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Theatre Is More Beautiful Than War

German Stage Directing in the Late Twentieth Century

Marvin Carlson

Publication Year: 2009

In almost every area of production, German theatre of the past forty years has achieved a level of distinction unique in the international community. This flourishing theatrical culture has encouraged a large number of outstanding actors, directors, and designers as well as video and film artists. The dominant figure throughout these years, however, has remained the director. In this stimulating and informative book, noted theatre historian Marvin Carlson presents an in-depth study of the artistic careers, working methods, and most important productions of ten of the leading directors of this great period of German staging.

Beginning with the leaders of the new generation that emerged in the turbulent late 1960s—Peter Stein, Peter Zadek, and Claus Peymann, all still major figures today—Carlson continues with the generation that appeared in the 1980s, particularly after reunification—Frank Castorf, Anna Viebrock, Andrea Breth, and Christoph Marthaler—and concludes with the leading directors to emerge after the turn of the century, Stefan Pucher, Thomas Ostermeier, and Michael Thalheimer. He also provides information not readily available elsewhere in English on many of the leading actors and dramatists as well as the designers whose work, much of it for productions of these directors, has made this last half century a golden age of German scenic design.

During the late twentieth century, no country produced so many major theatre directors or placed them so high in national cultural esteem as Germany. Drawing on his years of regular visits to the Theatertreffen in Berlin and other German productions, Carlson will captivate students of theatre and modern German history and culture with his provocative, well-illustrated study of the most productive and innovative theatre tradition in Europe.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Series: Studies Theatre Hist & Culture


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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

I must begin by expressing my profound gratitude and debt to the countless German, Austrian, and Swiss theatre artists, from Gustaf Gr

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pp. ix-xiv

In almost every area of production, the German theatre of the past forty years has consistently achieved a level of distinction unique in the international community. Although its formidable system of theatre subsidy has somewhat declined in recent years, its theatres remain among the best funded in the world, and scarcely a town of any...

Part I. The Old Masters

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1. Peter Stein

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pp. 3-25

Peter Stein was born in Bad Hamburg, near Frankfurt, in 1937, and like a number of Germany’s modern leading directors, he entered the theatre through student productions at the university, in his case in Munich. When, in 1964, one of his fellow students was invited to direct at the Munich...

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2. Peter Zadek

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pp. 26-45

Peter Zadek holds a unique position among twentieth-century German directors. On his eightieth birthday (19 May 2006), he was widely hailed as one of the leading figures of the German theatre world, still making major contributions after a directing career that extended over 60 years. Although...

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3. Claus Peymann

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pp. 46-72

Born in Bremen in 1937, Peymann enrolled in 1958 at Hamburg University, where he became involved both in theatre and political action, and these soon became closely related in Peymann’s activities. In 1959 he became one of the founders of a “Studio Theatre” at the University, organized....

Part II. The Successors

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4. Andrea Breth

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pp. 75-94

Since the foundation of the German literary stage in the eighteenth century, theatres in that country have been controlled almost exclusively by men. Although Carolina Neuber (1697–1760) managed what is considered the first serious company in this tradition, very few women have followed...

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5. Frank Castorf and the Volksb

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pp. 95-115

During the final decade of the twentieth century, the Berlin stage, and indeed that of all of Germany, was dominated by the figure of Frank Castorf, who, at the helm of the Berlin Volksb

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6. Christoph Marthaler and Anna Viebrock

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pp. 116-138

Christoph Marthaler was born in 1951 in Erlenbach near Zurich. He pursued studies in music, organizing a local orchestra and performing on the oboe, flute, and various fourteenth- and fifteenth-century instruments. His first contacts with the theatre were, not surprisingly, musical. He began to compose music for productions in Zurich...

Part III. The Next Generation

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7. Michael Thalheimer

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pp. 141-159

Michael Thalheimer was born in 1965 in M

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8. Thomas Ostermeier

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pp. 160-180

Thomas Ostermeier was born in Soltau, Germany, in 1968. He grew up in Bavaria where he received his early schooling and entered the civil service. He became interested in acting, however, and in 1991 went to Berlin where he joined a Faust project being developed by Einar Schleef at the Academy...

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9. Stefan Pucher

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pp. 181-193

Ever since Lessing, the German stage has had a particularly close relationship with England, most notably in its adoption of Shakespeare as central to its own classic tradition. In the period covered by this book, the English stage has been central to the formation and careers of a number...

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pp. 195-200

“Der Stein Zeit Ist Forbei.” This headline appeared in a Zurich newspaper in 1998, at the end of Peter Stein’s directorship of the Salzburg Festival.1 Most specifically it translates as “The Stein era is over,” but since Stein is also the German word for stone, as a pun it announces...


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pp. 201-214


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pp. 215-226

E-ISBN-13: 9781587298929
E-ISBN-10: 1587298929
Print-ISBN-13: 9781587298141
Print-ISBN-10: 1587298147

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: cloth
Series Title: Studies Theatre Hist & Culture