Directors of children and youth theatre – Rüdiger Pape


Rüdiger Pape © Michael Oreal

Rüdiger Pape was born in Salzgitter in 1960. After studying applied cultural studies at the University of Hildesheim, he was assistant director at the Stadttheater in Heidelberg, at the Stadttheater Konstanz (where Ulrich Khuon was theatre manager) and at the Staatstheater in Hanover (Khuon).

From 1993-96, he was director at the Carl Maria von Weber Theatre in Bernburg an der Saale. He then worked for two years as theatre and programme director at the open-air theatre of the Thalia Theater in Halle. Since 1998, he has been staging productions as a freelance director in Bregenz, Bremen, Dresden, Halle, Heidelberg, Cologne, Konstanz, Mannheim, Oldenburg, Uppsala and Zürich. He has been a permanent member of the team of directors at the independent Theater im Bauturm in Cologne since 2007. Rüdiger Pape stages productions for children, young people and adults. In 2005, he made his debut as an opera director at the Handel Festival in Halle, performing Handel’s opera “Amadigi”.

His production of the “Nibelungen ”at the Comedia Theatre in Cologne was presented with the Theatre Award of North-Rhine/Westphalia in 2006. His “Nibelungen” production was also nominated for the German theatre award the Faust in the best director of children’s and youth theatre category. Just recently, his production of “Frau Meier, die Amsel” (Mrs Meier, the Blackbird), for the Marabu Theater in Bonn, based on Wolf Erlbruch’s illustrated book, was presented with the Children’s and Youth Theatre Award of North-Rhine/Westphalia 2011. Rüdiger Pape lives in Cologne with his wife and three children


    He would not regard himself only as a children’s theatre director. Rüdiger Pape produces theatre for people from a wide age range. A greater difference is hardly conceivable than that between “Frau Meier, die Amsel”, based on Wolf Erlbruch, which Pape produced for the Marabu Theater in Bonn and which was awarded the Children’s and Youth Theatre Award of North-Rhine/Westphalia in May 2011, and his latest premiere based on Andreas Dresens’ film “Wolke 9” (Cloud 9) at the Theater im Bauturm in Cologne. The first brings to life a famous illustrated children’s book for children aged four and above, while the second is the stage version of a much-discussed film about love and sex in old age. Now, several months after the premiere, Pape is still receiving letters from senior citizens thanking him for treating this taboo subject with such respect and sensitivity.

    Yet there are some similarities between the works. Both are psychologically finely-traced, poetic and visually rich accounts of the present state of human relations. It is a coincidence that both deal with marriages. Mr and Mrs Meier find one another because Mrs Meier, with the help of a baby blackbird, casts her sadness aside and learns to fly. Inge and Werner go their separate ways because she falls in love with Karl, aged nearly 80, and gives up a lifeless marriage that has gone on for 30 years.

    Rüdiger Pape, who was born in 1960, is not guided by fashions in directing. What is important to him is to give each project its own shape and language. That is often a long process involving improvisation and close cooperation with actors and costume designers. “I submit to the material and try to see it in a completely new, innocent way each time,” he says. In “Frau Meier, die Amsel”, the first scene was inspired by a washing stand in the theatre foyer, while the Meiers’ cat was created by chance from a folded piece of paper and goes round in circles on a record turntable as a result of an actor’s spontaneous idea. That is not in the book, but it is a wonderful reflection of the book’s light, playful underlying mood.

    The fact that Rüdiger Pape, who comes from Cologne, has three children himself, sometimes helps, for example in making “Schwestern” (Sisters), Theo Franz’s moving play about death, that even moved experienced critics to tears. For hours, the two sisters, one of whom has meanwhile passed away, play nocturnal games with words, which were inspired by Pape’s daughters. “I also profit from their store of children’s books,” he says. Thus, one of his favourite productions of recent years was “Sultan und Kotzbrocken” (Sultan and Nasty Guy) by Claudia Schreiber, the script of which was published following his production. It was only by coincidence that Pape discovered that Claudia Schreiber is also from Cologne. A stimulating creative theatre dialogue developed between them.

    Freelance director Rüdiger Pape produces about five plays each year, which comes very close to overwork, but he could not survive on less. The materials that interest him in this work are very varied. “What they definitely must do is set something off inside me.” It might be an unwieldy rhythmic text like “Kaspar Häuser Meer” or an anarchical eulogy to laziness like “Sultan und Kotzbrocken”. But what is common to all his theatre work is that it has to do with images and emotions and that Pape attempts to make them his own from deep within himself. He even uses the old-fashioned word “soul” to describe it. Unemotional discursive theatre would not be his thing. “I try not to be unoriginal or to go chasing after trends – I have to remain completely true to myself.” It is precisely this that makes Rüdiger Pape one of the most productive and poetic contemporary directors of children’s and youth theatre.

    Dorothea Marcus

    Productions (selection)

    Rüdiger Pape and Ensemble: “Die Nibelungen”
    Comedia Cologne, presented with the North-Rhine/Westphalia Children’s and Youth Theatre Award, 2006

    After Kipling: “Das Dschungelbuch” (The Jungle Book)
    Staatstheater Oldenburg, 2006

    Ingrid Lausund: “Bandscheibenvorfall ”(Slipped Disc)
    Theater im Bauturm Cologne, 2007

    F.K. Wächter: “Frankensteins Monster” (Frankenstein’s Monster)
    Burgfestspiele Bad Vilbel, 2008

    Falk Richter: “Unter Eis” (Under Ice)
    Goethe-Institut Kiev, 2008

    Norbert Ebel: “Ox & Esel” (Ox and Ass)
    Theater Metronom Visselhoevede, 2008

    Bischof/Bodinek/Blum after Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”
    Comedia Theater Cologne, 2009

    After Claudia Schreiber: “Sultan und Kotzbrocken” (Sultan and Nasty Guy) (premiere)
    Theater Junge Generation, Dresden, 2009

    After J. M. Barrie: “Peter Pan”
    Municipal Theatre Uppsala, Sweden, 2009

    Felicia Zeller: “Kaspar Häuser Meer”
    Theater im Bauturm, Cologne, 2010

    Intercultural project on hotel rooms,
    Feldkirch, Austria, 2010

    Theo Franz “Schwestern ”(Sisters)
    Comedia, Cologne, 2010

    After Wolf Erlbruch: “Frau Meier, die Amsel” (Mrs Maier, The Blackbird)
    Theater Marabu, Bonn, 2010

    After Andreas Dresen: “Wolke 9” (Cloud 9) (premiere)
    Theater im Bauturm, Cologne, 2011