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Featured: Volksbühne and Frank Castorf (Berlin, Germany)


A Theatre of the People
The Volksbühne in the centre of Berlin is one of the leading and most innovative theatres of both Berlin and Germany. It was established in 1914 as a result of a grassroots people’s movement. Erwin Piscator, in the 1920s, and Benno Besson, in the 1970s, had a huge influence on the theatre. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Frank Castorf became director-general. He turned it into perhaps the most successful, but certainly the most controversial theatre in reunified Germany.

A Theatre of Directors
With its paradoxical objectives to be élitist and populist, eccentric and appealing to the masses, it simultaneously radiates a mood of awakening and the awareness of futility; it tears down the classical limits of the theatre, but also confirms them in a reflective way.

The Volksbühne’s image is characterised by Frank Castorf’s seismographic investigations into the present and his multimedia novel adaptations, by Christoph Marthaler’s monuments of standstill, Christoph Schlingensief’s theatre-blasting actions and by the works of René Pollesch, the paradoxical-critical director of turbo-capitalism. But also the regular theory, music, literature and film events, as well as the ”Thematic Weekends”, which all contribute to Volksbühne’s ”concept of expanded theatre”, are integral components of this theatre. This website complements our endeavour to provide a critical audience with both entertaining theatre and an ongoing debate on political and cultural issues.

Frank Castorf

Born in East Berlin on 17 June 1951. Studied Theatre Sciences at Humboldt University, Berlin. 1976—1979 literary manager in Senftenberg, first own productions there. 1979-1981 director at Brandenburg Theatre, from 1981-1985 own free ensemble at Anklam Theatre. This was followed by productions at various East German theatres and, in 1989, first productions in the west in Cologne and Basel.

After the Berlin Wall came dome he worked as a freelance director in Hamburg, Munich, Berlin and Basel. In 1990 he was in-house director at the Deutsches Theater, Berlin, before he became manager of the Berliner Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, which he runs to this day. Until 2000 he also regularly produced plays at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg, as well as in Vienna, Salzburg, Bochum, Zurich and Stockholm.

In addition to his executive position in Berlin, he took charge of the Ruhr Festival Recklinghausen in 2004, but was sacked again after one festival due to shrinking audience numbers, a decision that became something of a cause célèbre.In the annual critics’ survey of the “Theater heute” journal Castorf has been voted director of the year five times since 1989 and was awarded the Kortner Prize in 1994.

Works @ Volksbühne

Das trunkene Schiff, 1988 Volksbühne Berlin
Paris, Paris (Sojas Wohnung), 1988 Deutsches Theater Berlin
Die Räuber, 1990, Volksbühne Berlin
König Lear, Rheinische Rebellen und Fremde in der Nacht, 1992, Volksbühne Berlin
Clockwork Orange und Frau am Meer, 1993, Volksbühne Berlin
Pension Schöller: die Schlacht und Die Sache Danton, 1994, Volksbühne Berlin
Nibelungen – Born Bad, Pelmeni und Gescheiterte Vorstellung, 1995, Volksbühne Berlin
Golden fließt der Stahl und Der Auftrag, 1996, Volksbühne Berlin
Des Teufels General, 1996, Volksbühne Berlin
Trainspotting, 1997, Volksbühne Berlin
Schmutzige Hände und Terrodrom, 1998, Volksbühne Berlin
Richard II., 1999, Volksbühne Berlin
Dämonen, 2000, Volksbühne Berlin, Koproduktion mit den Wiener Festwochen
Erniedrigte und Beleidigte, 2001, Volksbühne Berlin, Koproduktion mit den Wiener Festwochen
Der Meister und Margarita, 2002, Volksbühne Berlin, Koproduktion mit den Wiener Festwochen
Der Idiot, 2002, Volksbühne Berlin
Forever Young (Süßer Vogel Jugend), 2003, Volksbühne Berlin, Koproduktion mit den Wiener Festwochen
Kokain, 2004, Volksbühne Berlin
Gier nach Gold, 2004, Volksbühne Berlin, Koproduktion mit den Ruhrfestspielen Recklinghausen
Meine Schneekönigin, 2005, Volksbühne Berlin
Der Marterpfahl, 2005, Volksbühne Berlin
Groß und Klein, 2005, Volksbühne Berlin
Schuld und Sühne, 2005, Volksbühne Berlin, Koproduktion mit den Wiener Festwochen
Im Dickicht der Städte, 2006, Volksbühne Berlin
Meistersinger, 2006
National de Chaillot
Nord, 2007
Emil und die Detektive, 2007
Berlin Alexanderplatz, 2007
Hunde – Reichtum ist die Kotze des Glücks, 2008
Kean ou Désordre et Genie Comédie en cinq actes par Alexandre Dumas et Die Hamletmaschine par Heiner Müller, 2008
Amanullah Amanullah, 2009

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Caden Manson is Editor In Chief and Curator of Contemporary Performance Network and co-founder and artistic director of Big Art Group, a New York City performance company founded in 1999.
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