Directors of children's and youth theatre – Andrea Gronemeyer

Biography

Andrea Gronemeyer © Karola Prutek

Andrea Gronemeyer was born in the Emsland in 1962. She studied theatre, film and television studies as well as Romance and German languages and literature in Cologne and Florence.

Gronemeyer has worked in and for children’s and youth theatre for more than 20 years, first as an author, then as a stage and theatre director. During this time, she has staged some 40 plays for a young audience. For more than fifteen years, she worked as a director and dramaturg at the Comedia Colonia, an independent theatre in Cologne. From 1992 onwards, she directed “Ömmes & Oimel“, the children’s and youth theatre there, and set up the “Spielarten“-festival in 1993.

In the 2002/03 season, she was appointed director of the Schnawwl children’s and youth theatre at the Nationaltheater in Mannheim. She works there with her own ensemble of actors and has her own youth theatre. About 330 performances, including guest performances in Germany and abroad, are held each year from a repertoire of ten plays.

In 2006, she opened the “Junge Oper“ section at the Nationaltheater Mannheim, together with opera director Klaus Peter Kehr. She will stage productions there for the fourth time in November 2011.

Andrea Gronemeyer‘s theatre version of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast has been published by the Theaterstückverlag in Munich and has been performed by many theatres in the German-speaking area. The publisher DuMont has published her books Schnellkurs Theater (Theatre. Crash Course Series) and Schnellkurs Film (Film. Crash Course Series), which have been translated into six languages. She co-edited the book Kindertheater Jugendtheater. Perspektiven einer Theatersparte (Children’s and Youth Theatre. Perspectives of a Performing Art Genre) with Gerd Taube and Julia Dina Hesse.

    Portrait

    My place in the world

    She is averse to being too much in the limelight. Anyone wishing to discover more about Andrea Gronemeyer’s work as director is soon told: “I am not an individual artist“1 and also learns that for her, theatre is never the expression of just one individual, but first and foremost that of a group.

    In this context, it becomes clear why, for nearly two decades, Andrea Gronemeyer’s productions were only staged in Cologne and since 2002, apart from a guest directorship in Oldenburg, have only been staged in Mannheim. No, being a barnstorming director is something “I cannot do and I do not want to do,” she says quite emphatically. Her aim is to create and creating things takes time.

    In a recent interview with the Mumbai Theatre Guide, she underlined the great value she places on the joint creative process: “The director is the one who has to steer the ship and has to take care that everybody who is on board can bring in their respective skills and qualities. In the beginning, the director has to show the direction of the journey and in the end, has to take the decisions. But in between is a long collaboration and a good director is always willing to modify the direction and learn from the team when it creates better maps.“2

    This statement was prompted by Gronemeyer‘s work as a director from April 2011 onwards. Gronemeyer, who is based in Mannheim, says that she will stand up more than most for her view of the theatre. In cooperation with Ranga Shankara, a theatre from Bangalore, India, she staged Boy with a Suitcase, a play by Mike Kenny, the best-known British playwright writing for children’s and youth theatre.3 In this piece, she produced brilliant narrative theatre, relying once again on the audience’s imagination, without which all the artists‘ efforts would be null and void. If Gronemeyer’s craft as a director has one distinguishing feature, it is that she encourages the actors to break down the “fourth wall“, to “act through it“, as it were, “to mean” the audience, and to address it directly. She sees the theatre as a “participative art form“ - and that applies to the audience as well – and as a place of encounter, where the actors absorb the audience’s energy, transform it and return it to them.

    Because the focus of Andrea Gronemeyer’s productions is on the actor, her work generally gets by with few stage elements and props. A pile of books and Margrit Gysin in an armchair as an impressive human mountain are therefore enough to make an emotional evening out of Guus Kuijer’s The Book of All Things – “an acted-out story of becoming happy”.

    There is probably no piece of work by Andrea Gronemeyer in which music, noises and sounds do not play an important, even constitutive role. Thus, it was only a question of time before she was drawn to opera and music theatre. She found a kindred spirit who shares this passion in Mannheim opera director Klaus Peter Kehr, setting up the Junge Oper with him in 2006. What particularly interests her about this genre is “how one can make music visible in the theatre and can make actions, images and music communicate with one another.“ She refers to herself as an “acoustic director“, for whom not only language is significant, but also the extension of sound into space through sounds and tones. In her work, the text’s melody (and what exactly it is intended to express) plays just as important a role as precise formulation and the search for precise expressions in speech.

    Gronemeyer, who is 49 years old, received the key impetus for making children’s and youth theatre in the eighties, a time when seminal impetus regarding both contents and aesthetics was coming from the Netherlands and Sweden. “Being a foreigner in the world is something that occupies me greatly,” says Gronemeyer, and the large proportion of children with a migration background, both in Cologne and in Mannheim, has brought themes to the fore such as migration, refugees and finding one’s identity: “And then I start asking myself: Where am I from? Where am I going? What is my place in the world, as a person and as an artist?“

    __________________________________________

    1 Unless stated otherwise, all quotations derive from interviews held by the author with Andrea Gronemeyer between 2006 and 2011.

    3 More on this subject is to be found at the following website: www.wanderlust-blog.de

    Tristan Berger

    Productions (selection)

    Plays

    Mike Kenny “Der Junge mit dem Koffer” (Boy with a Suitcase)
    2011, Nationaltheater Mannheim, Schnawwl

    Guus Kuijer “Das Buch von allen Dingen” (The Book of All Things)
    2010, Nationaltheater Mannheim, Schnawwl

    Peter Seligmann after Hans Christian Andersen “Tölpelhans” (Clumsy Hans)
    2009, Nationaltheater Mannheim, Schnawwl

    Hans Christian Andersen “Das hässliche Entlein” (The Ugly Duckling)
    German premiere, 2009, Nationaltheater Mannheim, Schnawwl

    Flora Verbrugge / Herman van Baar “Kummer und Courage” (Sorrow and Courage)
    2007, Nationaltheater Mannheim, Schnawwl

    Kristo Šagor “Ja”  (Yes)
    2006, Nationaltheater Mannheim, Schnawwl

    Kai Hensel “Klamms Krieg” (Klamm’s War)
    2003, Nationaltheater Mannheim, Schnawwl

    Lee Hall “Spoonface Steinberg”
    2003, Nationaltheater Mannheim, Schnawwl

    Katrin Lange “Das Mädchen Kiesel und der Hund” (the Girl Pebble and the Dog)
    2002, Nationaltheater Mannheim, Schnawwl

    Giacomo Ravicchio / Nino D'Introna “Robinson & Crusoe”
    2001, Comedia Köln (formerly: Ömmes & Oimel)

    Lutz Hübner “Creeps”
    2000, Comedia Köln (formerly: Ömmes & Oimel)

    Asaya Fujita “Der Teufel Bekkanko” (The Devil Bekkanko)
    1999, Comedia Köln (formerly: Ömmes & Oimel)

    Andrea Gronemeyer / Franco Melis / Susanne Sieben “Die Schöne und das Biest” (Beauty and the Beast)
    1998, Comedia Köln (formerly: Ömmes & Oimel)

    Marco Baliani and Remo Rostagno after Heinrich von Kleist “Kohlhaas”
    1998, Comedia Köln (formerly: Ömmes & Oimel)

    Dario Fo “Johann vom Po entdeckt Amerika” (Johann of Po Discovers America)
    1997, Comedia Köln (formerly: Ömmes & Oimel)

    Beat Fäh after William Shakespeare “Rose und Regen, Schwert und Wunde – Ein Sommernachtstraum” (Rose and Rain, Sword and Wound – A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
    1996, Comedia Köln (formerly: Ömmes & Oimel)

    Alain de Neck / Didier de Neck “Julie und der Riese Junior oder Kein Sonntag wie jeder andere” (Julie and the Giant Junior or No Sunday Like any Other)
    German-language premiere, 1995, Comedia Köln (formerly: Ömmes & Oimel)

    Ad de Bont “Mirad ein Junge aus Bosnien” (Mirad a Boy from Bosnia)
    1994, Comedia Köln (formerly: Ömmes & Oimel)

    Ad de Bont ”Die Ballade von Garuma” (The Ballad of Garuma)
    1992, Comedia Köln (formerly: Ömmes & Oimel)

    Peter Slavik “Ayshe und Richard” (Ayshe and Richard)
    1990, Comedia Köln (formerly: Ömmes & Oimel)

    Arthur and Elisabeth Frauquez “Ambrosio tötet die Zeit” (Ambrosio Kills Time)
    1989, Comedia Köln (formerly: Ömmes & Oimel)

    Opera and music theatre

    Selim Dogru / Sophie Kassies “Wüstenwind” (Desert Wind)
    German-language premiere, 2011, Nationaltheater Mannheim, Junge Oper

    Robyn Schulkowsky / Sophie Kassies “Das Kind der Seehundfrau” (The Child of the Seal)
    Premiere, 2008, Nationaltheater Mannheim, Junge Oper

    Jens Joneleit / Sophie Kassies “Schneewitte” (Snow White)
    German-language premiere, 2008, Nationaltheater Mannheim, Junge Oper

    Gerard Beljon / Sophie Kassies “Hans und Gretchen” (Hans and Gretchen)
    2007, Staatstheater Oldenburg

    Handel / Monteverdi / Purcell / Sophie Kassies “Schaf” (Sheep)
    2006, Nationaltheater Mannheim, Junge Oper