Academic journal article German Quarterly

Modern German Political Drama 1980-2000

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Modern German Political Drama 1980-2000

Article excerpt

Haas, Birgt. Modern German Political Drama 1980-2000. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2003. 239 pp. $75.00 hardcover.

In her study, Birgit Haas seeks to provide "an overview of recent developments" (vii) in the theatrical realm that are related to, or have been (directly or indirectly) influenced by, changes in the political landscape-changes among which, needless to say, the Wende of 1989/1990 was by far the most consequential event. Haas rejects the notion that during the last twenty years or so there has been a "'theater crisis'" owing to the lack of "politically committed theater" (2), and she does indeed appear to present sufficient evidence in the form of analyses of an impressive array of plays by authors with well-established reputations (e.g., Heiner Müller, Volker Braun, Christoph Hein, Rolf Hochhuth, Franz Xaver Kroetz, and Botho Strauß), dramatists of a younger generation who were born in the 1960s (Dea Loher, Theresia Waiser, and Oliver Bukowski, among others), and rising stars (for example, Albert Ostermaier) to buttress her thesis that "political" theater is alive and well. One wonders, however, whether the erstwhile slogan of the feminist movement "Das Private ist politisch" (7), provides sufficient justification for the very broad concept of the "political drama" that is underlying Haas's reading of individual plays. For instance, there would seem to be a considerable difference between dramas with an explicit political thrust such as Bertolt Brecht's Der Aufstieg des Arturo Ui (the revised title of the play used by the authoritative Große kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe], which in 1995 was revived in a spectacular production at the Berliner Ensemble by the late Heiner Müller, or Hochhuth's more recent Wessis in Weimar, on the one hand, and Kerstin Specht's Froschkönigin, an "enjoyable and never boring" play in which "coincidence drives the highly unlikely plot" (152), on the other. A more differentiated approach to the category of the "political" might have been in order.

True, Haas makes a valiant effort, especially in her introduction, to establish the political context in which the plays discussed originated. Furthermore, she evaluates dramas in subchapters under headings that do emphasize their political components: Green issues, the memory of the Holocaust, German reunification, women in society today, and so on. …

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