Rimini Protokoll and Bürgerbühne Theatre: Institutions, Challenges and Continuities

Jens Roselt


In 2004, a rather surprising event in German theatre circles occurred: the production Deadline by Rimini Protokoll was invited to the Theatertreffen in Berlin. This annual festival is considered a definitive gathering of the most outstanding productions in established German-speaking theatre. A jury of selectors travels up and down the country in order to identify the most remarkable productions of the season, which are then performed in Berlin. At the Theatertreffen, prior to 2004, one expected to see classical dramas or modern theatre pieces that were professionally staged in an impressive and innovative manner by well-seasoned directors. Deadline marked the appearance of a new kind of contribution to the program. The production was not a staging of a dramatic work but the outcome of a collective project. Deadline addressed the everyday experience of death in a social context by giving a voice to people who were professionally involved in the processes connected with death and dying: for example, a professional Trauerredner (funeral speaker), a nurse and a monumental stonemason. The work was not a work of theatre featuring dialogue, a plot, and characters, but a discursive exploration of a theme from different perspectives. Most surprising was the fact that the audience members did not encounter actors but performers who visibly and audibly lacked any professional actor training. ‘Real’ and apparently authentic people stood on stage, telling the audience about their everyday experiences at their jobs outside of the theatre.

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