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Kaspar Hauser Festival and Play by Chloe Rovits

This October, actors from Camphills Triform, Copake, Ghent, Hudson, and beyond were busy rehearsing a play that tells the story of Kaspar Hauser's enigmatic life and mysterious death. The production, Carlo Pietzner's "And Out of the Night, Kaspar," was one of the many events of the Kaspar Hauser Festival - a four day coming-together spread between the four local Camphill communities. After the logistical difficulties of finding time for a dozen coworkers of different communities to rehearse together, we began the next trying task of unraveling the words of Pietzner.

The play takes us on a nonlinear journey across time and space to catch glimpses of Kaspar's interactions with the forces of good and evil. As a young child of royal birth, Kaspar was switched with a sickly infant and henceforth locked away in a small dark basement cell for 15 formative years of his life. Following his sudden release he was haphazardly and bewilderingly integrated into the rest of society, having been previously unaware that there was such a thing as 'other people,' as colors, as movement, as the myriad of realities of life that we take for granted. In this process we see some of Kaspar's chief traits. These include his immense gentleness, kindness, and sensitivity - and a stunning lack of any need for revenge. We meet important individuals from his life who cared for him, and who were deeply affected by his presence in return. However, we also see an impression of the forces of evil that entrapped him in the first place, that scoffed at his words and insights, and that eventually planned his demise. These disturbing characters are terrifying in their own right, and serve as archetypes of the social and spiritual forces that we must commit to defying.

Scattered throughout the play's scenes depicting significant moments in Kaspar's story, there are vignettes of five young contemporary coworkers discussing the events on stage. These individuals are based off of Pietzner's dearest seminar students in Beaver Run. As one of these five actors I had the pleasure of both helping to tell the story of Kaspar while also living in the experience of the audience. And though my main position was on stage, I remained as enrapt in the enigma of Kaspar Hauser as those observing the play. The questions opened by the piece and by festival in general will remain unanswered - mysteries to inspire contemplation and dialogue for years to come.


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