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The Political Significance of the Theatre* Willy Brandt Ladies and Gentlemen: First of all, I would like to thank Ulrich Brecht for his invitation to this matinee,l I am happy to be here. For this theatre, which is connected with the names of Karl Immermann, Louise Dumont, Gustav Lindemann, Gustaf Gruendgens, and Karl Heinz Stroux, has time and again played an outstanding part in German intellectual life. In addition, I firmly believe that a meeting between Theatre and Politics is useful and fruitful for both sides. Such a meeting is taking place today on different levels, and I am eagerly awaiting the discussion which is to follow.2 The topic which I am supposed to be introducing may sound provoking, but it is true that the Theatre does have political significance. I would now like to trace further the relationship between Theatre and Politics. When I was asked to participate in this conference, the world seemed a little different, though perhaps only on the surface. We were preparing for the Olympic Games which were supposed to be held under the signs of the five rings of con­ ciliation and of cheerfulness. This is now a matter of the past. The games themselves, the cultural program surrounding them, the relaxed organization—all these have received much praise. * Willy Brandt opened a series of matinee discussions on the Theatre and its relationship to Politics at the municipal Theatre in Duesseldorf on September 17, 1972. It is noteworthy not only that such a conference took place but that a leading statesman and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize could address himself to the topic. However, if one recalls the climate in which Willy Brandt grew up, his knowledge is understandable. Theatre, particularly the Arbeiterlheater (Worker’s Theatre), was part of the labor movement of which he was a part. Throughout his life, he has found the Theatre eminently relevant to questions of Politics. His familiarity with the stage and his conviction that both Theatre and Politics have important contribu­ tions to make to our civilization led Willy Brandt to this exposition which is hereby rendered in an unofficial English translation with permission of the authorities of the German Federal Republic. (W.S.G.K.) 222 Willy Brandt 223 But the drama of Munich3 has changed the scenery fundamen­ tally, a fact which, I am afraid, will be with us for a long time to come. I have purposefully used the words “drama” and “scenery” here, in this house. For in theatrical terms the events of Mu­ nich, staged and executed by a handful of blind fanatics and with consequences that cannot as yet be fully ascertained, possess in a terrible way the full measure of a Greek tragedy. I do not want to belabor this point. Everyone can and should reflect on how to interpret in this context the ancient archetypes which the Theatre has always used as a mirror for the world’s errors and irrational excesses. With this I have already arrived at a central point in my discussion. For Politics and Theatre are to me first of all a mutually fruitful interrelationship expressing in different ways the same endeavor, namely how to bring man to himself and how to enable him to live as a social being. We, who in practical politics are involved in this effort, are under daily pressures to reach pragmatic decisions. Therefore, we can easily succumb to the danger of losing our view of those subterranean currents which influence and change the face of the world just as much as the so-called hard facts. Being pur­ sued by urgent problems, we may easily overlook the important ones. The Theatre, in its kind just as rudimentary as Politics, is well suited to remind us of this again and again and in a more direct way than any other art form. I discovered this myself when in my early youth I went to the Theatre in Luebeck. For its many stimulations I owe a debt of gratitude to the Volksbuehne4 which at that time represented a new branch of the labor movement. Later, as an emigrant, I experienced even more strongly the moral force that can...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 222-230
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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