The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Contents
Thomas Ostermeier
data
Thomas Ostermeier
Born in West Germany in 1968, director Thomas Ostermeier is art director of the Schaubuehne. Moving to Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Ostermeier began to show his talent as a director while still in drama school. After graduation he was given responsibility for the small theater space “Baracke” of the Deutschen Theater, where he presented works by modern playwrights like Brecht along with the works of contemporary writers. Winning acclaim as a leader of the young generation, he was given the position of art director at the Schaubuehne in 2000 at the young age of 31. Among his noted productions as director are Ibsen’s Nora (A Doll’s House), Mayenburg’s Fire Face and Phaidras Liebe and Sarah Kane’s Crave.
data
Schaubuehne am Lehniner Platz
Established in Berlin in 1962, Schaubuehne became one of Germany’s representative theater companies with a reputation for finely staged productions of works by playwrights like Chekhov executed primarily in ensemble form under the direction of Peter Stein and others from the 1970s. Later, the company was reorganized in 2000 and a dance department was established. With Ostermeier as art director and stage director for the theater department and Sasha Waltz as art director and choreographer of the dance department, the Schaubuehne uses primarily selected young artists. As inheritor of this theater with its long and illustrious tradition, Ostermeier writes about the “Mission of Theater” in the theater programs, saying: “How should we live our lives? Theater is the act of answering this fundamental question.” He goes on to make a case for “Theater for the Playwright.”
The company’s current repertoire consists not only of works by leading German writers but also a lineup of stimulating works by foreign contemporary playwrights. This past March, in its annual international festival based primarily around drama readings, works by Keralino Sandovich and Suzuki Matsuo were among the drama readings. Most theaters in German are supported by public funding and the annual funding received by the Schaubuehne is 1,280,000 euro.
http://www.schaubuehne.de/
Nora / A Dall's House
Nora / A Dall's House
Schaubuehne am Lehniner Platz
Nora / A Dall's House
photo: Arno Declair
Presenter Interview
2005.8.18
In pursuit of Theater for the Playwright Talking with Artistic Director Ostermeier of the Schaubuehne  
In pursuit of Theater for the Playwright Talking with Artistic Director Ostermeier of the Schaubuehne  
From 2005 into 2006, a variety of events are being held around Japan as part of the year of “Deutschland in Japan.” In the field of performing arts, a lot of attention focused on a series of performances by three leading German theaters from March into June, including the Volksbuehne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz production of Terminal America, the Schaubuehne theater’s productions of Nora and Fire Face (Feuergesicht) and the Berliner Ensemble production of Der Aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui.
Particular attention has focused on the activities of the new Schaubuehne and its Artistic Director since 2000, Thomas Ostermeier (36), who have started a contemporary theater festival and actively brought performances to Japan and many other parts of the world. While in Japan, Ostermeier spoke about the aims of the new Schaubuehne at a press conference.

(From the June 14 press conference)


About the play Nora, an important part of the Schaubuehne repertoire:

The actual title of the original Ibsen play is A Doll’s House, but in Germany it is commonly known as Nora, and it has been performed so often in Germany that it is considered a part of German theater. When I first read this play, I thought that although it was surely quite shocking in its day, it lacked impact in today’s world where divorce has become so common. Particularly the ending. At the time of the premiere of A Doll’s House in Copenhagen in 1890, the controversy was so great that the very name Nora became taboo and people were forbidden to pronounce it.
When I spoke to a 30-something theater director in Oslo not so long ago, I learned that Ibsen had prepared another ending for the play when it was to be performed in Germany. It was based on the suggestion of one of the actresses of the time, who suggested an ending in which Nora chooses to remain in the home rather than leaving her husband. After hearing that I stopped thinking of Nora’s leaving the home as the play’s climax. What I began to think about what would be effective to give the play the same kind of impact it had in its day. Performing the play as it was originally written might have still had actual effect in Europe in the 1970s and 80s, but not today. With this in mind, we restaged Nora with the setting in present-day Berlin.
When the original play was performed in the 19th century, society was of course strongly based on paternal dominance, and in the 20th century that didn’t really change much in Europe. But now, I think it is possible to give the play a more radical ending. In other words, I think a different kind of “death sentence” is possible. Related to this, there is an incident that impressed me quite strongly. One young woman who had just seen our new Nora said, “I didn’t know people were still writing such new, good works.”
Regarding the question of how women today express themselves, we thought to incorporate into our production a sense of the way women seek to express themselves based on influences they get from looking at magazines and watching commercials and videos and also animated films. The climax of my production of Nora may be so radical that many audiences will have trouble with it. But, that is exactly the effect I am hoping for. I want it to start the audience discussing the question of why such a climax is necessary.

About Fire Face:

Of the productions Schaubuehne is presenting now, of the things I am doing, two thirds are productions of works by contemporary playwrights or inspired by contemporary plays. One of these is Fire Face. People who saw the performance may have thought it too dreadful, too void of hope. The point that makes it so dreadful is that fact that the young protagonist, Kurt, sins for no reason.
I believe that the achievement of playwrights is to put things in words that have never been put in words before and make it possible for them to be brought to the stage. German theater has a long history in this sense. During the era of the French Revolution, Germany had writers like Goethe, Kleist and Buchner, and although there was no actual revolution in the political world, there was a revolution occurring in the literary world. In other words, I think you can say that in Germany the revolution was taking place on the stage instead of in the political system.
The main character in Fire Face is representative of a rebellious generation that doesn’t know what they are rebelling against, or for what reason. And this rebellious generation can’t put into words what their frustrations are. In the 1960s and 70s when German playwrights like Kroetz and Fassbinder were active, for example, there were new possibilities that people were striving toward. I believe that the today the directions are different from what they were back then.
In Fire Face, the protagonist Kurt and his sister are in their puberty and Kurt has an incestuous love of his sister. Kurt is also making a bomb. The social setting is a typical middle-class Germany and you have parents that don’t know how to communicate with their children, though the family is one that you could call liberal in some sense. Although the family is not doing anything wrong, for some reason the children are losing control of themselves. Finally Kurt kills his parents and spends several days with the bodies. That is the plot.
 
| 1 | 2 | 3 |
NEXT
TOP