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Theatertreffen 2019: What’s coming

These productions will head to the Berliner Festspiele in May: The jury has convened and the invitations are out – the seven-headed panel has announced the 10 most important theatre productions in the German-speaking world.

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She She Pop. Photo by Doro Tuch

The jury has convened and the invitations are out: after eight hours of deliberation, Theatertreffen has announced the 10 most important theatre productions in the German-speaking world last year to be staged in the Haus der Berliner Festspiele this spring (May 3-19).

Among them, three Berlin productions stood out to the jury. Performance collective She She Pop’s Oratorium made the cut, a participative Brechtian polemic on property that redefines the concept of the chorus in theatre, which premiered at HAU last February before touring Europe. From the Sophienæle, Thorsten Lensing’s production of David Foster Wallace’s gargantuan encyclopaedic novel on the American zeitgeist, Unendlicher Spaß (Infinite Jest), which has now been taken on by the Volksbühne, was also extended an invitation. Finally, the Deutsches Theater’s Persona, a co-production with the Malmö Stadsteater directed by Anna Bergmann and based on the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman’s (no relation) homonymous film was also distinguished by the jury.

Dresden’s Staatsschauspiel can count two wins with Ulrich Rasche and Alexander Weise’s Das Große Heft (The Notebook), based on the French novel by the Hungarian writer Ágota Kristóf, and Sebastian Hartmann’s take on Dostoyevsky’s Erniedrigte und Beleidigte (Humiliated and Insulted). Meanwhile, rising star of the theatre world Ersan Mondtag cements his position among the top tier of German directors with his third invitation to the Theatertreffen for Das Internat, a production he wrote and directed for Dortmund’s Schauspielhaus. If you can’t wait until May to find out what all the fuss is about, check out his take on Oscar Wilde’s Salome at Gorki.

Of course, it wouldn’t be 2019 without questions about representation coming right out of the gate, and they certainly were warranted – following the press conference in the Q&As, jury member Dorothea Marcus agreed with the accusation that the Theatertreffen is just “white theatre for white people” and lamented the fact that this year’s selections reflect a largely homogenous pool of productions.

Despite a continuation of last year’s gender-focused “Burning Issues” conference, only three of this year’s selections were produced by women – a disappointing figure, even in a male-dominated scene. This year’s selections also largely ignore questions of post-colonialism, migration and right-wing populism – the substance of innumerable productions in Berlin that now fail to gain recognition on a national level. In this respect, the Theatertreffen’s Stückemarkt, a parallel festival for young international talent with budding authors representing every continent bar Antarctica, is a much-needed counterbalance that could shift the festival’s perspective onto truly burning issues.

Here are all 10 selected plays:

Das große Heft Staatsschauspiel Dresden | Dir: Ulrich Rasche

Das Internat Schauspiel Dortmund | Dir: Ersan Mondtag

Dionysos Stadt Münchner Kammerspiele | Dir: Christopher Rüping

Erniedrigte und Beleidigte Staatsschauspiel Dresden | Dir: Sebastian Hartmann 

Girl From The Fog Machine Factory Gessnerallee Zürich | Dir: Thom Luz

Hotel Strindberg Burgtheater, Wien | Dir: Simon Stone

Oratorium HAU Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin | Dir: She She Pop

Persona Deutsches Theater, Berlin | Dir: Anna Bergmann

Tartuffe oder das Schwein der Weisen Theater Basel | Dir: Claudia Bauer

Unendlicher Spaß Sophiensæle, Berlin | Dir: Thorsten Lensing

Salome, Maxim Gorki Theater, Feb 16, 17, Mar 25 Unendlicher Spaß, Volksbühne, Feb 2, 3, Apr 11, 12