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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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All Pages How did you make your choices? Where were you on the lookout and what criteria did the plays have to meet?

Jürgen Popig: Nina Gühlstorff, Dorothea Schroeder and the dramaturgy of the theatre, my colleagues and I, divided the countries amongst us. It quickly became clear that we were most interested in the literature of those countries we knew the least about. As countries such as England and the Netherlands are our neighbours, they didn't arouse our interest at all, whereas the Balkans strongly did. However, we didn't want to bring all the attention to the Balkans, so we spread out in all possible directions. We then read many plays and talked to those people who knew the countries, like the Hungarian lady who recommended the Finnish author Kristian Smeds to us Why is it that you didn't choose a Hungarian play?

Holger Schultze: We checked-out Hungary a lot as my wife is Hungarian. But there doesn't appear to be anything there that meets our needs and requirements. Every play that we bring to Germany has to offer something that we find relevant. We chose "Fragile!" because its topic is migration. "Orangenhaut" was chosen because it was supposed to be a great political form of theatre, as it was taken very seriously in Serbia. In spite of what it had been expected to be, it still follows the mid- European mainstream. "Shakespeare is dead" shows how people circulate in a globalised Europe. We've tried covering all kinds of different aspects and have discussed hundreds of plays – and, of course, read a considerable amount.

Jürgen Popig: We dealt differently with the musical theatre. We asked the publishing houses to send us what they had and then decided on what we found interesting. You said that Maja Pelevic's "Orangenhaut" was very mainstream. Isn't it likely that their perception of women is different from ours? Is the aggressiveness that is displayed in the play seen as progressive? Here it appears kind of awkward. Or do people overlook the irony? And if people believe they have spotted irony – do they reflect it onto themselves?

Holger Schultze: You've reached our goal by asking those questions. After all, as a German woman you aren't meant to relate to yourself in this Serbian play. Instead you're supposed to realise that there is something known as well as unknown in the play. The exciting thing is that cultural differences are only noticable by moving closer to one another. We experienced this strongly with our Bulgarian partner theatre. For example, when it comes to the perception of women, or when defining a director. Or when figuring out the meaning of particular pictures. Although people pretend that due to globalistion everything is the same no matter where you are, it is not. It doesn't just start with the Balkan countries. When talking to our dance leader Nanine Linning who is from the Netherlands, I noticed that their understanding of theatre is in parts quite different from ours. So the observation of European plays is on one hand a process of getting to know other cultures and on the other a way of distinguishing differences?

Holger Schultze: Yes, and of course a method of enriching theatre literature. There is also a completely different aspect: We Germans are always saying that the migrants could be the audience of tomorrow. Now that we are producing plays from their own countries we can introduce them to our theatre. When we performed the first guest performance from Bulgaria, it felt like there were at least two-hundred (I didn't count) Bulgarians in the audience. One could sense that they had never been to our theatre before. We talked to them and soon found out that they had travelled from Münster because they had heard about what was being shown. You've announced the play "Fragile!" by Tena Stivicic to be a German premiere. However, it was staged by the theatre TKO in Cologne in October 2007. When does a play count as a premiere?

Holger Schultze: When it is performed with an authorised translation. If you look for the production from Cologne on the Internet you'll find that no translator is named. The Kaiser publishing company states that an actress from the Cologne ensemble translated the English text herself. Her version doesn't exist for either the publishing company, or the author. How is the translation of the plays paid? Is it profitable?

Holger Schultze: No, not at all. It's a disaster in Germany!

Jürgen Popig: There is no obligatory rate. There are few translators who demand a large sum and want their name printed as large as the author's. Most of them don't get a lot of money. The average pay is 1.000 Euros. We've had two plays translated for our festival, the one from the Netherlands ("Fahrradfahren für Malawi"), and the one from Serbia ("Orangenhaut"). We then realised how strong the decline is in this area. A few of the productions are going to be put in the repertoire. Aren't you risking taking away topics from the German market with your short-term presentations which still count as premieres?

Holger Schultze: In previous festivals we've managed to put all the plays in the repertoire in the end. Of course we're going to try to do that again. But we too naturally have limits. We have twenty, if you count our guests twenty-two actors, and have to keep up our other repertoire. We aren't "taking away" topics from the German market simply because we make a production of them.

Interview: Wolfgang Behrens, Simone Kaempf, Petra Kohse

Details on the creators of the festival.

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