The Teutoburg Forest in the year 9 AD: Hermann, ruler of the Cheruscans, enters into a feigned alliance against the Suevi with the Romans. At the same time, he proposes an alliance to the Suevi to ambush the Roman troops, fueling the natives’ hatred against the foreign occupiers. Finally, nearly all Germanic peoples, previously at odds with each other, gather behind him. After a devastating defeat of the Roman commander Varus’s troops, Hermann is to be proclaimed King of Germania.
“Die Hermannsschlacht” is one of Heinrich von Kleist’s most contentious works, due to the history of its reception. Written in 1808, it was originally an expression of the utopian wish for a unified nation – which made it controversial enough in Kleist’s lifetime to remain unprinted. The play did not find its audience until the 1870s. Since the First World War, it was considered to be a patriotic play, but after 1945, it was only rarely performed anymore. The discussion about the exact nature “Die Hermannsschlacht” began late: Is it a biased political drama, a national pamphlet? A call for German resistance against Napoleon? Or is Hermann much rather an alarming example of a man who will throw morals overboard and relinquish all humanity in the middle of a European war of brothers, only to satisfy his longing for freedom? And what will he do with this freedom, once he has achieved it? Another notable feature of this play is Thusnelda, Hermann’s companion, one of the most remarkable female characters in the canon of German-language drama.
At Schauspiel Leipzig, Czech director Dušan David Pařízek will take a fresh, critical look at this work and its themes, which by no means only apply to Germany. The Prague Chamber Theatre, founded by Dušan David Pařízek in 1998 and directed by him until 2012, was distinguished as Czech Theatre of the Year several times. Pařízek’s world and Czech premiere productions of works by Heiner Müller, Werner Schwab, Elfriede Jelinek, Peter Handke and Thomas Bernhard brought him great acclaim. Since 2002, he has been working at the most renowned theatres in the German-language region and he is usually in charge of the sets for his productions as well. His production of “Die lächerliche Finsternis” by Wolfram Lotz at Vienna’s Burgtheater was invited to the Berliner Theatertreffen in 2015 and received several important awards: the Nestroy Theatre Award as the best German-language production as well as the selection as the best staging and set design of the year by the critics’ survey in the magazine Theater heute. In 2018, he received the Nestroy Award as the best director.
“Die Hermannsschlacht” is Dušan David Pařízek’s first work at Schauspiel Leipzig and will open the 2019/20 season on the Main Stage. Director in Residence Philipp Preuss’ production of Kleist’s “Prinz Friedrich von Homburg” will remain in the repertoire. We are also planning to present a guest performance of “Penthesilea”, a celebrated coproduction of Salzburger Festspiele and Schauspielhaus Bochum, developed by director Johan Simons with two extraordinary actors: the multiple theatre and film award winner Sandra Hüller as Penthesilea and Jens Harzer, bearer of the prestigious Iffland-ring, as Achilles.