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600 years of escape: Friedl Hiking Theater

600 years of escape: In April 1416, Archduke Friedrich of Tirol fled from Constance via the Arlberg mountains to the then capital of Merano. We still don't know where exactly. But there is a rumor that he went into hiding as a stable boy in Vent at Rofenhof farm and escaped across the Alpine ridge with the help of a maid.

This is where the hiking theater "Friedl of the Empty Pockets" was staged by director Hubert Lepka, taking visitors on a journey back in time. We wanted to know from the director what makes "Friedl" so special and how protagonist Marion experiences the performance period.

The director's perspective

"Friedl" takes place in the original location dating back to 1416, in the weather of 1416, in the completely natural light of the sun from 1416. Only the language - the original German and original Ötztal dialect have further developed. The latter is still very close to the 1416 dialect. Maybe the climate has temporarily become colder since then, now it is getting warmer again. Here, in this secluded place, man-made projects are almost not existing for hundreds of years.

"Friedl" is the road movie of an escape performed as a theater stage play in wild nature: By using their own muscle power, the audience can experience what it feels like to flee from the henchmen, to go underground, to be guided across the main Alpine ridge, in secret - only with the help of people who are capable of doing it, who trust themselves, who help and love.

This hidden drama takes place in an almost untouched landscape of unimaginable size. The three-thousand meter high peaks around Vent and Niederes Tal become a play and sound space for a new type of dramatic art, comprising avant-garde music of the 15th century without fulfilling any of today's common dogmas. A hike to the end of the world.

"Friedl is the road movie of an escape performed as a theater stage play in wild nature"

Director Hubert Lepka

The perspective of the actress

Coming to Ötztal at the end of August every year, to be part of "Friedl" again is a big highlight in my annual planning, and Friedl is a production that I am particularly looking forward to in advance.

The first view from "my" window at Hotel Gstrein is connected with a deep breath, with calm and a happy arrival. It is also an immense pleasure to see the good old friends and acquaintances in Vent.

To participate in Friedl means above all to do sporty exercise: During the year, I am rarely as intense and in constant motion as in these three weeks. This is sometimes quite exhausting, after several days of rehearsals in a row it can go to the limit but always remains tolerable. And the tiredness in the evening also has something good.

Change from costume to mountain clothing and vice versa

To act in this wonderful natural setting, to embody a character, to tell a story also means switch on - switch off.

You play the single scenes in different locations, which also means changing from costume to mountain clothing in between, covering the distance between the venues as quickly as possible and getting back into the play again. It works perfectly and doesn't cause any difficulties.

In the play you experience the mountains and the superb natural scenery as an enormous support - inspired by wind and weather, rain, snow and sunshine. I take into account the weather conditions, let my play be inspired and influenced by the mood.

The environment makes it so easy to experience dramatic encounters "in real" and to pass them on to the audience. In the best case, both sides can benefit. In a certain way it is a cinematic play, many people who only watch us from a distance ask if it is a film production.

"I take into account the weather conditions, let my play be inspired and influenced by the mood."

Marion Hackl ("the female stranger")

A play that touches everyone

A great pleasure is - for example - also the way home, from our last venue back to Martin-Busch Hütte, still in a beautiful costume, no longer as the figure of the play but like another person, "fallen" out of an earlier time; that's really a great pleasure.

What I find very exciting: We have already seen and played the piece so many times and it still works for us, it still touches us, takes us emotionally even when playing.

And it's fabulous to see that the majority of the audience really experiences something special. Often we have the impression that the spectators are delighted and affected on their way back down to the valley. I think they take something with them, which is not always a given and guaranteed when you go to the theater.

The topics of revenge, love, trust, farewell, leaving behind are big enough but not intrusive. Maybe that's the secret of success.

600 years old and still up-to-date

I find the breaks in the text, the really clever and ingenious insertions - also referring to today - to be very decisive for the refinement and the success of the piece. The text thus becomes multi-layered and goes far beyond a historical summer hiking theater: "Friedl" becomes an important story that is absolutely worth telling.

In any case, it is a huge gift every time and I am very happy to be part of this splendid project - thank you for "Friedl".

This article was first published in September 2016 and was updated on 11.05.2016
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Benedikt Steiner

Author: Benedikt Steiner

When it comes to activity and motion, Benni pricks up his ears! He is a passionate snowboarder, mountain biker, climber & hiker and he knows no better playground for outdoor sports than the Ötztal.

He is not the type to sit still - therefore Benni can be often found on the valley's most exciting bike trails and pristine powder snow slopes.