Berlin Theater Raises Curtain on the First Live Facebook Play

Berlin Theater Raises Curtain on the First Live Facebook Play
A still from Jorinde Dröse's production of "Effi Briest"
(Copyright: Bettina Stöß, Courtesy Maxim Gorki Theater Berlin)

Facebook saw some drama last week. Okay, maybe that’s not news — but this was no relationship status update or compromising photo album. In what’s been called the social-networking giant’s first live performance, Berlin’s Maxim Gorki Theater used the site to premiere their adaptation of Theodor Fontane’s 1894 novel “Effi Briest,” long considered one of the most important German realist novels of all time.

Directed by Jorinde Dröse, the play chronicles a 17-year-old girl’s journey through marriage and a subsequent affair with a major in the military during the Franco-Prussian war. In time-honored tragic form the whole thing devolves into mother-in-law lust, child-rejection, and a dueling shootout, with a fatal spell of hysteria to boot.

Created by Jung von Matt/Spree, the brains behind the first interactive horror film, “Last Call,” the Facebook event, dubbed “Effi Briest 2.0” drew 1,200 new members to the theater’s page before the play’s start. This was no traditional staging, however. Maxim Gorki’s Facebook adaptation saw each of the actors create a profile for their character in the play. With these, they posted back and forth on Effi Briest’s page, used Facebook chat, likes, and soundcloud integration to perform a digital “staging.” For example, Effi Briest posted a status update, “The ghosts in my house are talking to me... they are telling me what to wear to class today,” and changed her relationship status several times throughout the production.

“It was a great opportunity for us to reach out to our Facebook friends in a different way, and we got many positive comments and lots of feedback,” Rebecca Rasem, head of dramaturgy for the theater, told the Los Angeles Times, indicating that future Facebook productions were also a possibility. “Facebook can’t replace the stage, but it offers some really interesting opportunities to perform theatre online,” she added.

All in all it sounds like a lot of work for the viewer, requiring frequent refreshes and browsing from one character to the next to catch the actual plot being laid out. But on the plus side, there's no need to wait until the reviews are in to see whether people "like" it.