the household names of English and American stand-up comedy straight from their TV shows to eager Swiss audiences. Luminaries such as Russell Brand, Eddie Izzard and Rich Hall (writer of the Letterman show) have all appeared in the International Comedy Clubs in Basel, Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich. Two different show nights per month in each city.
Simply Theatre's productions in Geneva and Zurich sell more than 15,000 tickets each year. Their student-acted academy shows, cabarets and children's shows are professionally produced and often straight from London's West End. Students gain life skills like confidence with public speaking, and get to take part in a spectacular live show.
Semi-Circle is established in Basel with a plethora of theatre-related activities. Founded in 1985, the amateur drama group stage diverse performances such as Tim Firth's "Calendar Girls", Agatha Christie's "A Murder is Announced", and Jonathan Larson's "Rent". The scale of these productions varies from year to year, giving Semi-Circle the chance to perform in an eclectic range of Basel theatres. Biannual theatre productions; one full-length play and one bill of one-act plays.
Basel theatre lovers should bookmark Upstart Entertainment. Their productions are somewhat less regular than other theatre groups but they have an excellent reputation. Keep an eye out for their biannual Shakespeare production in 2016, which happens to cheerily coincide with the 500th anniversary of the playwright's death.
Nostalgic for a British Christmas? Or just in the mood to be bawdy? Then there's the Basel English Pantomime Group. Non-Brits may need to adjust to the gender-bending characters and unusual plot twists. 2014 saw the group's 20th pantomime in Basel, so you could say they know what they're doing. Tickets often sell out early for this lively holiday production.
ALSO VISIT IN BASEL
Upstage is another solid member of Switzerland's well-established amateur English theatre culture, staging their first production in 1982 and going strong ever since (even with some of the founding members!). Their member-directed spring and autumn productions come from a range of genres and are an excellent example of Bern's strong grassroots cultural presence. Anyone can join.
The Caretakers may well be the new wave of Bern English theatre. Their academic and primarily (but not exclusively) young audience and actors differentiates them from the traditional expat crowd of Upstage and shows are a great meeting point for newcomers to the city. The group supports local playwrights and their plays are often written by group members, giving their productions originality and flair.
The Village Players are more than a theatre group, they're a social club. Members gather regularly for fun "theatre activities" like poetry and play readings, song and dance, improvisation, and even karaoke. The Village Players encourage all to join in on the fun, both onstage and off. They say that even the most timid of volunteers often surprise themselves by jumping onstage in the end! Two theatrical productions a year in venues around Lausanne.
With its whopping 450 members, the Geneva Amateur Operatic Society is the largest English-speaking theatrical society in Switzerland (and perhaps even Europe) performing annually since 1971. They're a strong community who have a lot of fun. Whether you'd like to act, dance, sing or assist behind the curtain, they always welcome new members! Profits earned from GAOS productions are donated to charity.
Apparently Anglophone expats have been clamouring for English theatre for generations. The Geneva English Drama Society was officially founded in 1933, but was active well before. Today its play readings, workshops and social events are all massively popular attracting up to as many as 50-100 attendees at each reading. GED actors are all levels, from experienced to aspiring, and their play selection is as diverse as the cast. Three to four annual productions.
Act Now is the brainchild of American expat Gillian Eame who uses her extensive training in the performing arts as a creative tool for teaching English, as well as a way to unlock individual expression and especially for newcomers to Ticino, to discover new cultures. Her workshops are geared towards high school age students, but others are welcome. Workshops are offered on acting, musical theatre, and movement and mask.
Compagnia Finzi Pasca presents unique, spectacular productions around the globe and have also been a part of three Olympic ceremonies. Their one-of-a-kind fantasy worlds combine theatre, acrobatics, dancing and music and in Switzerland you can enjoy them in English, French, German or Italian. Yet, depending on the production, their shows focus more on impressive visuals than script.
The Lucerne World Theatre Company was founded in 2011 and in 3 years had won the award for best stage production at the Festival of English Amateur Theatre in Luxembourg! They provide a platform for amateur and professional actors to come together at workshops, performances and play readings. Their next production will be an original musical "Pizza Paradiso" performed at the Gästival in summer 2015. Join their weekly meetings for some theatre fun.
The last Tuesday of every month is full of laughs in Zug's Theater Casino. That's when they host English Stand-up Comedy, which delivers British comedy club style shows. Two comedians per show are flown in for one night only. The restaurant serves burgers, fish & chips, pizzas, tarte flambés and of course cold pints. Your Tuesday nights are forever sorted!
The one hundred or so members of the English Theatre Group of Zug bring acting, singing, and dancing to the stage. They also rely on the abilities of the behind the scenes crew for costumes, makeup, lighting and props. In short, there is a job for all talents and interests! Subscribing to their newsletter will keep you in the know. They perform one major production for the public a year.
The Zurich Comedy Club presents more than just comedies. They've produced at least two major stage productions a year for over 60 years, covering many genres. They also support charities with a portion of their profits. Their passionate, supportive community welcomes all ages, interests and backgrounds, and offers a space to escape from everyday life. Drop by for a play reading and join in on the fun.
The Hello Switzerland events calendar lists upcoming shows around the country.
Photos: © GAOS / Alydia Seidell; © Semi-Circle / Semi-Circle; © The Caretakers / The Caretakers; © The Village Players /Julian James Auzan; © Act Now / Kim Nelson / TASIS; © LWTC / Chris Gsack; © Zurich Comedy Club / Tiina Palojärvi.