Open-air summer theater is popular in Germany. Productions range from local history to sort of “Ren-fest” to US-style musicals (Grease appears every summer, Candide is well liked.) The town of Schwäbish Hall is no exception to this. The long, curved stairs leading from the Marktplatz (market plaza) up to St. Michael’s Church form a good backdrop and stage, and shows are held four or five nights a week, weather permitting. My hotel room faced part of the steps, but unless I wanted to pay for a ticket, I was supposed to close the drapes and not watch. And yes, someone with binoculars kept track of rooms occupied vs. rooms occupied and with ticket. I kept the drapes closed.
The weather that summer was cool and somewhat damp, with light rain every few days. This deterred neither the actors, who probably appreciated the cooler temperatures, nor the audience. Apparently it did reduce beer consumption, which the Biergartens [beer gardens] didn’t like, but “It’s not as bad as 2013.” (It stayed in the 50s-60s F well into late June. Some Biergartens never opened.) The show went on, although some dance numbers had both dry-weather and wet-weather versions, to allow for the slicker footing on wet stone and wet wooden platforms.
I’d been out and about in the morning, visiting museums and poking around all over the place, especially those corners where tourists didn’t go, starting at around 0530. The joys of June in northern latitudes, when sunrise comes very, very early. That afternoon, as I explored St. Michael’s church, it started to rain. Then storm. Frog-strangling, small-stream-flooding, garbage-can-floating rain. I finished in the church and raced across to my hotel, wrung out in the foyer under the watchful eye of the older woman at the desk, and retreated to my room to write and dry off. Did I mention it was pouring rain? No wind to speak of, but very heavy showers.
The cast of the musical was blocking the next show, despite the rain. The director had a large umbrella, under a small tent. I watched as I wrote. The young singers/dancers walked through several scenes, growing wetter and wetter, clothes plastered to them, hair wet. Still, rehearsal went on.
Crack BOOOOMMM! I jumped and the cast of the musical ducked. The thunder echoed a little off the stones of the square and church. After a moment, the actors got back to their feet and resumed.
The sound person waved his hands frantically. The director waved her hands back. The cast scattered for cover. After a brief pow-wow, the sound person sealed up the sound booth, lowered the tent flaps, and fled like the sensible person he was. Something about electricity, lightning, and being higher than many of the surrounding buildings.
Storms continued to roll through that night. No show. The risk of electrocution and lightning-strike overrode the lost ticket sales.