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Interview with Holger Schultze and Jürgen Popig

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Interview with Holger Schultze and Jürgen Popig
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nachtkritik.de: Is the German theatre the only one which tends towards such self- sufficiency?

Holger Schultze: No, similar things are being said about the theatres in the Netherlands. They currently don't have any translation funds. This probably has to do with the reorganisation. So at present they're not taking any action.

nachtkritik.de: When did you first notice the deficiency in German theatres?

Holger Schultze: I realised it when we traveled to Bulgaria for the first time as part of the Wanderlust project at the beginning of last year. We and many of the journalists who travelled with us noticed that there are plenty of Bulgarian plays, but not any are translated into German. It seems that certain countries are ignored by us. Their plays don't even reach us here.

nachtkritik.de: How come?

Jürgen Popig: The most important negotiators are of course the publishing companies. They in turn only have people on the lookout in certain countries. Specific foreign literature is then not passed on to Germany due to a lack of negotiation.

Holger Schultze: Yes, there should be a contact person in each particular country who can speak either German or English and who is also familiar with theatre. We were fortunate enough to meet a lady in Hungary who knew a lot about Finnish theatre, as well as about the theatre in her own country. It seems there are people who act as scouts without pay and give you an insight into their country. There is no other way of becoming familiar with plays that aren't translated.

nachtkritik.de: Would you accuse the publishing companies of not dealing enough with these sort of matters? Or would you say that the anticipation of European interaction has sunk and as a result we don't look around much any more?

Holger Schultze: No, no-one is to be blamed. After all, theatre is a market too. At the moment it is all about premieres in one’s own country. Even second performances are struggling to gain attention. Of course, premieres from an unknown foreign author hardly stand a chance. That’s why we've decided to focus our whole forthcoming season on this issue. In fact we aren't only bringing direct attention to drama from a particular country like others (Konstanz is concentrating on Russian drama, Rostock on Finnish drama), but also want to show a variety.

Jürgen Popig: However, even the plays of well-known foreign playwrights are only partially translated. Those of Sam Shephard for example. The publishing companies have grown more cautious: They can't risk working in advance. A play is translated only when they have a request from a theatre who wishes to perform it. Otherwise not.

nachtkritik.de: It's one thing that we don't notice other countries. But what do they in turn do to get noticed? After all, the Goethe-Institute is very intent on bringing German plays to other countries.

Jürgen Popig: The guideline of foreign cultural policies would be of great interest to me. Why is it, for example, that I don't know any Italian contemporary plays? How come they don't seem to want to share their drama with other countries? I'm sure we'll make this a subject at the panel discussion.

nachtkritik.de: In comparison there are plays that suddenly appear and are then subsequently performed 30 times…

Holger Schultze: ...like that of Yasmina Reza for example. This clearly has to do with the trend. Reza's play answers the question of where to find a boulevard play. In turn Bulgaria produces many of Neil Simon's plays, and he is completely unknown here.