An Interview with Susan Koppersmith
Michael Burton, could you say a little bit about your play?
I wrote this play in January 2017 in New Zealand, where I live. It is a 90-minute piece of theatre that has been performed 35 times in various countries.
It is based on real events that took place during the First World War when a certain young man, in despair about the death and destruction happening around him, approached Rudolf Steiner who “seemed to have the answer to everything”. In reply to the young man’s inner turmoil, Steiner explained to him an idea of a society which could have ended WWI earlier, saving millions of lives, and done away with the reasons for WWII.
This idea of Steiner’s is what we now call the Threefold Social Order, though I personally prefer to use the term Threefold Social Organism.
It is based on the independence of society’s economic, political and cultural institutions. It aims to foster human rights and equality in political life, freedom in cultural life (art, science, religion, education, the media), and cooperation in economic life. It is a blueprint for a way of living in which war between nations would become almost impossible.
I felt from the very beginning that this play needed to go to North America. In America today there are great social divides and powers that prey on exploiting the differences between people. Social Threefolding, by bringing about a synthesis of the best of capitalism and the best of socialism, offers new solutions to thinking about how we can best live together as a society.
Why do you prefer to use the term Threefold Social Organism rather than Threefold Social Order?
To me, organism seems more alive than “order” which sounds a bit too static. A threefold community is constantly changing; the threefold principle is holding it
together but it does not get fixed in one form.
Michael, who is acting in this play?
There are two actors in this play, myself and Christian Peterson. Here are our two bios:
MICHAEL BURTON: Michael has a degree in drama from Auckland University and has completed a four-year training in speech with Virginia Brett in Dornach, Switzerland, and Honolulu, Hawaii. Since 1988 he has practiced artistic speech and drama in various ways – as a writer, speech performer, actor, speech therapist and voice teacher.
CHRISTIAN PETERSON: Christian is a graduate of the Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School in upstate New York which he attended from kindergarten to grade 12. Born in Hannover, Germany, he moved with his parents to the United States. He is 24 years old and recently attended the British American Drama Academy, in connection with the Yale School of Drama, at Magdalen College in Oxford, England where he studied classical Shakespeare acting.
I was earlier acting with a Canadian, Ryan Kouroukis, but he was always going to finish last October. He is now rehearsing the part of Johannes in Rudolf Steiner’s Fourth Mystery Drama. Ryan and I forged a great relationship. Now, with a new actor, it will be completely different and we will be rehearsing in January in California before we start performing and yet we will also be building upon the things achieved in the first 35 performances.
Michael, this all sounds so interesting. When will you be touring?
This first tour is only two months in length —February and March 2018.
After the New Year, we will be trying to put things together into a coherent tour. We have no definite dates yet, just a list of sixteen or so places that have signaled their interest to see it. We’re probably going up the West Coast from Los Angeles to Vancouver; one place that is definite after that is Toronto.
What would anthroposophical groups in Canada need to do in order to bring this play to their cities?
We like to get a guarantee from the community – one that will hopefully be covered by audience donation but it can happen without a guarantee; it’s all based on people’s initiative and how much they see the importance of this particular theme
I can imagine that groups might wonder what you mean by “hoping for a guarantee” from the community? Do you hope for airfare paid for the two of you to travel to Canadian cities?
Yes, we do say that’s a request but every community should only do what is possible for them. I do believe it will work out in the end though I’m personally taking a bit of a financial risk over this.
The main thing we need is a will to work with us to bring the show to a good-sized audience – hopefully, more than just the anthroposophists alone.
We’ve been to about 33 different places in six countries and always people came forward, in the end, to help with providing us with a place to stay and a venue where we could perform. Sometimes things were arranged only at the last minute. I learned not to worry too much about these matters.
Our needs are very simple. We ask for food and accommodation — two separate bedrooms which do not need to be in the same house. Hopefully the accommodation is close to the venue. We can even take buses to get around if need be. We carry everything we perform with.
Michael, this is a wonderful and timely initiative! What should anthroposophical groups do in order to bring your play to their communities?
Communities who are interested in hosting us should contact me as soon as possible. As I’ve said, the main thing we need is a will to work with us and also to advertise to bring a good-sized audience to the show.