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Exberliner takes you inside this year’s Theatertreffen

Theatertreffen has been presenting the 10 best plays from the German-speaking world since 1964. This year, five come with English surtitles.

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Although Berlin is among the most celebrated theater cities in the world, many homegrown productions are lost on those who have yet to master the German language.

The Theatertreffen festival, which has been presenting the 10 best plays from the German-speaking world since 1964, is making an effort this year to reach out to Anglophone audiences by presenting five of the plays with English surtitles. Though this means we’ll have to grab balcony seats (the better to read along), we can now feel confident mingling amidst the drama dorks at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele and discussing the (sadly) surprising fact that for the first time ever, a third of the selected plays were directed by women.

Aside from playful takes on familiar classics like Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard (Schauspiel Köln) or Schiller’s Don Carlos (Staatsschauspiel Dresden), Berlin’s own She She Pop performance collective puts a highly personal twist on King Lear’s central theme in Testament, as the female performers take the stage with their real fathers. Ballhaus Naunynstraße reprises their Mad Blood, about a German teacher who resorts to teaching Schiller by holding her reluctant Turkish students at gunpoint, and legendary actor Herbert Fritsch directs the Berlin-set Der Biberpelz.

There’s also plenty of awesome in the non-surtitled plays: take your pick of the Vienna Burgtheater, Ibsen, Death of a Salesman or brand-new Jelinek. Perhaps most eagerly awaited, though, is the late Christoph Schlingensief’s Via Intolleranza II, a complex performance installation on the relationship between Europe and Africa.

Then there is the Nachtmusik program, featuring quirky singer Erika Stucky, as well as the Stückemarkt, where the works of five exceptional playwrights from Poland, Germany and Switzerland will be presented as staged readings. Here too the organizers have thought of us, as English translations are made available to those interested via stueckemarkt@berliner festspiele.de.

To show our appreciation for all this Deutsch-to-English action, www.exberliner.com will be offering ticket giveaways and publishing the work of the festival’s dedicated English-language bloggers Cory Tamler, Matt Cornish and myself. You’ll also find us at the Theatertreffen blog, which will host audio documentaries, cartoons, photo galleries, and continuous coverage leading up to and during the festival. With all this drama coverage and so many new options for English-speakers, there’s no excuse not to dive in and see what this world-renowned theater town is all about.

Stay tuned here, on exberliner.com, for your chance to win tickets to one of the English surtitled plays at Theatertreffen.

More about Theatertreffen on tt blog 2011