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Culture

Theater from Four Continents Converges on the Rhineland

Germany’s Rhineland region is playing host the country’s biggest international theater festival. The “Theater der Welt” is turning four German cities and the spaces in between into one big showplace for new theater.

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Prison premiere of the "Theater der Welt" festival - "Apocalipse 1,11"

The curtain’s going up on the "Theater der Welt" in, of all places, a working prison in Cologne. But the unusual venue makes perfect sense to the Brazilian theater director Antônio Araújo and the organizers of the festival. They want to put on theater that puts subject matter and performance space side by side. The prison premiere, "Apocalipse 1,11", is based upon the massacre of 111 inmates at a prison in Sao Paulo.

During the production, the audience follows the actors to different places in the prison, where different scenes are performed. The audience might find the experience strange, but that’s part of the experience, according to Matthias Lilienthal, who is in charge of programming for the festival.

"I insist that we don’t suppress that feeling of strangeness (that the audience feels)," he said, "because it isn’t something just decorative rather an important part of the play’s content."

Regional Festival

Theater der Welt Logo

The "Theater der Welt" (Theater of the World) has been presenting a smorgasbord of cutting-edge international theater in Germany since 1979. This ninth year of the event is taking place for the first time in not one, but four cities in the Rhineland region: Cologne, Bonn, Düsseldorf and Duisburg. There are more than 30 plays on the program from 20 countries and at least that number of performances, films and discussions that will sate the appetite of even the most voracious theater goer.

International goes Local

The festival sees as its goal the exploration of both the international and the local. While the plays being shown have originated on four continents and theater-world heavyweights have been invited, program organizers also want to show off the space where theater meets everyday life on the street.

So in "Private Rooms", the performer, Canadian dancer and choreographer Sarah Chase, will create a piece based on private apartments she will live in for several days. Her inspiration will come from the furniture, pictures and photos she finds in the apartments and she will perform in the apartments themselves, both to audiences and to the families who live there.

"City Mapping – Living with the City" asks the question: how much of a city do we need and what should it look like? The performers will use music, drama and installations to show Düsseldorf from an angle few have ever seen it.

In "Potemkin Villages", Swiss artist Hans-Peter Litscher takes the audience on a boat trip up and down the Rhine, emulating the excursions for prominent Germans put on in the 1950’s by Dr. Gustav Helbig, foreign policy advisor to German chancellor Konrad Adenauer and expert on Potemkin Villages and the customs of the Russian Court of the 18th century.

During the trips, Dr. Helbig would bring to life great Russian personalities and rumor has it that he slid easily from reality to fantasy during the outings, from the serpentine Rhine to the foggy Volga. Separating reality and fiction during these modern "Potemkin Villages" cruises is completely up to the viewer, performer Litscher would surely welcome a little slippage between the two

The "Theater der Welt" runs from June 21 – 30.

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