At first glance, Geneva might seem like the world’s most peaceful place. But hop aboard Tram’Drames for “a gruesome tram ride through the seedy underbelly of the city!”
Tram’Drames is a fresh initiative – a production performed on Geneva’s historical green trams and an innovative attempt to unite English and Swiss actors and to bridge the gap between English and Swiss audiences
We speak to VIKI LAZAR, one of the actresses and the Anglophone Co-Director of this exciting show.
Tram’Drames is an adaptation by director Jacques Sallin of the crime thriller Meurtres à Genève written by Corinne Jaquet
The story whisks passengers away on a thrilling trip back in time on “the very vehicles that worked the city at the time they took place…and in some cases, bore witness to the original crimes”.
“Tram’Drames is staged in English and French, for locals and tourists alike,” Viki says. “We see this as a reflection of Geneva’s interplay between the two languages.”
The actors bring six standalone stories to life, changing roles throughout. “All of the transitions happen in plain sight of the audience, so we change physical and vocal elements and use different props to convey these different characters to the audience,” Viki explains.
“The most challenging role change is actually becoming a narrator,” she says. “You have to be neutral yet engaging, but not so interesting that people think you’re a character in the story.”
The production is in collaboration with the association that keeps the historic trams running, the Association Genevoise du Musée des Tramways. “Members of the association drive the trams, and we’re also in close coordination with TPG, Geneva’s transport authority, so we can operate smoothly with the regular trams,” says Viki.
With both French- and English-speaking casts, the actors work together to synchronise their productions, and also for inspiration. “Everyone rehearses with their counterparts in the other language, and we give each other really valuable feedback,” Viki explains. “While the Director speaks only French, he directs our English version based on the rhythm and feel he perceives.”
The English-speaking actors were recruited from the Renegade Saints, as well as GEDS, the Geneva English Drama Society. Viki acts as a liaison between the groups, running auditions, proofreading materials, and helping adapt the production to linguistic and cultural differences between French and English.
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Viki has been deeply involved in the performing arts from a young age. “When I was little, I was extremely shy,” says the now-outgoing actress. “I started with ballet when I was 4, and at age 12, a friend from ballet convinced me to sign up for acting classes. I loved reading, and so I really connected with reading scripts. I then got into improv acting, too.”
“Acting helped me gain self-confidence, make friends, and expand my social circle,” she says.
Viki pursued theatre throughout school, joined a comedy theatre group at university and even got into directing.
The daughter of Hungarian immigrants to the United States, Viki grew up immersed in Hungarian culture in her home state of New Jersey. “I didn’t speak English until I started school,” Viki says. “I always felt very European, but realised just how American I was when I attended summer camps in Hungary!” she laughs.
Viki has always been interested in foreign languages, and her love of French led her to teach English in France after graduating from university. After some time working in social justice, Viki was about to start a masters program when she was offered a job in Geneva. She decided to make the leap.
Viki looked for a way to get onstage soon after arriving. She discovered GEDS for theatre, but missed improv, and so she helped set up the Renegade Saints.
“I really love Geneva,” Viki says. “I’m excited about how Tram’Drames is bringing the French- and English-speaking communities together!”
VIKI’S TOP THINGS TO DO IN GENEVA
Viki is a clear fan of this city, given her detailed list of favorite things to do! Read on for some great suggestions: