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Gerhard Dressel

Gerhard Dressel

Interweaving Performance Cultures

Fellow 2016/17

Gerhard Dressel is a graduate of the Max-Reinhardt-Schule Berlin and studied German literature, theatre studies and philosophy at the FU Berlin. He works as a theatre director, actor and dramaturg. His experiences as an actor at the Staatliche Bühnen Berlin and in numerous TV productions led to invitations to Brazilian theatres, acting schools, universities and to the Goethe Institut in Rio de Janeiro (international exchange of theatre productions). He embarked on a long-term cooperation with the avant-garde theatre director Gerald Thomas (São Paulo/New York) in Brazil and Germany. These international perspectives have been fundamental to his engagement in forming German student theatre groups to participate in numerous theatre festivals, such as in Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, France, Spain, Belarus, Canada and Indonesia. Participation in the event “30 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Germany and China” (2002) and in the “German Weeks in China” (Nanjing 2007) prompted a cooperation with the Theatre Institute of Nanjing University (2011). The coproduction “Faust 3” (2012) was performed in China, Germany, Canada, Belgium and Spain, followed by the project “Crime & Crucifiction / Pollution & Purgatory” (2013), celebrating the 200th birthday of Georg Büchner and Richard Wagner, with performances in Germany and China. This led to a research project on European modern theatre in China, featuring “An Enemy of the People” (Ibsen), “Woyzeck” (Büchner) and the contemporary Chinese play “Telemachus” (Zhu Yi).

Research Project

Contemporary Chinese student theatre and Western post/modern theatre

Performances and adaptations of major Western theatre plays staged in China have a history of many decades. The theatre department at Nanjing University intensely follows this engagement with the themes and textual forms from European and North American authors, theatre scientists and performing experts. In this context, one playwright continues to be of central importance: Henrik Ibsen. In order to widen the theoretical and practical experiences of the students, I was invited to direct the plays “An Enemy of the People” (in co-direction), “Woyzeck” (two different versions) and “Telemachus”, written by the Chinese playwright Zhu Yi. I was asked to follow an approach to directing these plays that corresponded to Western modern/postmodern theatre.

The present proposal will be a reflection on various aspects of this intercultural cooperation: (1) an analysis of the difference between Western and Chinese modernity/postmodernity with regard to the use of modern/postmodern theatre, (2) the consequences for drama production and its realization on stage at a time of pervasive mass culture and mass media, (3) the skills and instruments of acting under the influence of the Chinese theatre tradition as well as of the hugely popular television and movie productions, (4) the opportunities and perspectives of campus theatre in China in contrast to commercialized and professional theatre. These aspects will be complemented by interviews and statements of theatre experts, actors and other participants of the above-mentioned theatre projects.  

Recommended Publications

  • Antje Budde: Kulturhistorische Bedingungen, Begriff, Geschichte, Institution und Praxis des Experimentellen Theaters in der VR China, Dissertation, Berlin 2001.
  • Heymann, Sabine, Kefei Cao, Christoph Lepschy: Zeitgenössisches Theater in China, Alexander Verlag Berlin (forthcoming April 2017).
  • Song Baozhen: One hundred years of Chinese drama history, Chinese National Academy of Arts, Beijing 2013.
  • Sheldon Hsiao-peng Lu: Global POSTmoderniZATION: the Intellectual, the Artist, and China’ s Condition, in: boundary 2, Postmodernism and China, pp. 65 – 97, Fall 1997.
  • Lin Zhaohua: In der Schatzkammer des Welttheaters – Hat das chinesische Sprechtheater eine Tradition? Theater der Zeit spezial, Sonderheft China (Dez. 2015), pp. 6 – 11.
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