Censorship and opinion formation: Franziska Linkerhand on the GDR stage

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Abstract

This article uses the stage history of "Franziska Linkerhand" to cast new perspectives on GDR theatre after Wolf Biermann's expatriation. Whilst this period is usually associated with a retreat from experimentation, new space for innovative contemporary drama opened up in the spring and summer of 1978. Christoph Schroth's groundbreaking production of "Franziska Linkerhand" was judged a qualified success when it was premièred in Schwerin, but it sparked controversy in Leipzig and especially in East Berlin. After prolonged negotiations, performances in Schwerin were allowed to continue, but plans for new productions in Halle and Wittenberg were dropped. The changing theatrical fortunes of "Franziska Linkerhand" thus allow us to trace processes of opinion formation within the theatre community and political establishment, and to show how and why the Culture Ministry had to change its policy on GDR drama in autumn 1978 – a change which historians have previously overlooked. The case study also sheds new light on the nature and extent of regional differences in GDR theatre censorship in the 1970s: whilst East Berlin's First Party Secretary pushed for tighter restrictions than the Ministry, the different decisions reached in other regions can be explained by the changes in central policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-249
Number of pages16
JournalGerman Life and Letters
Volume63
Issue number3
Early online date11 Jun 2010
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2010

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