“#noschoolbell” will remind grownups how the school smells and let the children see it from a different angle

On October 30 at the Salomėja Nėris Gymnasium in Vilnius, the latest show of the Lithuanian National Drama Theater “#noschoolbell” was presented to the media. The play is scheduled to premiere at the same school on November 4-5. Paulius Tamolė, the director of the performance based on the play by a young playwright Augustas Sireikis, and his team aim to highlight the challenges faced by the education system, to convey individual experiences, and to bring back the smell of the school and the thrill of exams to adults.

Dramatist Augustas Sireikis: “This process was very democratic from the very beginning; everyone was able to contribute in every way. Everybody had the opportunity to be the director, the playwright, and the actor. I found this method fitting the idea of the play the most. In documentary theater, the role of the text is odd; it remains somewhere in the middle between the traditional method and documentation. The school interests me not as a certain period in our lives, but as a place where we experience all sorts of things. Anger, bitterness, love or sadness – at school we get to feel all these emotions.”

Director Paulius Tamolė: “Recently, there has been a lot of talking about the school, its problems and challenges. I think that the public opinion circulating the media is not entirely accurate, because people tend to judge the entire educational system according to the school they graduated from or the one their kids attend. We wanted to approach the subject using the language of the theater. I was more of a pioneer of the idea who passed it on to his colleagues, rather than the director. There are many ideas and opinions on what needs to be changed in the educational system, and I think that we need to do make changes here and now, for example turn off the school bells in all schools without exception. The target audience of the play – school communities, people aged 14 and older, their parents, their teachers and everyone who is interested in theater. It is a way to talk about school today. I care about it – I have two kids – that’s why I am part of this performance.”

Designer Lauryna Liepaitė: “The topic suggested that this performance shouldn’t be played inside the theater building. Because if we recreate the school, as we imagine it, in the theater, it will be only a decoration. When you enter the school, you feel different smells, remember things, it is impossible to create this on the stage. We need to bring people who graduated from school 10 or more years ago to real, authentic schools. We do not change the schools – we come here with very minimal equipment and huge efforts. In the third act, the audience will see what the theater can bring to school. The theater can completely transform the sports hall – a space well-known to everyone. We very much hope that students who come to see the performance at their school will see the school in a completely different light.”

Composer Agnė Matulevičiūtė: “When I was thinking about the sounds of the school, I remembered the noise during recess, the corridors, and various conversations, but the most interesting task for me as a composer was to turn the school bell into a character that appears in the play and the songs of the performance, and eventually deform it. To some extent, to have a school bell without a school bell.”

Actor Povilas Budrys: “I like brave people, people like Paulius and his team, who, before the rehearsals even began, went from school to school, communicated with students and teachers, and sat in classrooms. This is civil behavior of courageous people, people who care. I am also very fond of the young actors who seem to be much better than us: how they interact, listen to each other. We did not have this – we were more aggressive, more prone to criticizing each other. I’m constantly learning from them. When discussing why Hamlet, his soliloquy, appear in the play, Paulius gave a very good answer, he said, “Well, Hamlet was thinking whether he should be or not, and we’ll just come and spend some time together.” A brilliant answer. Schools need this attitude. It can also define our being together, which sometimes can be very difficult and at other times wonderful. It got me thinking what lies beyond this.”

Actress Kamilė Petruškevičiūtė: “When I was a student, I had many questions. Why the system was precisely the way it was, why things were happening the way they were and why nobody helped me solve my problems. So when Paulius invited me to be part of this performance, it was so easy to understand what we were talking about and what we had to do. I got the opportunity to say what I wanted to say when I was a student. I’m not a brave person, but when I came here I realized that I had to muster all my courage and tell my story, because it might be important to someone because now someone might be feeling what I was feeling when I really needed help.”

Jurgita Smiltė Jasilionė, psychologist of the Child Line, “For many years we have been noticing that the difficulties of children remain the same. Now, like before, their problems are related to relationships. Since 12-15-year-olds spend most of their time in school and at home, their problems have to do with adults – why they do not accept them as they are, do not listen to them, can’t find a common language, patronize them. Another large portion of conversations revolves around dealing with peers. From fighting with your best friend, to such dramatic experiences as bullying, suicidal thoughts, willingness to harm oneself or others. Competition and exam stress are also important issues. Adults lack the knowledge of how to talk with teenagers. I hope that this performance will encourage adults to start listening and talking to the children.”

Giedrius Vaidelis, Director of the Education Development Center: “This performance is complex, it has many layers. Speaking of school bells, I’d compare this to freedom: we can be liberated, but do we become free automatically? We can formally get rid of the bell, but will it disappear from our consciousness? When it comes to educational challenges, when all educational systems are in search of ways to improve the educational process, we often talk about a school without borders. The Lithuanian National Drama Theater also chose the “without borders” format  with these performances getting out of the territory of the theater. People usually expect the school to do everything, but in fact, we have to educate the children together. And when we speak of the “educational community” we don’t just mean the students, their parents and teachers – we’re talking about the whole society. So I hope the courage of Paulius and his creative team to take on this topic will inspire the school, teachers and everyone else to discuss the challenges of education.”

Other actors: Diana Anevičiūtė, Jolanta Dapkūnaitė, Laurynas Jurgelis, Jurga Kalvaitytė, Justina Nemanytė, Augustė Pociūtė, Gediminas Rimeika, Oskaras Vygonovskis, Arūnas Vozbutas. The premiere of the play at Vilnius Salomėja Nėries Gymnasium will take place on November 4, 5. On November 14, at 6 PM the performance will be shown at Visaginas “Verdenė” Gymnasium, on November 22, at 6 PM – at Alytus St. Benedict Gymnasium, and on December 6, at 6 PM – at the Lithuanian Millennium Gymnasium in Šalčininkai.