stumbling

For quite some time now, the Schaubühne has been dealing with the shift to the right-wing in society on various levels. The 2021/2022 season will focus on this important topic: With a theater-educational-artistic-participative format in cooperation with the Children's and Piccolo Theater in Cottbus. The theater-educational project tries to establish lines of connection between the past and the present. Based on stumbling stones that can be found in both cities, the stage is used to address not just shared history, but also shared responsibility.

The resulting production will be accompanied by a detailed educational theater program consisting of several workshops, a folder of materials, and discussions amongst the public. In addition, the Schaubühne is currently planning two different discourse formats, the content of which may be linked to the theater educational project. As a result, the central issues of remembering victims of the National Socialist regime, the continued existence of right-wing extremist ideologies, and the shared responsibility to overcome them in the future are given even greater visibility as well as a platform. In order to document the various dimensions of the confrontation with right-wing tendencies in society – historic and contemporary – the different perspectives will be bundled and linked on a clearly visible project tab on the Schaubühne's main website, which will be an integral and a mediating element of the project.

A lasting contribution to the culture of remembrance

More and more people are abandoning traditional ways and forms of life, new distributions of power, resources and privileges are being struggled over, and questions about social participation, irrespective of gender, social or ethnic origin, sexual or religious identity, are moving to the center of society. On the other hand, however, patterns of thought and language that were thought to have been overcome are returning which are rooted in the ideology of National Socialism and which must be countered at all costs. Racist attacks, verbal and physical attacks on politicians and on the press, hatred and agitation against groups of people who were already victims during the National Socialist era have unfortunately again become part of everyday life in Germany in recent years. Why is this? Is it that our memory is too weak? Are memories of the horrors of the National Socialist era gradually fading, or are new social fears leading to the old familiar reaction? With its projects, the Schaubühne aims to make a sound, lasting contribution to public debate.

Social platform against inhibitions and reservations

In order to represent diverse social groups on stage, a group of participants with as diverse social backgrounds as possible has been included in the cast. In this sense, stolpern [stumbling] sees itself as a social platform on which inhibitions and mutual reservations are addressed and, in the best-case scenario, reduced. A space in which the so-called fragmentation of society is actively countered by making it the subject of critical research. The diversity of the group is regarded as its strength, and its differences are the starting point for the basic questions of the evening.

On the 30th anniversary of Stolpersteine [stumbling stones]

2022 is the 30th anniversary of the Stolpersteine [stumbling stones] project: A project that keeps alive the memory of the expulsion and extermination of the Jews, Sinti and Roma, the politically persecuted, homosexuals, the Jehovah's Witnesses and the euthanasia victims under National Socialism (www.stolpersteine.eu). Countless stumbling stones can be found in Berlin and in Cottbus. What happens after you stumble? You either catch yourself or you fall. What can we do with the knowledge of the past? How can we keep it alive? What can we do to counter a shift in society to the right-wing? What are young people, first-time voters, willing to do to shape the world they want to live in? Today and in the future. The cities of Cottbus and Berlin are the starting point of a theatrical investigation in the theater-educational play development “stolpern”, which are emblematic of a society which – as frequently described in various media and numerous sociological studies – threatens to fragment more and more in the context of a political shift to the right-wing. The two discourse formats analyze current, neo-fascist dynamics and examine them for their respective particular historical antecedents and social causes.

Joint rehearsal process between Cottbus and Berlin

In an eight-month rehearsal process, young people from Cottbus and Berlin, starting from the Stolpersteine [stumbling stones], together address with the individual fates of groups of people who were persecuted during the National Socialist era. Among other things, the perspectives of the homosexual victims of the National Socialist regime are highlighted as well as the history of the suffering of the Sorbian people, mainly in Lusatia. For this purpose, there is close cooperation with the Sorbian Institute from Cottbus and the Berlin-Brandenburg Lesbian and Gay Association (LSVD). In various formats – biographical family research, personal conversations with survivors, research trips in the form of visits to memorial sites as well as theater workshops with representatives of marginalized groups – we will jointly reflect on how these groups continue to experience exclusion today and gather material for the play based on these experiences. At the same time, the young people have come to terms with themselves and the realities of their own lives: What prejudices do they have in relation to each other? What prejudices do they face on account of their origin? And finally: What kind of world do they want to live in? What are their demands? For each other, but also for the society in which they live? 

In “stolpern”, young people from Cottbus and Berlin are given a joint stage. They don't talk about each other - they talk to each other. They confront, subvert and deconstruct each other's clichés. They use the space provided here to develop their very own visions of a future; they look back at the origins of many of these clichés. Above all, they confront the public with its own prejudices: The spectators are thrown back again and again on their projections about the origin, the social background and/or the sexuality of the young people.

The Piccolo Theater

The Piccolo Theater in Cottbus has been a theater for children and young people since 1991. It is a private theater which is supported by the city of Cottbus and the state of Brandenburg and is currently directed by Reinhard Drogla. As a professional repertory theater, an average of 13 plays are performed there, and there is also a diverse range of dance and theater education programs. It sees itself as the mouthpiece of the growing generation in Cottbus. In 2018, the theater received nationwide attention when Brandenburg's right-wing AfD party raised a question about the reasons for the theater's funding. This inquiry was triggered by a production by the theater that won an award from the Bund Deutscher Amateurtheater [Association of German Amateur Theaters] and which warns against the dangers of fascism. In addition, Björn Höcke announced during a visit to Cottbus that in the case of an election victory, he would cut all funding for projects that oppose right-wing extremism.

The Schaubühne

The Schaubühne was founded in 1962. Since 1999 Thomas Ostermeier has been the artistic director. Each season, the Schaubühne premieres at least ten new performances. There is also a repertoire of over thirty productions in rotation. Based on the idea of the ensemble theater, which has been working together in its core since 1999 and is constantly expanded by new commitments, the actors, dramatic figures and situations of the play are the focus at the Schaubühne. The stylistic diversity of the directorial manuscripts, which also includes new forms of dance and musical theater, is characteristic here. The unifying element here is the search for a contemporary and experimental theatrical language that focuses on storytelling and the precise penetration of the text – classical and contemporary. The repertoire includes the great titles of dramatic world literature, as well as contemporary drama by internationally acclaimed authors. With more than 100 premieres in the last 19 years, this has been a central part of the theater's work. 

Data Sheet

Project partners:

Piccolo Kinder- und Jugendtheater Cottbus

Duration: 01.10.2021 until 31.12.2022

www.schaubuehne.de