The Playgoer: What's Happening in Berlin?

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What's Happening in Berlin?

The New York Times sure spends a lot sending its lead critic to London.  But never Berlin--which many would say is now the true capital of European theatre.

Take it from the Brits, in fact.  The Guardian has thankfully sent their top man, Michael Billington, there to report back to non Deutsch speakers.

One of the secrets to German theatre's success?

It was the dominant design, however, that really hit me. But then everything about the Deutsches Theater is on a grand scale. It has no less than 60 productions in its repertory, spread over three auditoria, has a state subsidy of nearly €20m (£17.2m) and employs a staff of 282 people. In terms of funding, it is comparable to our National Theatre, yet one should remember that, in Germany's widespread theatrical culture, cities such as Hamburg and Cologne boast similarly well-endowed institutions.
Okay, not so secret, maybe.

By the way-- that €20m (£17.2m)? That's nearly $28 million US.... And all of Germany is about the size of Texas.

P.S. For a good primer on recent German theatre and directors, see Marvin Carlson's recent book.


isaac butler said...


I'll be honest, just about at the bottom of my list of things to criticize the Times theatre coverage about is whether or not they're sending Ben Brantley to a diverse enough list of foreign cities. I'd rather that he spent more of his London trips covering more stuff around the US or even around New York.

Plus, there's an easy justification for both B-Squared's emphasis on London and the Guardian sending someone over to Germany: Impact. German theater has little-to-no impact on American theater outside of the small number of shows that make it to BAM or the Lincoln Center Fest. German Opera practice probably has a lot more impact on American Opera, but I don't follow Opera so I don't know.

Also, British theater is a lot more similar to American theater (being largely text rather than director based and, you know, in English) so critiquing it-- or even understanding it-- is easier.

Playgoer said...

I actually didn't mean to work up any kind of bloggy outrage over the Times' dearth of Berlin coverage--but it is an oversight worth correcting for them. Everything you say, Isaac, about their London bias is totally understandable--but that doesn't make it ok. In fact your description only points up how lazy and myopic it is of them. (No surprise there in NYT theatre coverage.) And I find it funny that NYT certainly covers the art and music scene in Germany, but not the theatre there.

And I actually do know of many NY theatre artists very keyed into and influenced by the Berlin scene. There would probably even more if we got to read about more about it.

Anonymous said...

@isaac butler: Because we wouldn't want to expand our experience and knowledge of different styles of theatre now, would we?