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Culture

Theater's Unemployed Sing for Their Supper

The controversial Hartz IV labor reforms have been a fact of life for the unemployed for over a year now. But as a new musical in the city of Dresden shows, they have never been accepted.

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What you see is what you get in "Hartz IV -- The Musical"

The aptly-named production "Hartz IV -- The Musical," which premiered to an eager audience on Friday evening, is set in an employment office somewhere, but nowhere in particular, in Germany. Against a backdrop of gray walls, time, and even life itself appears to stand still. A notice board is starkly devoid of any information and seven people wait their turn to be seen.

Hartz IV Musical in Dresden

A scene from "Hartz IV -- The Musical"


Author and director Erik Gedeon, who confesses his own fear of being unemployed, says the aim of the musical is to show what being out of work can mean to the individuals concerned, and to underscore the reality that any one of us can fall victim to joblessness.

Gedeon's characters appear lost in their own worlds, none of them remotely interested in the fate of the others around them. When they do communicate with one another, it is through song, to melodies from musical hits such as "West Side Story," "Cats," "Hair" or "Jesus Christ Superstar."

No knock-on political effect


Hartz IV Musical in Dresden

A scene from "Hartz IV -- The Musical"

The director and former artistic director of Hamburg's Thalia Theater, says he made a conscious decision not to compose any new music for his topical production, in order to be true to the subject matter. "The distinguishing feature of Hartz IV is that it forces people to live from what's left," Gedeon told reporters.

He rejects any notion that his musical makes fun of those affected by the labor reforms. "Music doesn't only belong in the temple of beautiful art, but also has a place in the abyss," he said, before adding that he is under no illusion that the piece will have any political affect whatsoever. The production is open to Hartz IV recipients at a symbolic cost of one euro ($1.20).

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