Crisis and Critique: Berlin Theater Today (May 5)

Flyer for Crisis and Critique

Flyer for Crisis and Critique, © Northwestern University Press

29.04.2022 - Article

Deutsches Haus at NYU presents a conversation among Brandon Woolf, Olivia Landry, and Sasha Marianna Salzmann, moderated by David Savran, which will focus on the recent publications by Brandon Woolf (Institutional Theatrics: Performing Arts Policy in Post-Wall Berlin) and Olivia Landry (Theatre of Anger: Radical Transnational Performance in Contemporary Berlin).

In this conversation, our panelists will confront the changing cultural landscape and role of contemporary theater in Berlin today and examine how theater operates at the intersection of performance and politics. What does it mean in our contemporary society to construct political theater? What can Berlin as a case study teach us about how theater and performance contribute to a reimagining of public institutions in times of social crisis? What might the future of German theater look like and how do changing demographics and publics factor in?

About the books:

Olivia Landry’s Theatre of Anger: Radical Transnational Performance in Contemporary Berlin

In Theatre of Anger, Olivia Landry offers a provocative new vision of anger as more than just hate and violence. Studying the work of a new generation of transnational theatre practitioners in Berlin, she illuminates how anger can be an affirmative and critical tool in the project of social justice and resistance. To develop her theory of anger, Landry delves into philosophical texts, theatre history, and Black feminist theory from Aristotle, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, and Bertolt Brecht to Audre Lorde, bell hooks, and Sara Ahmed.

Landry focuses not only on the social and political significance of the theatre of anger and the ways in which it rages against racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, sexism, and homophobia, but also on its aesthetic and theoretical innovation. Through readings of key works, Theatre of Anger asks what it means in our present world to construct political theatre.

Brandon Woolf’s Institutional Theatrics: Performing Arts Policy in Post-Wall Berlin

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, political and economic agendas in the reunified German capital have worked to dismantle long-standing traditions of state‑subsidized theater even as the city has redefined itself as a global arts epicenter. Institutional Theatrics charts the ways theater artists have responded to these shifts and crises both on- and offstage, offering a method for rethinking the theater as a vital public institution.

What is the future of the German theater, grounded historically in large ensembles, extensive repertoires, and auteur directors? Examining the restructuring of Berlin’s theatrical landscape and most prominent performance venues, Brandon Woolf argues that cultural policy is not simply the delegation and distribution of funds. Instead, policy should be thought of as an artistic practice of institutional imagination. Woolf demonstrates how performance can critique its patron institutions in order to transform the relations between the stage and the state, between the theater and the infrastructures of its support. Bold, nuanced, and rigorously documented, Institutional Theatrics offers new insights about art, its administration, and the forces that influence cultural production.

About the participants:

Olivia Landry is Assistant Professor of German and Director of Film and Documentary Studies at Lehigh University. In addition to various articles in the fields of film, theater, gender, and performance studies, she is the author of Movement and Performance in Berlin School Cinema (Indiana University Press, 2019), Theatre of Anger: Radical Transnational Performance in Berlin (University of Toronto Press, 2021), and A Decolonizing Ear: Documentary Film Disrupts the Archive (University of Toronto Press, forthcoming 2022).

Sasha Marianna Salzmann is a playwright, novelist, curator and director. They were the co-founder of the culture magazine freitext and the artistic director of STUDIO Я. Salzmann also co-founded NIDS – New Institute for Drama, where they gave workshops on political writing. Their theatric work is translated, shown and awarded in over 20 countries. 2017 Salzmann finished their first novel, Beside Myself, which is translated into 16 languages and won two major German awards for best debut novel. Beside Myself was on the short list for the Book Prize 2017, Premio Strega Europeo 2019 and Central European Literature Award ANGELUS. In 2021 their second novel “Im Menschen muss alles herrlich sein” was as well nominated for the the German Book Prize.

David Savran (moderator) holds a Ph.D. in theatre arts from Cornell University. His major publications include: Breaking the Rules: The Wooster Group (1988); In Their Own Words: Contemporary American Playwrights (1988); Communists, Cowboys and Queers: The Politics of Masculinity in the Work of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams (1992); Taking It Like a Man: White Masculinity, Masochism, and Contemporary American Culture (1998); The Playwright’s Voice: American Dramatists on Memory, Writing, and the Politics of Culture (1999); and A Queer Sort of Materialism: Recontextualizing American Theatre (2003) and Highbrow/Lowdown: Theater, Jazz, and the Making of the New Middle Class (2010). He is coeditor of Journal of American Drama and Theatre and has served as vice president of the American Society for Theatre Research.

Brandon Woolf is an interdisciplinary theater artist and clinical associate professor at New York University, where he directs the Program in Dramatic Literature. Institutional Theatrics, his book https://as.nyu.edu/faculty/brandon-woolf.htmlon contemporary performance and cultural policy in Berlin, was published by Northwestern University Press in 2021. Brandon also co-edited Postdramatic Theatre and Form (Bloomsbury Methuen, 2019), and is currently collaborating with Stew, the Tony Award-winning playwright and composer of Passing Strange, on a book that explores Stew’s catalogue of performance works in the context of intersecting discourses on race, theater, and rock ‘n’ roll (forthcoming from University of Michigan Press). Concurrent with his scholarship, Brandon’s artistic work explores theater’s capacity as a social practice. Over the last decade he co-founded and co-directed three public performance ensembles – Culinary Theater, Shakespeare im Park Berlin, and the UC Movement for Efficient Privatization [UCMeP]. His recent site-specific work, The Console, was profiled in the New York Times and subsequently by a broad array of local and international outlets including Barbara Fuchs’ Theater of Lockdown (Bloomsbury Methuen, 2021) and The Kelly Clarkson Show on daytime TV.

“Crisis and Critique: Berlin Theater Today” is funded by the DAAD from funds of the German Federal Foreign Office (AA).

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