A different political forum: East German theatre and the construction of the Berlin Wall

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Abstract

Using new archive material, this article explores how East German theatre responded to the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. East Berlin’s theatres and opera houses faced serious logistical difficulties, as they had previously relied heavily on Western practitioners. Even so, dramatists, directors and actors rallied in a strong public show of support for the Wall. Behind the scenes, most dissenters fell silent, in contrast to other professionals in East Berlin. But theatre productions were ambivalent: the political context invited spectators to read subversion into loyal stagings, and the Berliner Ensemble presented strong arguments both for and against repression in Brecht’s Days of the Commune. When cultural politicians refused to repay artists’ loyalty with trust, intentionally subversive productions would start to transform theatre into a more critical political forum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-56
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of European Studies
Volume36
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2006

Keywords

  • GDR, productions, Berliner Ensemble, Commune

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