Max Reinhardt Seminar graduate Anna Marboe on her music and her theatre

Anna Marboe, born in Vienna in 1996, is a stage director and musician. She studied directing at the Max Reinhardt Seminar, from which she graduated in 2019. Since then, she’s directed productions at the Schauspielhaus in Vienna, at Lower Austria’s Landestheater Niederösterreich, and as part of the mobile citywide outreach programme of Vienna’s Volkstheater. Above and beyond all that, the autumn of 2019 saw Marboe release her first album. mdw Magazine got in touch with this versatile artist recently to talk about her artistic development and creative work.

For Anna Marboe, it was actually a bit by chance that she wound up studying to become a stage director. “I’d wanted to study acting for a long time, and it was only when I was getting ready to register for the entrance exam at the Max Reinhardt Seminar that I noticed there was also a “Drama Directing” major,” she recalls.

She ended up greatly enjoying her time at the Max Reinhardt Seminar, above all the initial phase with its heavy emphasis on trying things out. As far as the Reinhardt Seminar’s practice of training directors and actors together goes, she thinks that “this ‘groping our way through the dark, side-by-side’ by directing and acting students with big thoughts and visions in their little heads gives rise to the most wonderful and instructive moments, because you learn both from and with one another.”

Anna Marboe © Daniela Matejschek

She’s since proven her skill as a director in productions for the Schauspielhaus in Vienna including Wilke Weermann’s Angstbeisser and Teresa Präauer’s Oh Schimmi, as well as for Lower Austria’s Landestheater Niederösterreich with Hermann Hesse’s Demian, for the Volkstheater with David Lindsay-Abaire’s Die Reißleine, and for Upper Austria’s Landestheater Linz with Felicia Zeller’s Gespräche mit Astronauten. On the significance of theatre, Marboe says: “I’m fascinated by the opportunity to contemplate and invent a new world for every play, as well as by the freedom to repeatedly conjure up new rules and realities that may seem to have little to do with everyday life at first glance but are no less real for it. Viewing reality as one of many possibilities gives rise to that great freedom that makes theatre so special to me.” The projects she finds attractive are those where she’s able to deal with people within and outside the ensemble. “You’re often given a play or a text, and then you tweak and tinker with the thoughts of others. And one of the attractions of theatre really is the fact that it’s a social art where various areas complement, collide with, and also contradict each other.” She’d also, however, love to deal with a project that begins not with a completed text but rather with a question or an idea that director and ensemble then deal with in depth. “This entails that the final result is not the only objective; equal importance gets accorded to dealing with the topic itself and the overall process via which it takes place,” says the director.

This young artist’s creativity is not devoted solely to theatre: she’s also building a musical career. It was at a festival in Litschau that Anna Marboe got to know Ernst Molden and played a few songs for him. Molden was instantly taken with her music, and so it came that the record label Bader Molden Recordings released her debut album, entitled die oma hat die susi so geliebt [grandma loved susi so much], under her musical stage name of Anna Mabo in September 2019. She plays guitar and sings in German. “I’ve always enjoyed writing poems. And back when I began learning my first chords with a guitar book, I also made my first attempts at writing lyrics to the chord patterns of songs like ‘House of the Rising Sun’ or ‘What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor’,” says Marboe of her musical beginnings. What she especially likes about musicmaking are its immediate and spontaneous qualities. “The path that leads out of my head, from my thoughts to people’s ears, is so incredibly short and direct. And oftentimes, people interact more closely when singing or listening to music together than they do when drinking coffee and talking,” she thinks. Marboe also values how music provides her with a change of pace from her work at the theatre: “Musicmaking the way I do it at the moment is a very quiet and solitary activity; in contrast to theatre productions, it entails zero consultation or coordination with others. And sometimes, that just feels really good.” At the moment, she’s concentrating more strongly on her music.

The arts and culture have always played a major role for her. “Thanks to my parents’ own interests, the arts were an ever-present and high-priority aspect of my life—so my theatrical and musical activities never met with resistance or scepticism at home. I always received a great deal of support,” she says. Though her way into an artistic career was accordingly eased, she hastens to stress the responsibility borne by society and policymakers toward those who work in the arts: “One can only hope that our society and the state recognise and do justice to the value of the arts so that it’s not exclusively the children of interested and well-situated parents who are able to become artists. And the plight of visual artists is most precarious of all—in more places than just Austria. So in terms of public policy, there’s a definite need for some reorientation—because it’s not only about how the state has to allow artists to survive; it’s also the case that art itself is one of those things that brings the state to life in the first place.”

Anna Marboe shares her artistic expressivity and world of ideas with us in her songs and in her stage productions. And when asked what she’d someday like to direct and where she’d like to direct it, she thinks for a moment: “A musical at the Burgtheater, perhaps? Mamma Mia 2 or Frozen…” At any rate, it certainly does sound like we can be quite curious about what’s to come!

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