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Programme for the 2020/21 Season

In the upcoming 2020/21 season, the Volksbühne Berlin is planning to premiere eight productions on the main stage under the leitmotif of “POLIS / RESET”. The programme focuses on stories that ask about the options for political action and locate the conflicts from the major Greek tragedies and myths in the very centre of our present, permeating them with virulent societal parallels.

According to one of Heiner Müller's epigrams, “theatre is crisis” – which could serve as a sort of motto for the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons, as well as the upcoming one. The rest of the quote continues with: “It can only function as crisis and in a crisis, or it has no relation whatsoever to the society outside the theatre walls”. The plans for the new season continue the fundamental themes of the current season: With the “History Machine” we focussed on the upheavals of the 20th century and opened these up to the contradictions of our present – now we're drawing on Europe's oldest theatrical texts. Ancient tragedies and myths are far removed from our present – and yet they aim at existential questions that are still relevant for us today.

Programme with coronavirus measures

In consulting with the ensemble, the directors and creative teams over the past weeks, it became clear that some organisational elements must be restructured: including a “post-season” to accommodate the staging of productions and projects that couldn't take place because of the coronavirus shutdown. In the small venues – 3. Stock, Roter and Grüner Salon – there will be no shows with live audiences for the time being. Instead we're working on a digital programme for them, which includes the following event series: Armen Avanessian & Enemies, Real Talk, Was Ihr wollt! Die Neuen Auftraggeber, Kontinuitäten des Antisemitismus, Position mit Abstand, TransInterQueerer Salon and An Evening With.

The main stage is reopening in August with a reduced capacity of around 130 seats. This process of resuming live performances is being coordinated with the Berlin Senate Department of Culture, as well as other relevant authorities, and is based on a health and safety concept developed for the Volksbühne that will be adapted to the development of the pandemic in Berlin if necessary. Additional health and safety measures will apply to visitors' services and areas open to the public, as well as the workflows behind the scenes. The schedule for all premieres announced here is based on our plans as of June 2020, which are subject to change.

Season openers from Lucia Bihler and Thorleifur Örn Arnarrson

The 2020/21 season will open with resident director Lucia Bihler's main-stage production of "Iphigenie. TRAURIG UND GEIL IM TAURERLAND", based on Euripides and Stefanie Sargnagel. Iphigenia, daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, sister of Orestes and Electra, sacrificed to improve the Greeks' fortunes in the Trojan War – she’s described as an icon of female victim from Euripides to Goethe, but Lucia Bihler and her creative team are more interested in the recalcitrant aspects of this character, because: “The male perspective has been sucked dry like an old penis”, to quote the Viennese author Stefanie Sargnagel. Its premiere will be celebrated on September 11th.

The premiere of "Die Orestie" – directed by Thorleifur Örn Arnarsson, Volksbühne director of drama, and based on the tragedies by Aeschylus – will follow on October 1st. Arnarsson already transferred a classical tragedy into the present with his first production for the Volksbühne: "Eine Odyssee" based on Homer. Aeschylus leads us into the house of the Atrides and its brutal history: After his return from the Trojan War, Agamemnon is slain by his wife Clytemnestra; she thus avenges the death of her daughter Iphigenia. In turn, her son Orestes avenges his father's death by killing his mother. After this act he tries to flee, pursued mercilessly by the Erinnyes, who thirst for atonement. Is there a way out of this cycle of vendettas? Aeschylus, who experienced the birth of democracy in Athens, utilises a civil court as a solution. In his transference of the story, director Thorleifur Örn Arnarrson takes us on a journey into the roots of European culture and democracy.

Pınar Karabulut directs a main-stage production, Fritz Kater writes a new commissioned work

Eugene O'Neill, the astute disillusionist of the American Way of Life, translates the saga of the Atrides into a soap opera in the historical garb of the late 19th century with "Mourning becomes Electra". Director Pınar Karabulut, who brings strong women to the fore in her stagings and whose most recent Volksbühne production was of "Mamma Medea" by Tom Lanoye in the 3. Stock, directs this modern classic on the main stage. The premiere is on October 16th.

Jocasta, wife and mother of Oedipus, was the inspiration for the new commissioned play by Fritz Kater. Directed by Armin Petras, "come as you are. (jokastematerial oder der kapitalismus wird nicht siegen)" is a co-production with the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus. It's scheduled to premiere on the main stage on December 4th.

Productions from Claudia Bauer and Stefan Pucher

Claudia Bauer is returning to work at the Volksbühne in January 2021. Following her production of "Germania" by Heiner Müller, she's now delving into Ovid's stores of metamorphosis for the new season, searching for narratives about humanity after the Anthropocene. "Metamorphosen. [overcoming mankind]" is a speculative thought experiment between science fiction and science facts, which calls on current survival strategies from Dietmar Dath, Donna J. Haraway, Bruno Latour, James Lovelock and Stefano Mancuso as Ovid's accomplices.

The premiere of "Sisyphus" (working title) is also planned for January. This musical with strokes of melodrama focuses on the “poor bastard” Sisyphus, whose emotional blindness contradicts his compulsive need “to hyperactively get a lot of work done and be constantly busy”. It will be directed by Marius Schötz, who developed "vengapoise – ibiza sky", a musical premiere in the 3. Stock, at the beginning of 2020.

In February 2021, Alexander Eisenach will direct a production of "Oedipus" based on the tragedy by Sophocles. In his revision of the myth, Eisenach examines its presentations and adaptations from Voltaire through Friedrich Hölderlin to Heiner Müller.

Following his world premiere production of "legende" by Ronald M. Schernikau, director Stefan Pucher is also returning to work at the Volksbühne in the 2020/21 season. He's directing "Die Schutzbefohlenen" by Elfriede Jelinek, a bitingly polemical and linguistically virtuosic confrontation about the humanitarian failure on Europe's external borders. Written as a reaction to the protests by asylum seekers in Vienna in 2012, this text was never a play of the moment, but rather the beginning of a long-term theatrical observation, into which Aeschylus' tragedy "The Suppliants", among other texts, is woven and whose final results are still pending. In his staging, Pucher will take into account all the additional sections Jelinek has produced thus far. Its premiere will be in March 2021.

2019/20 postseason: world premieres from Alexander Eisenach and Ari Benjamin Meyers, Sasha Waltz & Guests Retrospective

Under the title of “postseason”, the Volksbühne is programming productions and projects that were originally planned for the 2019/20 season, but had to be cancelled due to the pandemic.

On August 27th, before the launch of the new 2020/21 season, director Alexander Eisenach will bring the world premiere of "Der Kaiser von Kalifornien" to the stage, a grand ensemble piece about departing for a new world, about gold fever, exploitation and easy money.

The world premiere of "Forecast" by American artist and composer Ari Benjamin Meyers is also part of this post-season programme. For this project Meyers researches the weather as phenomenon and uses it as a starting point for a performance about predictability, and the insatiable need for forecasts, knowledge and domination of Planet Earth. The premiere is scheduled for April 2021.

The Sasha Waltz & Guests retrospective is currently planned for May 2021 and features works by Sasha Waltz from various phases of her career, as well as a varied accompanying programme. The retrospective was originally scheduled for April 2020.

2020/21 Premieres

Based on Euripides and Stefanie Sargnagel

Director: Lucia Bihler
Premiere: September 9th, 2020

Die Orestie
By Thorleifur Örn Arnarsson based on Aeschylus

Director: Thorleifur Örn Arnarsson
Premiere: October 1st, 2020

Mourning becomes Electra
By Eugene O’Neill

Director: Pınar Karabulut
Premiere: October 16th, 2020

come as you are
(jokastematerial oder der kapitalismus wird nicht siegen)

By Fritz Kater
Director: Armin Petras
Co-production with the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus
World Premiere: December 4th, 2020

Metamorphosen [overcoming mankind]
Based on Ovid & accomplices

Director: Claudia Bauer
Premiere: January 2021

Sisyphus (working title)
A musical with strokes of melodrama by Marius Schötz

Director: Marius Schötz
Premiere: January 2021

Based on Sophocles

Director: Alexander Eisenach
Premiere: February 2021

By Elfriede Jelinek

Director: Stefan Pucher
Premiere: March 2021

2019/20 postseason

Der Kaiser von Kalifornien
By Alexander Eisenach

Director: Alexander Eisenach
World Premiere: August 27th, 2020

By Ari Benjamin Meyers

Director: Ari Benjamin Meyers
World Premiere: April 2021

Sasha Waltz & Guests Retrospective
May 2021

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