Theresia Walser

Die Heldin von Potsdam ("The Heroine of Potsdam")

The action is based on a real occurrence in 1994. After a serious fall, an unemployed woman, the mother of three children, pretended that she had protected an old lady against a group of skinheads and been wounded. After several days of media attention, making the most of this supposedly heroic deed, she admitted she had not told the truth.
Paula Wündrich, the main character in Theresia Walser's bitter comedy, is also without a job and going downhill socially. She is made a public "heroine" after having claimed in hospital, where she is lying severely wounded, that she saved a Turkish woman from skinheads who then threw her out of the train. The story is thankfully and greedily taken up by the media as a demonstration of real civil courage in the face of frightening Neo-Nazis. Paula at first enjoys the attention she thus receives before recognizing that the lies presented by society as truth are much worse and even urgently sought as a confirmation. So Paula finally admits to her lie on television so as not to play along but rather uphold her own truth and real identity.

Responses to the Play

"The heroine tells a lie. But her lie is 'coveted to the point of unrecognisability': as a real commodifiable truth. Not what actually happened but what people would like to have happened. Now Neo-Nazis and skinheads really do attack Turks and foreigners. And Paula really did exist at Potsdam in 1994. Theresia Walser's comedy does not deny that reality. But she makes it more fantastic. That doesn't mean more beautiful. but rather more amazing. She moves through this reality, shaking little trees to the left and to the right, and, as in all of her comedies to date, what falls off is a little nightmare.
(Gerhard Stadelmaier, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung No. 216, 17.9.2001)

"... This 'heroine' Paula Wündrich is another character in Walser's ever-longer list of specialists in misfortune on the diffuse ground of our social network where no-one can say any longer whether a person has already come to grief, or they are just about keeping above water thanks to badly-paid jobs and social assistance. The lifebelt for a woman who never quite goes under is her command of language, her determination to find words, knowing that there is always a tiny space between reality and her description, and that not even the most determined concept completely grasps what is at stake. And that even the mere choice of words displaces reality by another possibility. With their words Theresia Walser's characters time and again soar, but the next precarious situation inevitably preserves them from withdrawing into poetic appearances (and slipping into friendly harmlessness). Such inhabitants of niches between word and reality do not want to change reality, but they insist that no-one can impose their own view of reality. And that the frontiers between their own interpretation and what others call "lies" are at least fluid.
(Franz Wille, Theater heute, 10/2001, p. 54)

Technical Details

Premiere Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin, 15.09.2001
Director Volker Hesse
Cast 4 women, 9 men, 1 child
Rights Verlag der Autoren
Schleusenstraße 15
60327 Frankfurt am Main
Tel. 069/23 85 74-20, Fax 069/24 27 76 44
theater@verlag-der-autoren.de
Translations Theatre Library