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Phrase salad with political phrase sauce

"Theater is still better than Netflix.

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Phrase salad with political phrase sauce

"Theater is still better than Netflix." These words are meant for "The Legacy", but this claim, which can be interpreted either as a defiant declaration of war or daring wishful thinking, can apply to the entire selection of the Theatertreffen. The jury presented ten remarkable productions and lo and behold, after the dwindling audience, great narrative theater is celebrating a comeback, while discourse theater seems to be on the decline.

"The Legacy" is a good example: the play by the US hit dramatist Matthew Lopez about the New York gay scene is considered an epochal work about a divided country. After it caused a storm of enthusiasm on Broadway and was showered with awards, Philipp Stölzl staged the German-language premiere last year at the Munich Residenztheater. The reviews praised the Netflix qualities of the seven-hour two-parter.

As usual, one is inclined to interpret the selection of the Theatertreffen as an inventory of German-language theatre. What can be concluded from this year's selection? The Vienna Burgtheater under the dismantled director Martin Kusej is surprisingly popular with the jury. It is represented with two productions, the novel adaptation "The Natives by Maria Blut" and the premiere of Peter Handke's "Zwietalk", which was staged as a colorful swan song to the "old white men".

The Bochum theater once again proves that it is one of the best theaters in Germany. Mateja Koležnik, who staged Maxim Gorki's "Children of the Sun" there, was finally invited to Berlin for the first time. For years she has been drawing attention to herself as a master of fine soul dissection. Also coming from Bochum is "The Bus to Dachau", an evening about the memory of the murder of European Jews and the future commemoration after the death of contemporary witnesses.

The selection also shows that classic and contemporary theater are not mutually exclusive. From the Munich Kammerspiele comes a transcription of Henrik Ibsen's "Nora", from Basel Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and - the surprise of the year - from Dessau "Hamlet" directed by Philipp Preuss, who has worked in Leipzig and Bochum knew how to impress with a couple of strong works.

Vienna, Bochum and Munich are each represented twice. And Berlin? Although he also sends two productions to the Theatertreffen, they clearly document that the former theater metropolis is struggling with a drastic loss of substance. One of Sebastian Hartmann's weakest evenings of recent years was invited to the Deutsches Theater with "The Ego and His Property" based on Max Stirner, which borders on a choice out of embarrassment. For Hartmann it is the fourth invitation, he faces a total of seven newcomers.

Invited for the second time and undoubtedly remarkable in some respects is Florentina Holzinger with her Volksbühne spectacle "Ophelia's Got Talent". A look at the productions discussed by the jury makes it clear that the Berlin theaters are currently a long way from setting the artistic tone or setting impulses. The same goes for the independent scene, which, despite a great deal of funding, was not able to play its way into the front row.

But the selection wasn't the only interesting thing this year. With Matthias Pees, a new director of the organizing Berliner Festspiele has taken up office, and there is also a new director of the Theatertreffen: a team of four women from Germany, Poland and the Ukraine. Months ago, they had announced a reorientation of the Theatertreffen, which aroused suspicions that one of the aims was to abolish the jury of critics.

After the press conference in the Haus der Berliner Festspiele, you are not much smarter as far as the plans are concerned. One is in discussion with the jury, one deals a lot with "the values". And with privileges, that's this year's theme. What is new, however, are ten events that call themselves “meetings” and are intended to “frame, ensnare and embrace” the invited productions, also as a replacement for the abolished play market. Green, Diversity, Solidarity, Network, Exchange, Herstory, Transfeminist are some of the titles of the meetings.

What lies behind it is partly hair-raising: Labeling eating together as a “feminist, political process for transnational solidarity” could still be taken as a joke. Or for a description of the usual visit to the Chinese restaurant on Fasanenplatz. But apparently more is meant. And behind a trumped-up title like “Emptiness Meeting – Democratic Meditation” there only seems to be a despicable quiet room, a striking example of the listlessly presented phrase salad with political phrase sauce.

The new management - who, like the jury, made a highly uninspired appearance, and also partly in Polish, which did not make it easier - was unable to convey what exactly one can imagine the meetings to be and what space they will take up in the future. The fear that the Theatertreffen would descend into triviality and arbitrariness under the new leadership could not be dispelled. At least the jury showed their interest in theater with this year's selection. However, it remains to be seen whether this is sufficient for the "extended reorientation".

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