Directors of children and youth theatre – Kay Wuschek

Biography

Kay Wuschek © Christian Brachwitz

Kay Wuschek was born in Leipzig in 1963. He studied theatre science and cultural communication at the Humboldt University of Berlin. He first worked as a dramaturg at various theatres including the bat Studiotheater in Berlin, in Schwerin, Magdeburg, at the Thalia Theater Halle, in Bulgaria and at the Theater Aachen.

He has also staged his own productions at theatres including the Hoftheater Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin, in Magdeburg, Halle, Tübingen, and in Paris and Komsomolsk (Russia). His productions were invited to come to the Norddeutsches Theatertreffen and to many German festivals of children’s and youth theatre, but also to international festivals in Glasgow, St. Louis (France), and the Udmurt Autonomous Republic (now part of Russia). Wuschek has also been a member of various juries and the director of children’s and youth theatre festivals in Halle an der Saale and Aachen.

Since 2005, he has directed the Theater an der Parkaue in Berlin-Lichtenberg, the largest and only state children’s and youth theatre in Germany, with three stages. It was set up in 1948 upon the orders of the Soviet military administration. During the GDR era it was the renowned Theater der Freundschaft. It later became the carrousel-Theater (and since 2005 has been the Theater an der Parkaue).

In 2006, Kay Wuschek was selected as a member of the Berlin Council for the Arts and he is one of its two spokespersons. Since 2009, he has been a member of the Committee for Artistic Questions at the German Theatre and Orchestra Association. He has also been one of the two German vice-presidents of the International Theatre Institute (ITI) since 2009.

    Portrait

    The world becomes strangely foreign

    “I am not interested in self-enclosed aesthetics,” says Kay Wuschek. The manager of the Theater an der Parkaue in Berlin, the only state children’s and youth theatre in Germany, uses a variety of different theatrical styles in his productions for young people. Elements of light comedy are to be found alongside a sprinkling of fantasy, lots of music, and comic and operatic elements. “Growing up is a process that subjectively has many tragic elements, but objectively can also seem very comic,” he says. Features common to many of Wuschek’s works are that they do not ignore the tragic and dark aspects of life and are quite demanding on young people. That is true both of Theodor Storm’s “Schimmelreiter” (The Rider on the White Horse), in which we witness the downfall of dyke builder Hauke Haien at the end of his modern dyke construction product, and of Astrid Lindgren’s dark book “Die Brüder Löwenherz” (The Brothers Lionheart), in which two brothers both die. Wuschek’s staging of Fontane’s “Frau Jenny Treibel oder Wo sich Herz zum Herzen find’t” (Frau Jenny Treibel or Where Heart Finds its Way to Heart) was also not exactly what one would expect of a play for young people. Wuschek does not change the language of the novel, which was written in 1892. The story of Corinna, the teacher’s daughter bent on social advancement who wants to marry up in society and who fails on account of her hypocritical prospective mother-in-law is told racily by outstanding actors. Wuschek does not resort to modern gimmicks, although the story has much in common with modern teenagers’ dreams of winning a televised singing competition. Instead, Wuschek relies on the power of his story, which he tells with great intensity, without pandering to what is supposedly youth taste.

    Yet he raises big questions. His “Schimmelreiter” begins with two women reciting a poem by Storm about his illness from cancer. He was only able to complete his great work because his family and doctors lied to him, saying that his illness had been misdiagnosed. In so doing, they gave him back his creative energy. Is it legitimate to falsify a person’s last phase of life by telling a lie, even if that made it more pleasant? The question is a constant motif of the production, which uses simple means such as partitions, mirrors and light to tell a story of the threatening natural forces of the sea. Dike reeve Hauke Haien wears a military-style black leather coat and oscillates between youthfully visionary enthusiasm and obsession.

    “Brüder Löwenherz” begins with a radio presenter reporting the death by accident of the healthy brother Jonatan, perhaps a touch too jauntily. But nobody talks about the destroyed life of his parents, even when consumptive nine-year-old “Rusky” dies and the lovingly pragmatic Jonatan is already awaiting him in Nangijala, where they go riding and fishing, can watch television as long as they want to, and fight the evil Tengil. But things get out of control and they are betrayed. In the end, the brothers, both a bit more grown up, enter a new fantasy world together. Death is a recurring theme in Wuschek’s work. That also clearly shows that for him the line between adult and youth theatre is not clear-cut – there are no age limits to the existential questions that occupy him.

    When Wuschek took over what was then the caroussel-Theater in Berlin-Lichtenberg in 2005, it was plagued by strict rules on spending. And yet, through his determined efforts, he gave it new, modern aesthetics. This manager does not manage to stage more than one production of his own each year. But he does not need to – after all, his pieces are great, deeply thought out works.

    Dorothea Marcus

    Productions (selection)

    Bertolt Brecht "Life of Galileo"
    Theater an der Parkaue, 2012

    Theodor Storm: “Der Schimmelreiter” (The White Horse Rider)
    Volkstheater Rostock / Theater an der Parkaue, 2011

    Theodor Fontane: “Frau Jenny Treibel oder Wo sich Herz zum Herzen find’t” (Frau Jenny Treibel or Where Heart Finds its Way to Heart)
    Theater an der Parkaue, 2010

    Astrid Lindgren: “Die Brüder Löwenherz” (The Brothers Lionheart)
    Coproduction of the Theater an der Parkaue and the Bad Hersfeld Festival, 2010

    Kay Wuschek after Anna Seghers: “Transit”
    Theater an der Parkaue Berlin, premiere 2009

    Hans Christian Andersen: “Der Gärtner und die Herrschaft” (The Gardener and the Manor)
    Theater an der Parkaue, 2008

    Theodor Storm: “Die Regentrude” (The Rain Trude)
    Theater an der Parkaue Berlin, 2007

    Guy Krneta: “Ursel”
    Theater an der Parkaue Berlin, 2006

    Bart Moeyaert: “Am Anfang” (In the Beginning)
    Coproduction of the Theater an der Parkaue and Burghof Lörrach, 2006