Directors of children's and youth theatre – Klaus Schumacher

Biography

Klaus Schumacher © Kerstin Schomburg

Klaus Schumacher, who was born in Unna in 1965, studied applied cultural studies at the University of Hildesheim and was one of the co-founders of the Theater Aspik.

From 1995 to 2005, he was a member of the moks ensemble, the children’s and youth theatre at Bremen Theatre, where he was also artistic director from the 2000/2001 season until the end of the 2003/2004 season. He was invited to bring his Bremen productions of “Cyrano” and “Playback Life” to the Berlin meeting of children’s and youth theatre. On finishing his stint in Bremen, Klaus Schumacher and his ensemble were awarded the Kurt Hübner Prize. In 2003, he began work at the Staatstheater Stuttgart with “Kampf des Negers und der Hunde” (Black Battles with Dogs) by Bernard-Marie Koltès, which he also staged at other theatres, not only at children’s and youth theatres. This was followed by work at Hanover Schauspiel and the Schauspiel of Bremen Theatre as well as “Kasimir und Karoline” (Kasimir and Caroline), another production he directed at the Staatstheater Stuttgart. In 2005, Klaus Schumacher was appointed director of the newly-founded Junges Schauspielhaus in Hamburg, set up there when Friedrich Schirmer became artistic director at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus. He was awarded the Hamburg Rolf Mares Prize for his production of “Mutter Afrika” (Mother Africa). In 2006, he received the first German theatre prize the Faust for best director of theatre for children and young people, and in 2010 he won the prize of the German Bible and Culture Foundation. As well as staging productions at the Junges Schauspielhaus, he has also put on regular productions on the large stage at the Schauspielhaus since 2007. He also works as a part-time lecturer at the Theaterakademie Hamburg.

    Portrait

    Klaus Schumacher gained his first theatre experience at Theater Aspik, an independent theatre he co-founded with other students at the Department of Applied Theatre Studies in Hildesheim. Aspik soon made a name for itself in Lower Saxony’s independent scene by staging experimental productions, often at venues remote from the theatre, and by combining film, music and the visual arts. In 1995, Klaus Schumacher moved to the moks theatre, the highly independent children’s and youth theatre division of Bremen Theatre, where he was initially employed as an actor, but regularly worked as a director.

    Characteristic features of his productions are his use of a clear sign system and his desire to narrate big issues in as complete a way as possible. In so doing, he often follows the narrative style of film. An example of this is Lutz Hübner’s “Ehrensache” (A Question of Honour), a play based on an authentic case study. He got to grips with the subject of the film medium as the writer and director of “Playback Life”. He first staged this production in Bremen and later in Hamburg. By using live video recordings not as contrarian artwork but as an intelligent dramaturgical device, he succeeds here in contrasting the confusing emotional worlds of adolescents with Hollywood’s predictable emotions. The end of the 48-hour video marathon that the four youngsters undergo in the play is followed by the tongue-in-cheek dramaturgy of a B-movie. In “Cyrano”, another of his Bremen productions, he succeeds in making a counter version of the often-filmed material. By radically shortening the text and making a production that draws entirely on the actors’ energy, Schumacher cuts through to the core issue and one that is a key one for adolescents - the contrast between external and internal beauty.

    As an artistic director and children’s and youth theatre director, Klaus Schumacher is motivated by the urge to find new interpretations of great material from world literature. Morality is one aspect he is keen to draw out. The German Bible and Culture Foundation, which awarded him its prize in 2010, writes of him as follows: "He has performed outstanding services to the dissemination of Christian values and humanist ideals in his artistic work." Two of his major works, “Mutter Afrika” (Mother Africa), which tells the story of slavery, and “Odyssee ”(Odyssey), are plays by Ad de Bont, a leading Netherlands’ writer for children’s and young people’s theatre. Schumacher says that he loves big stories that illuminate the past from a contemporary vantage point and that are pathetic in the positive sense of the word. Homer’s ancient sagas are contrasted with two contemporary stories about the search for belonging and home by children in conflict with their parents. The resulting four-hour theatre marathon is an unusual format for a young audience, but Schumacher’s intense staging places its trust in the ancient story’s timeless power.

    In children’s theatre, too, he consistently uses the means available to spoken theatre and the actors’ pleasure in acting. This was recently praised by Hamburg critics in connection with his stage adaptation of Andreas Steinhöfel’s “Rico, Oskar und die Tieferschatten” (Rico, Oskar and Deeper Shadows). Although it is Klaus Schumacher’s work for young audiences that has received prizes and has been invited to attend festivals, his work is by no means aimed only at this age group. He seems to benefit from constantly switching target groups. He had already directed two successful productions of Shakespeare’s plays for the big stage and discovered a way of presenting Hamlet to young people that brought the classic drama home to them. Every generation needs its own Hamlet, Schumacher once said in an interview. That comment, as well as the fact that he is a master of the art of directing, may explain why Schumacher so successfully expresses his respect for and willingness to engage with the people in the audience. No matter what their age, he aims to give them the feeling that someone out there has thought about them and has worked for them.

    Eckhard Mittelstädt

    Productions

    After Max Eipp, Klaus Schumacher’s version of “Wut” (Anger)
    2011, Junges Schauspielhaus Hamburg

    Andreas Steinhöfel: “Rico, Oskar und die Tieferschatten” (Rico, Oscar and the Deeper Shadows)
    2011, Junges Schauspielhaus Hamburg

    William Shakespeare: Hamlet
    2009, Junges Schauspielhaus Hamburg

    David Gieselmann and Klaus Schumacher: “Louis und Louisa” (Louis and Louisa)
    2008, Junges Schauspielhaus Hamburg

    Paula Fünfeck: “MaxundMurx” (Max and Murx)
    2008, Junges Schauspielhaus Hamburg

    Ad de Bont: “Die Odyssee” (The Odyssee)
    2007, Junges Schauspielhaus Hamburg

    Lutz Hübner: “Ehrensache” (A Question of Honour)
    2006, Junges Schauspielhaus Hamburg

    Klaus Schumacher: “Tags anders – nachts auch” (Days different … nights too)
    2006, Junges Schauspielhaus Hamburg

    Ad de Bont: “Mutter Afrika” (Mother Africa)
    2005, Junges Schauspielhaus Hamburg

    Paula Fünfeck: “MaxundMurx” (Max and Murx)
    2005, MOKS at the Bremen Theatre

    Cornelia Funke: “Tintenherz” (Inkheart)
    2004, Schauspiel Hannover

    Klaus Schumacher: “Playback Life”
    2004, MOKS at the Bremen Theatre

    Bernhard-Marie Koltès: “Kampf des Negers und der Hunde” (Black Battles with Dogs)
    2003, Staatstheater Stuttgart

    Kristo Sagor: “FSK 16” (Rated Suitable for People Aged 16 or Older)
    2003, MOKS at the Bremen Theatre

    Edmont Rostand: “Cyrano”
    2002, MOKS at the Bremen Theatre

    after Wolf Erlbruch: “Die fürchterlichen Fünf” (The Terrible Five)
    2002, MOKS at the Bremen Theatre

    Gertrud Pigor: “Zwei Monster” (Two Monsters)
    2001, MOKS at the Bremen Theatre

    Kristo Sagor: “Fremdeln” (Stranger Anxiety)
    2001, MOKS at the Bremen Theatre

    Ad de Bont: “Die Tochter des Ganovenkönigs” (The Daughter of the Crook King)
    2000, MOKS at the Bremen Theatre

    The MOKS Ensemble: “Die Papphornexpedition” (The Cardboard Horn Expedition)
    1999, MOKS at the Bremen Theatre

    Klaus Schumacher: “Scharf – Ein Lustspiel” (Hot – A Comedy)
    1997, MOKS at the Bremen Theatre

    Roberto Frabetti: “Die Reise einer Wolke” (The Journey of a Cloud)
    1996, Theater im Werftpark Kiel

    Günther Jankowiak: “Bilsenkraut” (Henbane)
    1996, MOKS at the Bremen Theatre

    after Janosch: “Hallo Schiff Pyjamahose” (Hello Ship Pyjama Trousers)
    1995, Theater im Werftpark, Kiel