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The history of THE AMERICAN DRAMA GROUP EUROPE is a learning-by-doing, work in progress development, or series of developments which at times seemed less focused on presenting plays than hard grit survival. Our first performances of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at the University of Munich lecture hall 101 from June 26, 1978-July 7, 1978 grew out of a desire to simply "do it my way" to quote the famous Frank Sinatra song, meaning of course "that I could do it better than others involved in the same field." Although the passage of time often clearly stated its own opinions on this philosophy, forcing many alterations and compromises, the show was able to go on-sometimes rushing blindly forward, sometimes tip-toeing at a snails pace. Because the feeling never really existed that we were in complete control of events taking place, decisions about the choices of plays, directors and performance places were often based on the "throw in the air and see what comes down principle" rather than the feeling of having rationally thought things through. This flailing out, run and hide method had its advantages in that it created a certain hectic energy which not only guaranteed  new productions, but blotted out for brief moments at least the question of whether "decisions" being made were right or wrong. But as is often the case of the young mother with the new-born child,  it put the organization in a position of responsibility from which it could not simply flee. Signed contracts, whether with authors´agents, theatres or actors had to be honored, new offers of  performances could not simply be ignored. So the organization continued to function and grow, often powered by its own energy.

To think that the enviornment in which an organisation grows has no effect on that growth is counter to  all the teachings of modern pshchology, psychiatry and sociology. The basic maxim that inspired individuals develop better ideas which are of greater community value also can be applied to THE AMERICAN DRAMA GROUP EUROPE. Although an international touring organisation with the English language as our cart horse, we are Munich, Germany based and have derived much of our creative energy from the pulsating enviornment of this city. Not only do we feel very linked to "the Munich Way of Life", but have felt in many ways that we have received a special treatment here. We have always been somehow protected by a certain invincible shield which seemed to guarantee our existence on all occasions. Unlike many parts of Germany, Munich residents seem to live more theatrically, refusing to let anything get in the way of an enjoyable experience or keep them from finding a way to make all worthwhile things happen. This "somehow we´ll make it attitude" has been the backbone of the organisation and continues  to allow us to dream our worldly dream.

The lecture hall of The University of Munich was traded for proper theatres, professional native speakers replaced amateur (often non native speakers), and productions began to originate from New and London. Theatre in French-using French actors-was added to the program to prove that an American could properly present French theatre. At the moment we are the only organization in Germany which regularly tours with French plays. Interest for our activities seemed limitless, the major problem was how to effectively link all the different venues and countries to make theatrical and...economic sense. In moments of despair we would simply remind ourselves of the fact: "When their´s a will, their´s a way."....My way. The bell in South and Central America was answered, so was the one in The Near East and Asia. The new developing countries in Eastern Europe could not be ignored, even though the amount they paid for tickets was the same as we got for our original production in 1978. But we continued forward and suddenly the number of cities, countries and even continents in which we perform was worth counting and mentioning. On completion of the program of HAROLD AND MAUDE I noticed to my amazement this was my 200th production a figure which in twelve short days will be transcended by number 201. 202 and 203 are waiting in the wings.

13 productions-1000 performances--three continents, ca 45 countries, more than 400 cities, 8 major organisations, ca 80 artistic participants, constitute the important numbers in ADGE´s defination of 2008. TNT Theatre Britain, TOUR DE FORCE THEATRE, THEATRE EN ANGLAIS PARIS, ASHLEY ASSOCIATES; Tokyo, MYRIAM WOKER, Singapore , MILKY WAY, Beijing, SVATA SCHLAFER, Prague and ANGELIKA MARTIN, Germany have all gotten hooked on our irresistible philosophy. So have a few hundred thousand other persons who will attend our performances this season.

Grantly Marshall
March 2008

 

TNT theatre Britain – an introduction and manifesto

 

In 1980 three unemployed actors borrowed a small car and set off on a tour of Britain. They called the company TNT – The New Theatre - and by 2008 that’s same company is  known as “the most popular theatre company in the world.” (China National TV) performing in over thirty countries on three continents in 2008 alone. 

  The same principles that made The London Guardian call the “the most interesting development on the current theatrical scene” back in TNT’s first year are present almost thirty years later as indeed are two of the original members: director (then actor) Paul Stebbings and dramaturg Phil Smith. TNT present a dynamic actor based style of theatre that rejects Television based realism in favour of fantasy, imagination, physicality and a muscular approach to serious text.  We also like a good laugh.  Since 1984 TNT have been exploring music theatre and every production includes a new score. TNT’s first composer was John Kenny and he is still with us. Paul Flush and Thomas Johnson compose for the company too.

 We are a physical theatre company, and all the original actors trained in the Grotowski method in Britain and Poland. We aim to combine all the performing arts,  TNT’s choreographer since 1992 is Eric Tessier Lavigne.  TNT started with a manifesto production, HARLEQUIN,  based on  the life and work of the great Soviet theatre director Meyerhold who was murdered by Stalin.  He is simply the best. His motto is our motto:

“Tragedy with a smile on its lips.”

 

TNT invented a word “audiencentric” – theatre is for you, our public. The relationship essential in our theatre  is not between actor and text, or actor and actor, or actor and director or even designer and director but actor and audience. Simple. And the greatest weapon in TNT’s armoury is your imagination, not ours.

 

Theatre is a language, we happen to be English so we use a lot  of English but it doesn’t matter – (we work in other languages too). We perform anywhere to anyone – an opera house or  a prison, a castle courtyard or a university, a National theatre or a community centre– a village bookshop or Off Broadway, Iran or the USA. We perform everything from  HAMLET and MOBY DICK to modern works by Paul Auster and Ray Bradbury or our own new plays. But the style is always uniquely TNT.  Our technical requirement is an audience.

 

Since 1993 TNT have been in collaboration with ADG Europe and Munich based producer Grantly Marshall.  Paul Stebbings is artistic Director of both companies. We share a vision of theatre as a global force for positive change: live art for all.

Paul Stebbings

2008