Plays

Gespräche mit Astronauten
(Conversations with Astronauts)

'They are cheaper than low-wage workers and have no rights of any kind. They are called Olanka, Anjuschka, Olga and Irina, and come from countries on the borders of Centropa. Countries that do not offer them any prospects, countries like Slovenlia, Cheatnya, Stolen, Rustland and Ukulele. The land of their dreams is a country of ski jumpers called Ditchland. They arrive there hoping for a better life, a more agreeable life, an exciting life. They are the serving maids of globalisation and call themselves 'au pairs'. 'Au pair' means 'on a par', which implies a reciprocal relationship between equals. However, it is others who dictate what this looks like in practice. In addition to their board and lodging, the young women receive one lesson after another in the ecobourgeois dilemmas of individuals who once used to be so committed to left-wing causes. Felicia Zeller piles up contrasting attitudes to life and clashing needs into a cacophonous Tower of Babel. In this piece, the unique comic effects of her language derive not from exaggeration, but from the meticulous recording of spirals of communication and everyday litanies of the never changing: The irritated au pairs' excuses are drowned out by cascades of words from stressed power women, interrupted by the screaming of tyrannical children... Only the fathers are inaudible in this virtuoso Zellerian torrent of words: they float in space or come home around half past nine in the evening, sometimes later, sometimes not at all.'
(Verlag henschel SCHAUSPIEL)

Download SymbolGespräche mit Astronauten - reading extract (PDF, 57 KB) Deutsche Flagge

Comments on the play:

'With a furious gaze and frenziedly witty language, Felicia Zeller uncovers the mechanisms and secret racisms of our overheating Western world of work in her play. As previously in Kaspar Häuser Meer, her successful grotesque about three hopelessly overworked social workers, the author has done a tremendous amount of research for Conversations with Astronauts as well, conducting interviews with host mothers and au pairs, then catapulting the material through her tried-and-tested verbal particle accelerator (a model patented by Jelinek).

What comes out at the other end is a crazy spoken operetta on the verge of hysteria, a sonorously rhythmic comedy of cascading words full of rhymes, phrases, corny jokes and promises – lightning-fast, strident as one of René Pollesch's discursive dance routines and always teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown.'
(Christine Dössel, Mülheim Theatertage 2011 programme)


'What Zeller has written up is very funny and highly revealing. There are four families in her play, characters and utterances flow past indistinguishably, divided into small sections […].

Zeller pours forth genuine cascades of language, as if she wanted to challenge Elfriede Jelinek's rank as the choir mistress of the German tongue with the most spectacular command of the language: she mocks, puns and ironises, she rhymes and alliterates, she gives us swearing, agonising and despair. She has listened closely, which is why, even though her language is so highly charged, the play sounds of course as if it had been written by eavesdropping on contemporary voices. Rarely does one encounter such linguistically interesting texts in the theatre as those of Felicia Zeller [….]. Her scripts switch back and forth between revelation and cliché, an alternation that ensures they are constantly on the verge of tipping over into parody and satire […].'
(Peter Michalzik, Frankfurter Rundschau, 26.09.2010)


Technical data:

Premiere 24.09.2010, Nationaltheater Mannheim
Director Burkhard C. Kosminski
Cast -
Rights henschel SCHAUSPIEL
Translations Theatre Library