Oskar Langensand spent a lot of time thinking about his next theatre role. He had to transform himself into Harri Hammer, a middle-aged folk music star with a thick Zürich accent. That was no small task for Langensand, who speaks with a gentle Obwalden dialect. “I watched YouTube videos of people speaking in Zurich dialect and began repeating phrases.” And with great success! He slipped into Harris’s skin and was immediately believable as the smug Zuricher. Langensand was ready. But then Coronavirus hit. 

From farmer to member of the National Council    

For every new play, Oski Langensand always starts by focusing on his character. “With Harri Hammer, it took me a while to find the character. I find it much easier to think my way into roles as an authority figure or an official.” That’s why they’re also the roles he likes to play. The Alpnach native has already played several mayors, a director general and a member of the National Council. “But it’s  variety that make things exciting. I’ve also played a day labourer and a poor farmer.”  

Learning lines with his headphones on    

He gets into the skin of his characters on the train. He commutes between his place of residence in Alpnach and his office at Lucerne Allmend. Langensand starts by studying the script and then learns his lines by heart. “I record all the dialogues on my smartphone at home and listen to them on the train.” In a second step, he just records the lines of the other characters, leaving his own out. “On the train, I put on my headphones and listen to the recordings with the gaps. In my mind, I fill in the gaps with the lines that I’ve memorized.” This sometimes means he attracts attention on the  train. “When I’m listening to the lines with headphones on, I have to be careful  not to say them out loud.” Sometimes he forgets. 

“Sometimes I get carried away and caught up in the role for a moment until I notice that I’m getting funny looks from other passengers.” 

Riding the train is inspiring  

The 54-year-old discovered his fascination for the theatre as a child. His initial experiences were with school theatre, before he took to the stage for the first time in 1988 with the Trachtengruppe Alpnach (Alpenach Traditional Costume Theatre Group). “It’s fascinating to take on a character so different from yourself and work with other characters to play out a story. It means total immersion in another world, switching off from everyday life.” He has now appeared in 22 plays at Theater Alpnach and has already written his own play. His comedy “Vorab nä!” (“Nah in advance!”) was published in 2019 by prestigious theatre publisher ELGG. Oski Langensand wrote the piece mostly while commuting with Zentralbahn. “I like the special atmosphere on the train.  

You’re moving forwards but don't have to worry about traffic – you can simply be.” Whether he’s learning lines off by heart or writing plays – he finds the short train journeys between Alpnach Dorf and Messe/Allmend perfect for either activity. “20 minutes is more time than you think”, says Oski Langensand.  

Then the Coronavirus pandemic hit.  

Harri Hammer was ready for the stage. After all, the self-absorbed folk music star was always going to be ready! But then Coronavirus hit. Four days before the opening night, the theatre company cancelled all performances as a precautionary step and lockdown followed soon afterwards. “That was very emotional.” The play is now scheduled to go on stage in March 2021. So, back to the drawing board? Not really, says Oski Langensand: “We can build on what we’ve done so far. We will need fewer rehearsals because the scenes are already in place.” He features as Harri Hammer over 180 times in this play. He had memorised all his lines, but forgotten a lot in six months. So he warmed up again with a few YouTube videos of people with Zurich accents and then relearned his lines on the train. It’s quite possible that Oski Langensand has been startling a few more passengers with his headphones and sudden loud exclamations in a strong Zurich accent.  

Theater Alpnach    

Theater Alpnach is showing the play “Nid ganz hunderd?!” (“Not quite a hundred”) from March 2021. Oski Langensand plays folk music star Harri Hammer. The 54-year-old discovered his passion for theatre at school and has been on stage with the Trachtengruppe Alpnach (Alpenach Traditional Costume Theatre Group) for over 30 years. Oski Langensand lives with his family in Alpnach and works as a real estate portfolio manager at the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS). 

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