restricted access The Red Director: Karl Kayser and the Evolution of GDR Theater


The director Karl Kayser (1914–1995) was a major figure in East German theater, but his work has been largely overlooked—not least because he was a leading official in the SED. This paper reexamines Kayser’s career, arguing that his political commitment drove him to keep changing his creative vision. Over four decades in Weimar and Leipzig, Kayser developed four distinct types of theater, each with its own repertoire, acting style, and audience. His artistic evolution suggests that “official” culture in the GDR was more innovative, more varied, and more flexible than commonly assumed.