Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Whose Lulu Is It Anyway? Performing through Dramaturgies of Excess

Frank Wedekind’s turn-of-the-century Lulu plays are among the most produced and researched dramas in the German theatre canon. Despite the lead role’s predominance in the text and the resulting centrality of the actress in performances, criticism and scholarship regularly attribute primary significance in the production and reception of the Lulu plays, and even of the character Lulu, to Wedekind and given male directors. The association of famous directors like G.W. Pabst and Robert Wilson with influential theatre and film productions has only exaggerated the tendency. This essay argues that in the 2004 Lulu at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg, director Michael Thalheimer and lead actress Fritzi Haberlandt engaged a dramaturgy of excess that challenged such conventions of attributed authority. It analyzes Haberlandt and Thalheimer’s work together with prominent Lulus from 2011 and 2019, which also deployed excess in their production and performance practices but in very different ways and with very different effects. Each production comprised a notable director/actress pairing (Thalheimer and Haberlandt; Wilson and Angela Winkler; and Stefan Pucher and Lilith Stangenberg, respectively) and attained a significant degree of public and critical attention. Through these Lulus and Lulus, the essay examines how dramaturgies of excess can advance or hinder an actress’s individual performance interventions with significant impact on the overall aesthetic and political efficacy of a theatre production.

A slender young woman in a short, pale pink baby doll dress, mid-calf stockings, and conspicuously high-heeled shoes moves to center stage in a few large strides and stands perfectly still in front of a large white wall in silence for a full minute. There is nothing else on set. Head turned to the side, she looks down, eyes unfocused, despondent. Her hair is shaggy, cut above her narrow shoulders. She holds her arms out to the side with her hands facing palm forward in a clinical anatomical pose. She waits to be observed. This is Lulu.

More specifically, this Lulu appeared on the Thalia Theater stage in 2004 in Hamburg, Germany, in a production billed as Lulu / Pandora’s Box / A Monster-Tragedy by Frank Wedekind / Urfassung.1 Fritzi Haberlandt starred in the title role and Michael Thalheimer directed. With the premiere on February 28th, this Lulu took her place in a performance history that extended back more than a century and continues to grow to this day. German theatregoers and critics are familiar with this history; Frank Wedekind is one of the most canonical German playwrights, and the Lulu plays are among his best-known works. Yet there is little agreement—among readers, viewers, critics, scholars, and theatre practitioners—on who Lulu is. Lulu even goes by several different names in the dramas themselves; in addition to Lulu, she is called Nelli, Eve, Mignon. With each name, she takes on new roles: a painter’s model, a lover, a wife, a dancer, an incestuous daughter, a murderess, a prostitute. Stars of the stage and screen such as the turn-of-the-century actress Tilly Newes (who would subsequently marry Wedekind) and Weimar film legend Louise Brooks have left their mark on both the cultural imagination and subsequent performances of Lulu, particularly on German stages. With each successive production, a new enactment of Lulu shifts perceptions of the figure.

The dramas that inform the character of Lulu are equally variable. What are now collectively known as the “Lulu plays” encompass numerous published and unpublished [End Page 21] manuscripts that Wedekind wrote and revised over the course of twenty years, between 1892 and 1913. Countless versions of the Lulu dramas were staged at German theatres in two parts under the titles Erdgeist (Earth Spirit) and Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora’s Box) from the turn of the twentieth century until 1988, when a single, unified version of the play—the text now known as the Urfassung—emerged from Wedekind’s estate. That same year, the first production based on the Urfassung premiered at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg. Given this multiplication of source texts, German theatre historian Ortrud Gutjahr contends that when going to see Lulu in the theatre, viewers must ask themselves, “In which play is the Lulu that we will encounter on the stage actually to be found?”2 Gutjahr thus raises a question about authority over the figure and focuses her inquiry on Wedekind’s dramatic texts as the primary source not only for the production, but also for the performance of Lulu.

Next to the author, scholars and critics have consistently attributed determinacy in producing Lulu—and Lulu—to male directors of the stage and screen. The association of famous directors with influential theatre and film productions of the plays has only exaggerated this tendency; the list of notable male directors includes Max Reinhardt (1902), G. W. Pabst (1929), Peter Zadek (1988), and Robert Wilson (2011), to name but a few. The privileged status of the director is further tied to the predominance of Regietheater (director’s theatre) in Germany since the turn of the twentieth century. In conventional Regietheater, the director brings his individual aesthetic vision and interpretation to bear in the production; the production thereby becomes the director’s independent creation that is related to, but not determined by, the dramatic text. Regietheater notably first emerged in Germany as a mode of resistance to the dominant authority of theatrical convention and of the text, enabling modernist experimentation in theatrical production and performance; since then, however, intensive debate has developed about the elevated status of the director and his absolute authority over the production. Here, I deliberately use the masculine possessive because the majority of directors in prominent German theatres today are men, and Regietheater’s markedly patriarchal connotation is frequently noted in critical perspectives on the institution.

Consequently, while the lead actresses in prominent productions of the Lulu plays have received extensive critical attention, they are frequently presented as the enactors of the author’s and/or their director’s vision for Lulu.3 Critics and scholars, explicitly or intrinsically, ascribe female performers to a secondary or tertiary status behind the male director and the dramatist in creating their Lulu. The production history of the Lulu plays thus raises issues of gender and production authority in particularly evident ways. To examine and challenge the reduction of the actress’s importance for the production and reception history of the Lulu plays, I redirect Gutjahr’s question to ask instead: Whose Lulu is the Lulu we encounter onstage? [End Page 22]

Three twenty-first-century productions of Lulu in Germany offer a basis for this inquiry: 2004 at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg, starring Haberlandt and directed by Thalheimer; 2011 at the Berliner Ensemble, starring Angela Winkler and directed by Wilson; and 2019 at the Volksbühne Berlin, starring Lilith Stangenberg and directed by Stefan Pucher. These are certainly not the only Lulu productions of note from the last twenty years; however, they are among the most widely publicized and influential in terms of their popular and critical receptions. Each production, furthermore, features a prominent director associated with Regietheater and a lead actress who was famous in Germany prior to taking the role of Lulu. Thalheimer, Wilson, and Pucher are all known for having a strong directorial vision and more specifically for placing their unique stamp on canonical works: Thalheimer is recognized in Europe for juxtaposing minimalist design with intensely physical performances; Wilson is known for his signature visual aesthetic and collaborations with popular musicians; and Pucher is renowned in Germany for his highly contemporary pop-aesthetics and multimedia productions.4 The actresses who starred in these productions were also well-known in their own right before playing the part of Lulu; reception therefore frequently draws attention to the relationship between their performances and the dramatic text, the director, and the conspicuous dramaturgical apparatus that each production constructs in excess of the text.

To a certain degree, every production in dramatic theatre exists in excess of the dramatic text itself; however, some productions, including the three considered in this essay, purposefully multiply or intensify performance and design elements that create meaning with, against, over, and in spite of the text. I will consider the multiplication of such elements to be “dramaturgies of excess.” Whether led by an appointed dramaturg or the director or developed collaboratively in preproduction, dramaturgy essentially informs the transposition of the drama from page, to stage, to reception by contextualizing the production of meaning historically and contemporaneously. Dramaturgy bridges the current production and production history, literary and critical reception, and the contemporary sociopolitical context. The production elements that ultimately enact meaning in dramatic theatre during a production comprise the resulting dramaturgical apparatus. In what I identify as dramaturgies of excess, that apparatus purposefully elevates the meaning-making significance of performance and design elements (vocal, corporeal, visual, auditory, temporal, and so on) above the linguistic and/or narrative denotation of the text. In doing so, this excess also draws attention to the distribution of authority among the numerous meaning-making agents in dramatic theatre.

Attribution of production authority becomes particularly important in works like the Lulu plays, which have the potential to activate aesthetic and sociopolitical agency within a given sociohistorical context. Indeed, since the turn of the twentieth century, the Lulu plays have been deployed in German theatres explicitly for aesthetic and political intervention; thus the question of who claims authority over Lulu—that is, whose Lulu we encounter in the theatre—is evidently consequential. Examining different dramaturgies of excess in the Lulu productions from 2004, 2011, and 2019, this essay posits that the relative political efficacy of recent Lulu productions is essentially bound to the question of whose Lulu can/does enact that effect. I argue that in the [End Page 23] 2011 and 2019 productions, dramaturgies of excess situated authority with the director and in ancillary sources (texts, music, and other media); in doing so, they obscured the effects of the lead actresses Winkler and Stangenberg to varying degrees. I locate dramaturgical excess in the 2004 Lulu as well, contending however that this production foregrounded Haberlandt’s performance and her constitutive function in the production overall. Considering the effects of excess in these very different productions sheds light on the hierarchies of authority over meaning-making established in each.

In order to analyze the impact that these Lulu productions and Lulu performances had in the broader aesthetic and political discourses surrounding the plays, I approach them through reception as evidenced in reviews from widely circulating German newspapers and magazines (with print and online platforms) and in scholarship published with academic presses and journals in Germany and the United States. Such documents reveal that the 2004 Lulu and Haberlandt’s Lulu more effectively engaged the gender and sexual politics at issue in the plays, and additionally interceded in theoretical debates over the attribution of authority in dramatic theatre. After briefly surveying the history of Wedekind’s plays and the polyvalent sources of authority affecting the production and reception of the dramatic text and the figure of Lulu, I detail how dramaturgies of excess shaped the 2004, 2011, and 2019 productions and established differing dynamics of authority among Wedekind, the director, the production design, and the performers. Turning then to the potential for sociopolitical critique intrinsic to Wedekind’s Lulu plays, I examine how critical perceptions of the lead actresses’ performances within and through excesses of visual, textual, and corporeal signification affected the perceived political efficacy of each production. This specific examination of Lulu raises broader considerations for feminist methods of theatre criticism and scholarship, for thinking about the function of dramaturgy in determining hierarchies of production authority in dramatic theatre, and for considering how these systems of authority might be disrupted or restructured.

Many Lulus, Many Lulus

Canonical dramas like Wedekind’s Lulu plays invite an extensive dramaturgical process. The multiplicity of the plays themselves and their long and well-known production history in Germany, along with the broad and well-studied body of published theatre criticism and scholarship surrounding that history creates an ever-expanding contextual field that shapes viewers’ expectations and modes of reception. This surfeit of text and source material acting upon and through the Lulu plays complicates the question of who Lulu is or should be, and the mutability of the character within the dramatic texts themselves only increases the pressure for a production to take an interpretive stance.5 The role of Lulu—as Wedekind wrote and rewrote it and through its successive performance history—entails openness, variability, and instability.6 In all of the Lulu plays, the character is a social chameleon and performer; moreover, as she adapts her persona for each new lover and each new situation, her motives for doing so are ambiguous. [End Page 24]

Wedekind professed a clear vision for the figure of Lulu and worked intentionally to assert authority over her representation during his lifetime. He participated directly in productions of the plays at the turn of the century, consulting with directors, attending rehearsals, and even performing the roles of Dr. Schön, Lulu’s third husband whom she murders,7 and Jack the Ripper, who murders Lulu in the final scene of Pandora’s Box (with Wedekind sometimes taking on both roles within a single production). As Gutjahr details, he was particularly insistent on realizing his conception of Lulu when it came to casting the lead actress.8 Yet despite the author’s involvement and the tendency toward fidelity to the dramatic text in early twentieth-century productions, Wedekind did not have as much control over Lulu as he would have liked. Subject to both censorship laws and theatre conventions of the day, he had to alter his dramatic text in order to publish and stage the Lulu material, which entailed dividing his original play into Earth Spirit and Pandora’s Box, as well as editing the language and content.

More importantly, each actress who performed the role created a distinct iteration of the figure to unique effect. In a review of Tilla Durieux’s 1913 performance of Lulu in Munich, a critic for the theatre magazine Die Schaubühne compares three famous finde-siècle actresses who performed in the role: Gertrud Eysoldt, who “gave the refined mixture of child and scoundrel with the matter-of-factness of a natural spectacle”; Tilly (Newes) Wedekind, who “tried to embody the naive woman of instinct, simple, beautiful, sensual and passively awaiting that which approaches her from the shadows of fate”; and Durieux, who “made Lulu into a figure with tragic greatness for the first time.”9 As the central character in the play—Lulu is present in every scene—the role opened further possibilities for the lead actress to affect the production and its reception through her performance. In a review of a 1904 production of Earth Spirit starring Eysoldt, the critic for Deutsche Tageszeitung notes that the “play depends entirely on the performance of the Lulu role, which again yesterday gave Ms. Eysoldt the opportunity to let her great artistry have its effect on the viewer.”10 The critic here acknowledges that Eysoldt’s performance is determinate not only in her creation of the character, but also in this production of Earth Spirit on the whole.

Iconic Lulu performances like Brooks’s and Lothar’s have further multiplied expectations for the role. As Gutjahr explains, Lulu “is a figure overgrown with perceptions, role models, scandals and interpretations, which she simultaneously leaves behind. Because each production decides anew which role will be written on her body, which views will be offered, and which interpretation will be suggested.”11 This assessment prescribes determinative force to the legacy of the character’s text and performance history, but it ultimately grants authority over the role to a given production. Although Gutjahr allows for liberation from the text, she implicitly ascribes the lead actress a relatively passive status as the body onto which the production writes the role. In contrast to the recognized impact that actresses had in early twentieth-century productions, more recent commentary like Gutjahr’s brings into sharp focus a consequential tendency [End Page 25] in theatre criticism, history, and scholarship to credit male authors and directors with production and innovation, even to the point of attributing women’s work to them.12

Reassessing the influence that actresses have exerted in the history of Lulu is further necessary because of the possibilities for political and aesthetic intervention the plays offer through the entwined central themes of gender and sexuality, commerce and exploitation, and art and performance. The most publicized productions of the Lulu plays in Germany have emerged in times of aesthetic and sociopolitical change, particularly when notable periods of theatre innovation and feminist activism coincide. Wedekind wrote the dramas and the earliest productions were staged at the fin de siècle in the midst of emerging modernist aesthetic movements, as well as during the height of debate over the so-called woman question. Public performances of Earth Spirit and Pandora’s Box proliferated both with the end of theatre censorship in Germany and the rise of political theatre during the 1920s and ’30s, and with the high degree of popular and critical attention on the “New Woman.” The Lulu plays further resonated with the economic tumult during the Weimar Republic, while the first cinematic Lulus emerged together with modern cinematic practice. The premiere of the Urfassung in West Germany in the late 1980s was situated within critical debates about the status of Regietheater and coincided with the public controversy surrounding Alice Schwarzer’s feminist magazine Emma and her anti-pornography campaign (PorNo).

As a result, the Lulu plays have historically represented, reinforced, and subverted sociocultural norms and anxieties about gender and sexuality. Moreover, the sociopolitical ideologies and critiques enacted through the plays’ content have remained essentially tied to dynamics of gender and aesthetics in the related dramaturgical process of theatrical production. It is therefore not surprising that several highly publicized productions of Lulu have appeared during the last two decades along with developments in postdramatic and post-postdramatic theatre—theatre movements with contentious gender politics in Germany—and in the lead-up to and era of #MeToo.

Dramaturgies of Excess

Since the first productions at the end of the nineteenth century, theatre practitioners and critics have engaged with the Lulu plays explicitly as both aesthetic and political material. Due to this legacy and their related, enduring cultural capital in the German literary and theatre canon, the Lulu plays maintain a strong appeal for auteur directors in the tradition of Regietheater. New productions must first engage with the expansive textual and performance history of the Lulu plays; considering, as Gutjahr asks, “From which play(s) will the production draw its Lulu?” Due to the censorship and publishing practices outlined above, scholars and theatre practitioners have viewed much of the early printed and staged material from Earth Spirit and Pandora’s Box as several degrees removed from Wedekind’s intentions for the work. When the UrfassungDie [End Page 26] Büchse der Pandora. Eine Monstertragödie (Pandora’s Box. A Monster-Tragedy)—appeared in 1988, it was therefore coveted as what Zadek called “the most original, purest version” that finally revealed what Wedekind envisioned.13 Soon after its rediscovery, Zadek directed the first theatre production to use the Urfassung text. The 1988 Lulu initiated a new phase of scholarship on Wedekind’s dramas and marked a significant shift in approaches to staging the Lulu plays.

In line with conventions of Regietheater during the 1970s and ’80s, Zadek reset the dramatic action within the historical context of the immediate postwar era with visual cues like backdrops of bombed-out churches and period costuming including dressing Lulu in iconic postwar Trümmerfrau (rubble woman) attire.14 Theatre critic John Rouse surmised, however, that Zadek’s “interventions here all support the text.”15 Although many of Wedekind’s lines were not easily comprehensible in the actors’ rapid delivery, the production still explicitly invoked the authority of the text;16 it was also largely faithful to the dramatic plot. The 1988 Lulu presented itself as a production of the entire Urfassung text, taking almost five hours to perform. It further tied itself to Wedekind’s dramatic text through the simultaneous publication of the Urfassung. Zadek published the Urfassung text with his directorial edits, and an unabridged version appeared simultaneously in two issues of Theater heute.17 Another critical edition in German and an English translation followed shortly thereafter.

Preparing to premiere their Lulu in the same city just over fifteen years later, Thalheimer, the design team, and the cast of the 2004 production were well-aware that educated viewers and critics would compare their work to the renowned 1988 production.18 Instead of avoiding such comparisons, the production purposefully highlighted the textual and performance history attached to the Lulu plays. Billed as Lulu / Pandora’s Box / A Monster-Tragedy by Frank Wedekind / Urfassung, the production called attention to the multiplication of Lulu texts and to its precedent productions, even directly nodding to the 1988 Lulu. Citing the Urfassung in this title, the 2004 production instilled an expectation that the production would deliver Wedekind’s text, as Zadek had claimed to do in 1988. It did not. Extensive cuts dissected the known Urfassung and created fissures in expected narrative arcs. Furthermore, the performers spoke with such excessive speed—even beyond the tempo that the 1988 performers set—and vocal range that the text that was incorporated was pushed to a point of incomprehensibility. The oft-noted fact that the 2004 Lulu finished in less than two hours was in large part due to the performers’ rapid line delivery, which was even more difficult to follow because they erratically shifted between whispering and shouting.19 In order to draw [End Page 27] meaning from the stage, viewers had to engage with the other production elements, and particularly with the actors’ physical performances.

Whereas the 2004 production destabilized the authority of Wedekind’s text by elevating vocal and corporeal over linguistic signification, the 2011 and 2019 productions embraced text as a key signifier. However, they pushed the text field surrounding the Lulu plays into excess by incorporating a surplus of peripheral texts and media, in addition to Wedekind’s dramatic text. Some materials were created specifically for the shows while others were drawn from external sources. The 2019 production loosely incorporated scenes from Earth Spirit, with the addition of Jack the Ripper’s scene from Pandora’s Box, and frequently stopped the staged action throughout so that the performers could address the audience directly with quoted passages from prominent feminist writers and artists, including Valerie Solanas, Virginie Despendes, and coauthors Anna Gien and Marlene Stark, among many others. The 2019 Lulu additionally featured Barbara Ehnen’s striking, highly lauded set design of gigantic “[m]oveable frames which can be extended forward or backward to create stages on the stage.”20 A projector filled these frames with prerecorded silent videos of the performers in scenarios not related to Wedekind’s text, including images of Stangenberg with a giant ape meant to allude to Despendes’s feminist manifesto King Kong Theory,21 as well as “a series of ghosts from the traditional drama.”22 A live band further augmented the production with songs from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, femme punk rock, and rap groups.23

The 2019 production relied upon this polyphony of quoted and constructed text and media to speak back to and over Wedekind and his drama. For André Mumot, critic for Deutschlandfunk Kultur, however, the focus on external referents in the 2019 Lulu did not critique the content of the drama, but rather flattened the dramatic material and characters from the Lulu plays; as a result, the men became “merely disgusting caricatures, the women barely less disgusting haters of male caricatures.”24 The newly reimagined ending in the 2019 production only pushed the caricature further. Lulu’s lesbian admirer, Countess Geschwitz, breaks her out of jail, and the two proceed to kill the remaining male characters, including an added representation of Wedekind himself. After the slaughter they run offstage, and a video projection showed the two women escaping through the Volksbühne lobby and then “roaming the streets of Berlin like Bonny [sic] and Clyde” with pistols in their hands.25 Such filmed scenes and other staged action served to build parody and farce by drawing from pop culture rather than directly from the Lulu plays themselves. While many found these elements entertaining [End Page 28] in and of themselves, for critics like Mumot, Barbara Behrendt, and Rüdiger Schaper, the production bypassed complexities that the performers might have developed from within the dramatic text. The strategies of dramaturgical excess deployed in the 2019 production were thus ineffectual as a critique of Wedekind’s dramas.

Added text was also essential in the 2011 Lulu, which used Wedekind’s plays as the basis for an original rock musical with lyrics by Lou Reed characterized by Wilson’s distinctive visual aesthetic. Viewers immediately recognized the latter’s signature thick black-and-white makeup (reminiscent of commedia dell’arte and Parisian clowning), and architectural costumes (evocative of graphic novels), which created two-dimensional effects on the performers, particularly in contrast with the multidimensional illusion of the sets and the lighting design.26 Theatre scholar Daniele Vianello concludes that Wedekind’s dramas became peripheral in the production; for him, Wilson’s “rendering of the plot and the characters of the play seems to be more interested in his own visual and Reed’s musical suggestions than in being faithful to the text.”27 Irene Bazinger, critic for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, is more definitive, writing, “[a]gainst such an always clean and cutely decorated l’art pour l’art neither Frank Wedekind nor his ‘Lulu’ have a chance to really be recognized.”28 In addition to creating its own “sign-system”29 through Wilson’s all-encompassing atmospheric production design, the 2011 Lulu multiplied both text and authorship through its musical elements. The performers delivered lines in a mixture of German-language text drawn from the Lulu plays and English-language lyrics from Reed’s songs, which were also printed in both English and German in the program.30 The production did use lines from Wedekind’s dramas, but the visual aesthetic and the newly written lyrics and musical score far outweighed the dramatic text in terms of signification. This dramaturgical excess primarily emphasized Wilson’s signature style and his partnership with Reed.

Reviewers were highly critical of the 2011 production for prioritizing Wilson’s aesthetic vision at the expense of the production’s overall success.31 For example, critics [End Page 29] found that the design elements restrained the performers in disadvantageous ways. Bazinger argues that the “flawlessly rehearsed ensemble doesn’t play characters, but rather flounders in an equally pretty and arbitrary choreography of nonverbal symbols. These marionettes were painted white, wore tasteful costumes, had minimal text and—because or in spite of it—often grinned very broadly.”32 The heavy makeup reinforced a puppet-like performance regime, necessitating exaggerated facial expressions with wide eyes and gaping mouths, as was typical of other productions directed by Wilson. The costumes were equally restrictive—some were stiff, bulky, and geometrical while others were tightly fitted—contributing to the performers’ stilted, often mechanical movements. Reviews noted that in addition to Reed’s music, the live band played sound effects that suggested that the actors were animated like clockworks: “Tock-tock-tock (steps), rap-rap (oho! someone’s knocking!) and plink (an index finger points in the air).”33 The production design at times even disembodied the actors. At one point, the male characters “practically dissolve into nothingness, they remain present only as light-heads,”34 while at other moments they were transformed into two-dimensional paintings, black-and-white filmic images, or, as many reviews describe, into marionettes.35 The static visual excess in the 2011 production elevated the director’s authority to such an extent that, in the assessment of many reviewers, the performers were practically divested of autonomy, let alone authority in the production’s aesthetic and/or political interventions.

In contrast to the 2011 production, the performers in the 2004 Lulu were tangible in their bodily presence through an enactment of corporeal excess. All elements of the production design drew the viewer’s focus to the performers and their bodies onstage. The makeup was inconspicuous, and the costume design was unremarkable except for its avoidance of specificity. The men wore mundane suit pants and sweaters or jackets. Haberlandt’s dresses varied in color, but all featured the same cut: mid-thigh or shorter in length, with cap sleeves and a high neckline. The few material items that appeared were all instruments of death, props that acted directly on the characters’ bodies: a pistol, a hypodermic needle and rubber tubing to shoot up heroin. There were no curtains, scrims, scenery, or sets, so that the audience faced only a bare space of anticipated performance on the proscenium stage. Just one onstage feature changed during the production: an immense white wall gradually moved forward until the actors were left with only a narrow space at the front edge of the stage to perform the final scene, thus progressively bringing the performers into closer physical proximity with the audience. The lighting design was also minimalist, its primary function being to [End Page 30] foreground the performers’ bodies. Bright white flood lighting from the front illuminated most of the production, projecting distinctive shadows of the actors across the blank white wall behind them. Only their bodies occupied the shrinking void onstage. The striking absence of material design elements functioned as a counterpoint to the dynamic corporeal excess central to the production.

By minimizing scenic and other material cues as well as dismantling its textual base, the 2004 production foregrounded the actors’ physical performances as the primary source of meaning-production and viewer engagement.36 The actors presented a stunning two-and-a-half hours of nearly ceaseless and often acrobatic movement, which at times did and at others did not seem to correspond to any apparent meaning in the dialogue or plot of Wedekind’s Urfassung. Haberlandt strode across the stage, ran and jumped, sat then stood, then crumpled to the floor again; Lulu’s actions often seemed to be motivated more by some internal whim or impulse than by anything related to her rushed dialogue or interactions with the other characters. In the athletic choreography, the men onstage lifted and carried her over their heads. They frequently slammed her into the wall and grasped at her desperately. At times, Haberlandt’s Lulu passively awaited release with a childish look of impatience and boredom, but at others she wildly struggled for freedom. Reviews of the 2004 production evince acute awareness of the performers and their excessive physicality in the production. Critics reflected on Haberlandt’s performance in particular, often noting her evident autonomy in the role. Indeed, in an interview, the actress contended that the 2004 production left plenty of space, both literally and theoretically, for her to create a performance: “At first the empty stage made me unsure,” she commented, “but then I realized that it also gave me the most possible freedom. I tried to use this freedom, to never let myself be confined, also not by the text. Of course, one must memorize the text, but in the figure I could be free and try everything that my body said and that I could put together with a partner in the play.”37 The freedom that Haberlandt claimed in her performance of Lulu worked reciprocally with the production’s examination through the Lulu plays of possibilities for autonomy and agency within and against sociocultural constructs of gender, sexuality, and desire.

Politics of Excess

Gender, sexuality, and economies of desire are unquestionably central thematic strands in Wedekind’s Lulu plays. The plot follows an irresistibly seductive young woman as she traverses a number of love affairs and marriages. Along the way, men and women become obsessed with her, fall in love with her, and die or fall into ruin; whether the fault is Lulu’s or their own is open to interpretation. After a series of mis-adventures that lead to her arrest, Lulu escapes from prison and goes on the lam with a few of her remaining admirers. Eventually they land in London where Lulu supports them financially by working as a prostitute until she brings home Jack the Ripper, who murders her in the plot’s bloody conclusion. However, the specific details of this general narrative differ in the various editions of Wedekind’s Earth Spirit, Pandora’s Box, and the Urfassung, and have further evolved in the countless scripts edited for theatre and film productions since 1898 (when Earth Spirit was staged for the first time), as well as in translations of the plays into different languages. The political impetus [End Page 31] of the central themes in the many Lulu texts and productions is also ambivalent. In various theatre productions and critical texts, Lulu has been a femme fatale, a Lolita, and a passive surface for men’s projected desires; alternatively, she has appeared as a modern woman, a paragon of female sexual liberation, and a feminist avenger.38

The first published editions and theatre productions of Earth Spirit and Pandora’s Box maintained lust as a leitmotif while largely omitting the overt eroticism that the Urfassung and later iterations highlighted. With the loosening of censorship laws in the Weimar era, the film Lulus of the 1920s had more freedom to explore sexual themes. Gutjahr points to Nielsen’s Lulu performance in the 1923 silent film Erdgeist, directed by Leopold Jessner, as the most obvious enactment of the femme fatale trope.39 Nielsen presented a new sinister quality in Lulu, which Jessner emphasized with the dark, ominous atmospherics of cinematographic expressionism. Brooks’s 1929 film Lulu was more playful, but she also seemed calculated because she was so evidently in control of herself, particularly in her movements. The filmic medium amplified the erotic relationship between Brooks’s Lulu and the male characters, extending by proxy to the audience. Pabst’s point-of-view shots often situated the viewer in the position of Lulu’s lovers, and frequent close-up shots of Brooks’s face engaged the viewer directly with the canny seductive play of her eyes and lips.

By the 1980s, sex and nudity had become passé in German theatre and film (both West and East) and all but expected for roles like Lulu. To provoke a sense of scandal, the 1988 production made the erotic content of the plays more explicit and pushed it to the forefront. Promotional posters featured a drawing of a naked woman from the waist down and a diminutive male figure standing with his face directly level with her exposed labia. Onstage, Lothar’s Lulu spent a majority of the production topless and she threaded overt erotic gestures and at times graphic, if intentionally inept, attempts at seduction throughout the performance.40 Foregrounding the parallel thread of sexual commerce that is more pronounced in the Urfassung than in Erdgeist and Pandora’s Box, the 1988 production further engaged with themes of exchange and exploitation to advance its political critique. Rouse contends that “[i]n Zadek’s version, Lulu is no longer a femme fatale, but is a victim of the sexual economy. From this perspective, her victimization of the men takes on a new meaning.”41 The 1988 production distanced Lulu farther from the stereotype of feminine sexual danger as her manipulation and predation of the men in the play became inseparable from their originating exploitation of her.

For critics like Rouse, Lothar’s nudity throughout the performance was effective in this critique: she “succeeded in presenting her own nudity unselfconsciously, and this empowered her interpretation, for Lulu’s body is the only currency she can trade for love. It is also the only part of herself validated by male desire.”42 The 1988 production was not unequivocally feminist, however. In a retrospective analysis, German theatre [End Page 32] historian Renate Möhrmann (2004) notes that scholarship and reviews described, but did not critically engage with, the sexist tropes that adhere in Wedekind’s text; as a result, according to Möhrmann, such tropes intensify in productions like Zadek’s because they present Lulu as a passive sexual object, a body determined by sexual trade, and, in the most common interpretation, a screen for projection.43 She is particularly wary of Zadek’s presentation of Lulu as the “predator as depredated woman,” which doubles its effect in the “actress as dissected person, defenselessly subjected to the fantasies of her director.”44 At the same time, Möhrmann implicitly reinforces a paradigm that accords a certain degree of passivity to the actress and primary authority over the production to the director. Suggesting that Lothar is defenseless (schutzlos) and submissive to the shaping force of the director, she makes one feminist claim while negating another potentiality.

The conflicting analyses that Rouse and Möhrmann draw from the 1988 production illustrate the ambivalent politics of Wedekind’s texts, and also the difficulty that productions face when trying to use the Lulu plays to stage feminist critique. With its excess of visual and musical cues, the 2011 Lulu sidestepped the problem of critique in the plays altogether for most critics, who found that the production divested the Lulu material of its political themes and focused instead on creating its encompassing aesthetic experience.45 In his review for the Berliner Zeitung, Dirk Pilz writes that “’Lulu’ the beastliest social-critically invested drama of demise becomes ‘Lulu’ an art-something that meanders past every social-critical beastliness.”46 The 2011 Lulu only hinted at the eroticism in Wedekind’s plays, instead emphasizing the parallel theme of death, which lent itself more readily to Wilson’s preference for allegory and shadow theatre. Several critics categorize the production as a Totentanz (death dance),47 and many felt that the figures onstage appeared to be in a dream-like state or trance. The subject status of the characters was opaque, and the occurrences in the 2011 production came across as incidental rather than the result of active decisions. “Giving up the stereotype of the femme fatale,” Vianello determines, “Wilson makes of Lulu the pivot of destinies that cross each other, not the cause of tragedies.”48 Importantly for the perceived political impact of the production, critics’ repeated descriptions of the performers as marionettes within this dance of shadows reflected an overriding sense that they lacked agency.

Wilson’s depoliticizing “l’art pour l’art” approach to the Lulu material appears to be an exception that reinforces a more pervasive impetus in recent productions to interpret and stage the Lulu plays as feminist critique. The promotional material of the 2019 production explicitly situated itself in this discourse; the program declared,

[n]ow it’s the time of #MeToo, Harvey Weinstein has been charged, the Nobel Prize for Literature has been suspended, toxic masculinity has been recognized in its brutal and [End Page 33] degrading forms, and it’s increasingly being prosecuted. So it’s time for Lulu to be locked away in the cabinet of poisons. Or does Wedekind also sketch out a state of unrest and the brutal, societal organisation of oppression—which Lulu is finally able to talk about?49

To answer this question, the production attempted to stage a dialogue between Wedekind and contemporary theorists of gender and sexuality, as outlined above. Rather than looking to enact critique from within and against the drama through the production and performance, the 2019 Lulu thereby relied upon external referents and constructed interlocutors outside of the dramatic text. In doing so, this dramaturgical apparatus placed critical authority with the identified feminist authors cited throughout the production rather than with the actors and their performances.

For most critics, the production’s reliance upon patently feminist text and media to supplement or counter Wedekind’s drama was ultimately unproductive.50 Anna Gien was outraged that her novel M (coauthored with Marlene Stark) was included among the works quoted in the production. In an essay published with the print and online culture magazine monopol, she writes that

Pucher’s #MeToo-Musical . . . is the epitome of spectacle feminism run rampant. A spectacle in which everything from the past few years that has to do with women suffering, fighting, being raped and harassed, writing, taking a political position, resisting, is thrown into the Thermomix, spun once in the cervix-grinder, sprinkled with a few drops of fresh menstrual blood and sold for €12,99 as “radical,” “sexy,” and “vulgar.”51

The fact that the Volksbühne did not consult with the authors about using their text only reinforces Gien’s censure of the production as appropriative.52 Exposing how it capitalized both artistically and commercially on feminist writers, she further reveals that the production inadvertently reanimated the exploitative economic structures critiqued by Wedekind’s dramas themselves. In his review of the production for Kultura-Extra, Stefan Block observes more directly that the predominant focus on materials outside of the Lulu plays resulted in a reanimation of the criticized content in them, such that “in the end the same old clichés are just reproduced and reintroduced in image and tone.”53 For example, as Stangenberg’s look transformed from scene to scene with caricatured wigs and costumes she appeared to merely reiterate stereotypical [End Page 34] erotic fantasy figures. She respectively donned a dark wig and a maid’s uniform, transformed into a bleach-blonde Barbie doll, and performed as a showgirl complete with feathered headdress.

Stangenberg’s evolving appearance reflected the most conspicuous motif in Wede-kind’s Lulu plays: the representation of woman as a receptive surface for projected male desires. Whether true to the text or not, most productions of Lulu seem obliged to address this aspect of the plays in some way.54 In the 2004 production, viewers encountered only bodies and shadows until the final moments. In the concluding scene, the lights transitioned from bright white to cool blue with Lulu in the arms of a rather subdued and melancholy Jack, and then the entire theatre went dark. The large wall, by the end almost flush with the front edge of the stage, suddenly filled with a huge digital video of Haberlandt’s face. The perspective slowly zoomed in until only one of her eyes was visible, staring out at the audience, perhaps demanding acknowledgment without the possibility for possession. In the end, Haberlandt’s Lulu did become a projection, but she simultaneously subjected the audience to her gaze. She thereby invoked and rejected the passive object stance of her entrance at the beginning of the play.

Although the production did not explicitly position itself as such, critics and scholars have interpreted the 2004 Lulu and Haberlandt’s performance as Lulu as effective feminist engagement with Wedekind’s plays. Birgit Schmalmack writes that Haberlandt “denies the conventional erotic male fantasies and steers the question toward what it really is about her that draws men to her, and what it is they see in her.”55 Haberlandt’s Lulu notably remained fully clothed throughout the 2004 performance, and the expected scenes of seduction became a child’s giddy experiment with playing adult. Her girly dresses and six-inch heels looked more like items from a child’s costume chest than the trappings of a seductress. Rather than embodying the Lolita fantasy, however, Haberlandt’s performed childishness served to convey a child’s intense drive for autonomy in the face of subjugation.

Performing through Excess

Haberlandt consciously claimed the openness of the Lulu figure and chose to perform the role both in alignment and at odds with expectations and demands for the character.56 Criticism and scholarship on the 2004 production accordingly foregrounded not only her individual performance, but also her influence in the production. Marvin Carlson writes that the production’s “power [was] largely due to the memorable creation of Haberlandt.”57 More specifically, he claims that “it was Haberlandt’s cold but powerful and original interpretation that dominated the production.”58 Carlson’s assessment offers a nuanced examination of the characteristic directorial style attributed [End Page 35] to Thalheimer. He argues that performers such as Haberlandt should be acknowledged along with other production designers as “cocreators” and “significant contributors” in an ensemble’s aesthetic. That the 2004 Lulu successfully foregrounded Haberlandt’s presence and authority is evident in the central place the actress holds in much criticism and scholarship on the production. Critics frequently recognize her as an active agent in the production’s aesthetic and political innovations.

While Stangenberg and Winkler received critical praise for aspects of their individual performances, by contrast, their authority in the aesthetic and political impetus of the 2011 and 2019 productions overall was less evident in reviews. Assessing Winkler’s performance in the 2011 Lulu, Bazinger notes that “in Robert Wilson’s sign-system she is a dazzling great, integrated to best effect.”59 It is striking here that Bazinger situates Winkler under Wilson’s directorial force; it is Wilson’s vision that animates her potential for greatness, and he integrates her to fulfill this potential. Other reviews further emphasize the dominance of the songs, which not only produced their own sign-systems, but also disciplined the performers’ delivery and voices in evident ways.60 Combining distinctive and transformative makeup and costume design, encompassing set and lighting atmospherics, mechanical choreography, music, songs, and sound effects, the 2011 Lulu amassed powerful production elements in excess of the text that largely obfuscated Winkler’s individual contributions under its dramaturgical apparatus.

Similarly, critics had difficulty accessing Stangenberg’s performance through the proliferation of texts and media beyond Wedekind’s dramas in the 2019 Lulu. Gien observes that “in her role as a just sufficiently unruly male fantasy the lead actress disappears between a motley assortment of incendiary feminist speeches, which completely lose their impact here in this wild hodgepodge.”61 Stangenberg’s difficultly breaking through the veil of intertext consequently undermined the feminist critique of Wedekind’s femme fatale that the program and its dramaturgy so explicitly invoked. Aware of Stangenberg’s reputation for subversive feminist performances in other plays, some reviewers were puzzled by the decision to privilege external referents over the actress’s contributions. Peter Laudenback, critic for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, argues that “[e]ven back in the days of the old Castorf Volksbühne Lilith Stangenberg didn’t need any director’s concepts to take the image of femininity in the femme fatale and simultaneously cite it, to savor it with grandeur, and to scornfully deconstruct it.”62 In its attempt to silence the dramatic author, the 2019 Lulu shifted focus away from the lead actress’s interventions through the figure of Lulu and undercut her authority in the production’s political critique.

The question of whose Lulu we encounter thus has critical importance in the potential sociopolitical efficacy of any given Lulu. Critics identified aesthetic and political interventions in the 2004 Lulu because Haberlandt’s performance equaled or even exceeded the importance of other production elements. The production displaced authority over meaning-creation from the dramatic text and redistributed it across the dramaturgical apparatus, rather than situating it solely with the director; it consequently increased the potential to enact meaningful critique of and through the Lulu plays and the political themes they raise. [End Page 36]

The Lulus and Lulus examined in this essay demonstrate how dramaturgies of excess may either elevate or obscure performers’ contributions within and through them, and suggest a need to reconsider the dynamic exchange of determinative authority in dramatic performance and theatre history—from the smallest linguistic practice to the largest conceptual level—particularly when it comes to making claims about whose production and performance we encounter, and to what effects. Furthermore, considering dramaturgy as a process of meaning-production and distribution of production authority may offer an alternative, more collaborative mode of dramatic theatre in place of historically autocratic models, such as Regietheater. Such shifts are important more broadly in powerful systems like Germany’s subsidized public theatres, which are to this day largely dominated by male directors who, despite radical aesthetic visions, often perpetuate more conservative tendencies in the distribution of power across gender, sexuality, and race in the productions they stage. [End Page 37]

S.E. Jackson

S.E. Jackson is an assistant professor of German studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her first book examines the actress as a key figure, and actresses as influential participants in the development of modern German theatre and thought. Her essays have been published in Women in German Yearbook and GSR: German Studies Review. She is cofounder of GTPR: German Theater and Performance Research, an international network of scholars and educators. In her research and teaching, she focuses on theatre, performance, and feminist cultural history, as well as modernist studies, the history and philosophy of science, and classical reception.


1. I leave Urfassung in the original German because it carries connotations that do not resonate within the common English translation of “original.” Urfassung additionally implies the prototypical, ancestral, and primary version of the text. All English translations are my own unless otherwise specified.

2. Ortrud Gutjahr, ed., “Lulu gegen die Wand. Bild-Projektionen in Wedekinds Monstertragödie,” in Lulu von Frank Wedekind: Geschlechterszenen in Michael Thalheimers Aufführung am Thalia Theater Hamburg (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2006), 57–78, quote on 57.

3. The renown that an actress achieves for her Lulu performance is often tied to her “congenial master–muse relationship” with the director, such as the B.Z. Berlin review’s description of the frequent collaboration between Angela Winkler and Robert Wilson; see “Diese Frau verzaubert als Lulu die Stadt,” B.Z. Berlin, April 13, 2011, available at Sabine Hake examines the problematic relationship between actress and director constructed in criticism and scholarship in the case of Louise Brooks and G. W. Pabst in her essay, “The Continuous Provocation of Louise Brooks,” German Politics & Society 32 (1994): 58–75.

4. See Marvin Carlson, Theatre Is More Beautiful Than War (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2009); and Hans-Thies Lehmann, Postdramatic Theatre, trans. Karen Jürs-Munby (London: Routledge, 2006).

5. For more on this, see Johannes Pankau, “Wechselnde Blicke: Fortschreibungen von Wedekinds Lulu im Medientransfer und in Theaterinszenierungen der Gegenwart,” in Lulu von Frank Wedekind, 79–106.

6. See Karin Littau, “Refractions of the Feminine: The Monstrous Transformations of Lulu,” MLN 110, no. 4 (1995): 888–912; see also Ortrud Gutjahr, “Lulu. Rollen auf den Leib geschrieben,” in Wedekinds Welt: Theater–Eros–Provokation, ed. Manfred Mittmayer and Silvia Bengesser (Leipzig: Henschel, 2014), 107–16.

7. Whether his death is intentional or accidental is a point of interpretation.

8. Gutjahr, “Lulu,” 108–9.

9. Review of Erdgeist, Schaubühne Berlin, 1913. Durieux #520, Sektion Darstellende Kunst, Akadamie der Künste Archiv, Berlin.

10. Review of Erdgeist, Deutsche Tageszeitung, September 24, 1904. Criticism (V) #R7452, Max Reinhardt Archive and Library, Binghamton University Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives, Binghamton University.

11. Gutjahr, “Lulu,” 116.

12. Feminist theatre historians like Gay Gibson Cima and Penny Farfan have demonstrated and contested this tendency. Cima uncovers how actresses influenced modern theatre developments through close working relationships with figures like Ibsen and Brecht in Performing Women: Female Characters, Male Playwrights, and the Modern Stage (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993). Farfan examines female performances onstage and off along with writing by such women as Virginia Woolf in Women, Modernism, and Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004). On feminist theatre historiography, see also the essays in Maggie B. Gale and Viv Gardner’s edited volume, Women, Theatre and Performance (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000).

13. Quoted from Zadek’s 1988 program book for Lulu in Pitt Herrmann, “Ruhrfestspiele 1991_Lulu,” Sonntagsnachrichten, Herne, 1991, (link no longer active).

14. Ibid.

15. John Rouse, “The 1988 Berlin Theatertreffen,” Theatre Journal 40, no. 4 (1988): 532–40, quote on 533.

16. In a second essay on the production, Rouse notes that the pace was “extraordinarily rapid, so rapid that even native speakers continually miss bits and pieces”; see his “A Monster Tragedy / A Tragedy of Monsters: Peter Zadek’s Lulu,” Theater 20, no. 1 (1988): 84–88, quote on 84.

17. For more on the history of the Urfassung, see ibid.

18. See the interviews with Thalheimer and Haberlandt in Lulu von Frank Wedekind, 117–30; see also David Levine, “Interview with Michael Thalheimer,”—Artists in Conversation, November 29, 2007, available at

19. Rudolf Mast, “Sterben muss sie dennoch,” Freitag: Die Ost- West- Wochenzeitung, May 3, 2004, available at

20. Rüdiger Schaper, “’Lulu’ an der Volksbühne. MeToo und die Monster,” Der Tagesspiegel, May 31, 2019, available at

21. Elena Philipp, “Critical Maleness,”, May 30, 2019, available at

22. Schaper, “’Lulu’ an der Volksbühne.”

23. Philipp, “Critical Maleness.”

24. André Mumot, “Neuinszenierung von ‘Lulu’ in Berlin. Kampf der Karikaturen,” Deutschlandfunk Kultur, May 30, 2019, available at

25. Barbara Behrendt, “Wedekinds ‘Lulu’ an Berliner Volksbühne: Feministischer Reißbrett-Entwurf,” Deutschlandfunk, May 31, 2019, available at Schaper calls the alternate ending in the 2019 production “pretty kitschy erotic” in his review “’Lulu’ an der Volksbühne.”

26. Daniele Vianello, “Bob Wilson: Lulu between Theatre, Visual Arts, and Musical,” Western European Stages 24, no. 2 (2012): 87–92.

27. Ibid., 88–89.

28. Irene Bazinger, “Das ist die Liebe der Marionetten,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, April 14, 2011, available at Villiger Heilig offers a different interpretation in her review, suggesting that Wilson’s surrealism is true to Wedekind’s anti-naturalism, in “Lulu im Wunderland,” Neue Zürcher Zeitung, April 14, 2011, available at

29. Bazinger, “Das ist die Liebe der Marionetten.”

30. Stefan Kirschner, “Wedekinds ‘Lulu’ an der Volksbühne: Mann bleibt Mann,” Berliner Morgenpost, May 31, 2019, available at

31. In her review for the Tageszeitung, Esther Slevogt challenges Wilson’s signature hyper-aesthetic design as “concentrated virtuosity of the superficial”; reprinted in “Kritikenrundschau,”, April 12, 2011, available at See also Michael Laages, “Schlimme Schönheit. Bob Wilson inszeniert Wedekinds ‘Lulu’ am Berliner Ensemble,” Deutschlandfunk, April 13, 2011, available at; Elke Vogel, “Zart entrückt: Angela Winkler als ‘Lulu,’” Stern, April 13, 2011, available at; Michael Bienert “Auf der sicheren Seite,” Stuttgarter Zeitung, April 14, 2011, available at; Wolfgang Behrens, “Die Schlafwandlerin in der Zypressenallee,”, April 12, 2011, available at; Manuel Brug, “Lauter Theatertote ohne Begräbnis,” Welt, April 14, 2011, available at; Dirk Pilz, “Review of Lulu directed by Robert Wilson,” Berliner Zeitung, April 14, 2011, reprinted in “Kritikenrundschau,”, April 12, 2011, available at; and Rüdiger Schaper, “Der letzte Stich,” Der Tagesspiegel, April 14, 2011, available at; in addition to Vianello, “Bob Wilson”; Bazinger, “Das ist die Liebe der Marionetten”; and Kirschner, “Wedekinds ‘Lulu’ an der Volksbühne.”

32. Bazinger, “Das ist die Liebe der Marionetten.”

33. Behrens, “Die Schlafwandlerin in der Zypressenallee”; see also Pilz, “ Review of Lulu directed by Robert Wilson.”

34. Laages, “Schlimme Schönheit.”

35. See reviews by Bazinger, Behrens, Bienert, and Vianello. Pilz describes the performers’ “marionette-puppet-movements” (Marionettenpuppenbewegungen); Brug describes the performers as “acting puppets” (Schauspielpuppen); and Villiger Heilig details how the production appears as a “comic-strip, revue, silent film, pantomime, puppet play (Puppenspiel),” in “Lulu im Wunderland.” Schaper calls the production a “remote-controlled Vaudeville show,” in “Der letzte Stich.”

36. See Ronald Meyer-Arlt, “Das weiße Quadrat,” Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung, February 29, 2004.

37. Jörg Schönert, “Interview mit Fritzi Haberlandt,” in Lulu von Frank Wedekind, 117–24.

38. For different interpretations of gender, sexuality, and the feminist potential of the Lulu plays, see the essays in Wedekinds Welt; Ruth Florack, “Erotik als Provokation und Projektion: zu Frank Wedekinds Lulu,” in Lulu von Frank Wedekind, 19–29, and her monograph Wedekinds ‘Lulu’. Zerrbild der Sinnlichkeit (Tübingen: Max Niemyer, 1995).

39. Gutjahr, “Lulu,” 113.

40. See Rouse, “A Monster Tragedy.”

41. Rouse, “The 1988 Berlin Theatertreffen,” 533.

42. Ibid.

43. Renate Möhrmann, “Frauen und Theater,” in Theater, Kunst, Wissenschaft: Festschrift für Wolfgang Greisenegger zum 66. Geburtstag, ed. Wolfgang Greisenegger, Edda Fuhrich, and Hilde Haider-Pregler (Vienna: Böhlau, 2004), 277–82.

44. Ibid., 282.

45. See Laages, Bienert, Behrens, Brug, Pilz, Kirschner, and Schaper. Vianello alternatively suggests that “desire and sex appear abstract, observed and analysed from afar in the Brechtian style,” in “Bob Wilson,” 88.

46. Pilz, “Review of Lulu.”

47. See Pilz, Vianello, and Behrens.

48. Vianello, “Bob Wilson,” 89.

49. Original English translation from the Volksbühne Berlin website, available at

50. See Philipp, Behrendt, Kirschner, Mumot. See also Anna Gien, “’Lulu’ an der Volksbühne. Feminismus-Theater der widerlichsten Sorte,” monopol. Magazin für Kunst und Leben, June 9, 2019, available at; Peter Laudenbach, “Spargel gegen Sexismus,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, June 3, 2019, available at; Stefan Block, “Pop-Revue mit radikal-feministischen Fremdtexteinlagen,” Kultura Extra, June 2, 2019, available at; and Esther Slevogt, “Vamp und Postergirl,” taz, June 3, 2019, available at!5596697; and Bernd Noack, “Feminismusgebell im Theater,” Neue Zürcher Zeitung, June 7, 2019, available at In her review for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (June 1, 2019), Irene Bazinger similarly criticizes the device, but notes that the production was at least entertaining.

51. Gien, “’Lulu’ an der Volksbühne.”

52. Ibid. Gien writes that she and Stark were surprised to learn that their novel was part of the production, “because the Volksbühne, by its own admission, forgot to ask [them] or [their] publisher if they would agree to having their text used.”

53. Block, “Pop-Revue mit radikal-feministischen Fremdtexteinlagen.” Behrendt makes a similar argument in “Wedekinds ‘Lulu’ an Berliner Volksbühne.”

54. On image and projection in the 2011 production, see Laages; and in the 2019 production, see Schaper.

55. Birgit Schmalmack, “Unverstellte Begierden,” Hamburgtheater, February 3, 2004, available at Armgard Seegers offers a similar interpretation in her review, “Eine Kindfrau unter Schlappschwänzen,” Hamburger Abendblatt, March 1, 2004, available at

56. See Haberlandt’s comments on her development of the Lulu role in the “Interview mit Fritzi Haberlandt.”

57. Carlson, Theatre Is More Beautiful Than War, 151.

58. Ibid.

59. Bazinger, “Das ist die Liebe der Marionetten.”

60. See Vogel and Brug.

61. Gien, “’Lulu’ an der Volksbühne.”

62. Laudenbach, “Spargel gegen Sexismus.”

Additional Information

Print ISSN
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.