Why don't people like the theater?

The theater should be a mirror of society. Central roles and management positions are mostly occupied by white men. The directors of the Hessian State Theater in Marburg report in an interview how things can be done differently - and where they themselves still fail.

Carola Unser and Eva Lange have been running the Hessian State Theater in Marburg since 2018. A dual leadership of two women - that alone is unique in Germany so far. Estimates assume that theater directors only have around 20 percent women.

Overall, there are significantly more male actors than female actors working on many stages in Germany - and many of them are white. So far, people with disabilities have only rarely been seen on stage.

That is why diversity on and off the stage is high on the agenda for the Marburg directors. However, they do not make it easy for themselves with this topic. And they certainly do not want to be considered a showcase theater, as they explain in an interview on the occasion of Diversity Day.

hessenschau.de: Diversity in the theater - what do you think of first?

Carola Unser: The subject is very, very sensitive. It's easy to get into platitudes. I also have the feeling that it has become such a label that people are committed to. But it is no longer looked in depth to see what it really means. I would really like to do without the term diversity and just see people and all their peculiarities, peculiarities or wonders that they bring with them. We have hired an ensemble that initially consists of good actors. And what the individual people bring with them is very, very different.

hessenschau.de: In practical terms, your ensemble cast shows that you do things differently. You have many women in positions of responsibility, there are people with very different ethnic backgrounds in the ensemble, and the gender ratio is balanced.

Eva Lange: We have nine women and nine men in the ensemble. And instead of individual negotiations about salaries, we have a tiered payment system that is transparent for everyone. It doesn't seem very spectacular now, and we take it for granted, but it has not been the case for many, many years. One always believed: there are more male roles in the theater, so you should have more men in the ensemble. But that's nonsense from the literature point of view.

Ours: And who says that male roles always have to be played by a man or by actors read by men? You can also become freer in your mind. Does a Valerio from Leonce and Lena have to be a man?

hessenschau.de: How else do you put diversity into practice in the theater?

Our: How can we become a racism-free house? Is a very big topic for us, and we are still at the very beginning. Everyone has to learn, reflect and search a lot. If I take seriously who lives in Germany, then it's a diverse society and that's great. As a theater, we have to claim that we depict this society, that we are the so-called mirror. And that means we have to review our structures so that we are also a place that welcomes everyone. It doesn't help if you say we're diverse, but then people don't feel comfortable.

Lange: The big point with the so-called diversity issue in theater is that it's about privileges. About privileges that certain people have to give up. That also means: other forms of theater management, of the casting of ensembles and also a different audience address. But that also means that those who have usually done it - certain groups - may then appear less so that other groups finally appear. It's a long way to go if you mean it, really listen and keep quiet - and say: 'Ok, that happened to you and it never happened to me.'

hessenschau.de: Do you think that the topic is still neglected in the theater world as a whole?

Ours: I don't want to judge others. I think it is best if we look to ourselves on this issue and see what we need to do. In the best case scenario, we lead by example. But I would say we are still a long way from that as well. For example, we just wanted to hire someone with disabilities. But we can't because we don't have the structural measures to do it.

hessenschau.de: How do you deal with content that you think is difficult today, for example with regard to gender roles or dealing with minorities?

Lange: We examine subjects very carefully in the dramaturgical group. Of course there are places where you say: 'I definitely don't want that to be said on stage.' Then you change it or see how it can be interpreted in a contemporary way. Or you don't do the piece. And we try to put other authors on the agenda. You don't have to tell certain stories over and over, you can also tell new stories. You can find the lyrics. You just have to read - and read other texts and allow other voices.

Ours: There are actually also theatrical subjects that are a bit old, and yet they are good and you want to make them. We are currently rehearsing a piece that totally feels like this to me: Hair - Peace, Love and Harmony. I think it's super important to set that as a topic now. Nonetheless, one notices: In terms of the text, some things are very, very difficult and actually not feasible. We are still in discussion with the publisher about how to deal with it.

hessenschau.de: When it comes to diversity, what role does that you two women are at the top?

Lange: It plays a role because this dual leadership already says: We stand for discourse - in exchange with the ensemble but also with one another.

hessenschau.de: Have you had the experience yourself that women in the cultural sector have a harder time than men?

Lange: Definitely. I think there are two points: On the one hand, networks for women in the cultural sector are currently still underdeveloped. So women who help one another and are advocates for one another. Men developed this earlier, and we can see that in a positive way. On the other hand, we are both directors at the same time; the long prevailing cult of genius, however, had masculine connotations. That means: men in the theater get more applause for the extreme, the absurd, the weird. While women as a whole are more likely to receive applause for the adjustment. But that's not so artistically interesting. I think we have to encourage women to pursue their completely absurd artistic ideas and to give them a stage for them.

hessenschau.de: In February, the theater took part in Black History Month and organized various actions and events together with artists and activists. What was your experience?

Ours: That is actually something that we are not proud of today. It was meant well and there were sure to be people for whom it was good. But at the same time, after three months and many conversations, I'm not sure whether we did it well and whether we should have pushed it as a relatively white institution.

hessenschau.de: Why?

Ours: We have very clear voices from the BIPoC community (Abbreviation of Black, Indigenous, People of Color, editor's note) heard who told us: 'You annexed something that didn't belong to you.' Whereby one would say: We didn't annex it, but it still went down that way. It was an attempt. You will also notice that we reflect a lot about the things we do. Nevertheless, it happens that after a long time you sit there and think: Maybe not enough thought. Because it's so complex. It's just insanely complex.

additional Information

German Diversity Day on May 18th

Diversity Day is an annual initiative of the Diversity Charter. V. and is supported by the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. In the past year, more than 800 organizations implemented more than 1,600 campaigns, they want to set an example for diversity in the world of work. In Hesse, for example, companies such as Commerzbank or Ernst & Young, but also the Goethe University in Frankfurt and the Wetterau district are involved.

End of further information

Rebekka Dieckmann asked the questions.

Broadcast: hr2, Am Morgen, May 18, 2021, 6:05 a.m.

Source: hessenschau.de

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