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30 Years of the Gießen School (Germany): Bridging Academia & the Performing Arts in Europe

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Mar 11, 2013
Mar 11, 2013
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Photo courtesy of David Baltzer

Co-Presented with the Goethe-Institut New York

Since the early 1980s, the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies in Gießen, Germany, has pioneered the integrated study of theory and practice in the performing arts. International guest faculty—including renowned US theatre artists Robert Wilson, Richard Schechner, Lee Breuer, John Jesurun, and Molly Davis—have joined European teaching artists like Heiner Müller, George Tabori, and Heiner Goebbels, now chair of the Gießen School, to nurture students who have changed the landscape of German theatre, including Rimini Protokoll, Hans-Werner Kroesinger, René Pollesch, She She Pop, and Gob Squad. It was also while teaching in Gießen that Hans-Thies Lehmann developed his ground-breaking theory of postdramatic theatre. Join us for an afternoon of screenings of work by Gießen alumni and faculty, followed by an evening discussion with Gießen School founder Andrzej Wirth, German documentary theatre creator Hans-Werner Kroesinger, Bonnie Marranca of PAJ (A Journal of Performance and Art), and New York multidisciplinary artist John Jesurun.

Afternoon excerpt screenings:
2:00pm: Prometheus in Athens, Rimini Protokoll, 2010
3:00pm: Stadt als Beute, René Pollesch, 2001
4:00pm: Prater-Saga 3, Gob Squad, 2004
5:00pm: Theatre Without Audience, preview screening of a new work by Paweł Kocambasi (www.theatre-without-audience.net/)
with/about Andrzej T. Wirth, Germany, 2013

Evening Presentations and Discussions:
6:30pm: With Andrzej Wirth, John Jesurun, Hans-Werner Kroesinger, Kai Tuchmann, Bonnie Maranca, and Frank Hentschker

The Segal Center live streams its events. Check it out HERE !

As a literary and theatre critic as well as an editor in Warsaw, Andrzej Wirth wrote on Witkiewicz, Grotowski, Mrozek and Kantor. He was an assistant at Brecht’s Berliner Ensemble and associated with the literary Gruppe 47. A mediator between Polish and German culture during a vital period, Wirth translated works by German writers Kafka, Dürrenmatt, and Brecht into Polish and edited works by Bruno Schulz, Tadeusz Borowski, and modern Polish dramatists. Following a political emigration to the USA in 1966, Wirth taught drama and comparative literature at Stanford University, moving to the City University of New York in 1970. Additionally, he directed plays at campus theatres. In the 1970s, Wirth was instrumental in introducing Gertrude Stein, Robert Wilson and American Avant-garde Theatre into German critical discourse. A former student of praxiology (the theory of praxis), at the Warsaw School of Analytical Philosophy, he was looking for its application in theatre studies. In 1982 he founded the first German Institute for Applied Theatre Theory (Angewandte Theaterwissenschaft) at the University of Giessen, garnering a national and international reputation for that program and inviting internationally reputed guests such as Heiner Müller, George Tabori, Michael Kirby, Robert Wilson, Richard Schechner, John Jesurun and Emma Lew Thomas. As a visiting professor, Wirth taught and directed at Harvard University, Yale School of Drama, Oxford University, St Antony’s College, and the Freie Universität, Berlin. He has conducted international theatre workshops in Sydney, Australia, and under the hospices of the Teatro de la Righe in Volterra, Italy, as well as at Oxford University. With Thomas Martius he made films on Venice and Las Vegas and on Robert Wilson Watermill Center. A biographical documentary film on Wirth entitled Theatre Without Audience, by Pawel Kocambasi, will be issued this year. An interview biography, Flucht Nach Vorn, by theatre critic Thomas Irmer (Spector Verlag, Leipzig) will be published this year, concurrently with the Polish translation (Theater Institute, Warsaw). An English translation by José Enrique Macián is in preparation.

Hans-Werner Kroesinger studied drama, theatre and media from 1983 to 1988 under Andrzej Wirth and Hans-Thies Lehmann at the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies of the Justus Liebig University Gießen. In 1987, while he was still a student, Kroesinger began working as an assistant director and dramaturg for Robert Wilson, a position he held for two years. In 1989, he was a member of the creative team for Heiner Müller’s production of Hamlet/Hamletmachine at the Deutsches Theater Berlin. Since 1993, he has directed his own productions at prestigious municipal and state-funded theatres, such as the Berliner Ensemble, the Staatstheater Stuttgart, the Bayrisches Staatsschauspiel and the Maxim Gorki Theater Berlin, as well as on the independent scene, above all at the Hebbel am Ufer (HAU), the Sophiensaele, Radialsystem, the Staatsbank and Podewil in Berlin, the Forum Freies Theater (FFT) in Düsseldorf, the Festival Theatre at Dresden-Hellerau and the Theaterhaus Gessnerallee in Zürich. Hans-Werner Kroesinger is one of the most important figures in contemporary documentary theatre. Kroesinger estimates he reads up to 2,000 pages of books and documents in order to prepare for each new production. Although productions such assuicide bombers on air: PRIMETIME (2003) or Kindersoldaten (Child Soldiers, 2008) certainly touched on current political or social debates, topicality is not one of the criteria Kroesinger prioritises when selecting his subject matter. Rather, he seeks to track complex, historical trajectories in his theatrical analyses of war, genocide and political decision-making and, in this way, to delineate the relevant political or economic interests with the greatest possible precision. Kroesinger sees himself very much as carrying on the tradition of documentary theatre that goes back to the 1960s and 1970s, a tradition represented by names such as Rolf Hochhuth and Peter Weiss. Like them, Kroesinger, who was born in 1962 in Bonn, has a strong sense of the stage as a ‘medium for information’ and an ‘instrument of analysis’. However, what differentiates his approach from that of his older colleagues is his explicit refusal to take sides in any way.

Bonnie Marranca is founding publisher and editor of the Obie-Award winning PAJ Publications and PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, which published its 100th issue in 2012. She is the author of Performance Histories, Ecologies of Theatre, and Theatrewritings, which received the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. In addition, she has also edited several anthologies, including New Europe: plays from the continent, Conversations on Art and Performance, Interculturalism and Performance, and Plays for the End of the Century. A Guggenheim Fellow and Fulbright Senior Scholar, she has taught and lectured in many universities in the US and abroad, including Princeton, Duke, Columbia, NYU, UC-San Diego, Free University (Berlin) and Autonomous University (Barcelona). She is a recent recipient of the Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professorship, at Queen Mary/University of London and University of the Arts London. In 2011 she received the Association for Theatre in Higher Education Excellence in Editing Award for Sustained Achievement. Bonnie Marranca is Professor of Theatre at The New School for Liberal Arts/Eugene Lang College. In 2012 she lectured in Europe on the Erasmus Mundus international scholars program.

John Jesurun is a writer/director/media artist based in NY. His presentations mix elements of language, film, architectural space and media. The work is distinguished by his integrated creation of the text, direction, set and media design. In 1982 he began his 60 episode serial play Chang in a Void Moon at the Pyramid Club, NYC. Since 1984 he has written, directed and designed over 30 pieces including: the media trilogy of Deep Sleep (1986 Obie Award), White Water and Black Maria,Shatterhand Massacree, Everything that Rises Must Converge and Snow. He is the recipient of numerous fellowships including the NEA, Asian Cultural Council, MacArthur, Rockefeller, Guggenheim and Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts. He has taught theater at Goethe University/ Frankfurt, Justus Liebig University/ Giessen, DASARTS/Amsterdam, New York University, Tokyo University, Kyoto University of Art and Design, Bard College, Carnegie Mellon and the New School. His work is published by TCG, Sun & Moon Press, Performing Arts Journal, NoPassport Press, Yale Magazine, and Theater der Zeit. Shatterhand Massacre and Other Media Texts is published by Performing Arts Journal. Productions include Harry Partch’s Opera Delusion of the Fury at the Japan Society, Faust/How I Rose at BAM, Philoktetes at Soho Rep, Firefall at DTW, Liz One at the Chocolate Factory. His latest work Stopped Bridge of Dreams premiered at La Mama in January 2012. The first two episodes of his new video serial Shadowland can be seen on Vimeo. He is currently in a month long residency at Ventana 244 gallery in Willamsburg.

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