New German dramatic art - Plays

Vorher/Nachher ("Before/Afterwards")

In "Before/Afterwards" the audience's attention is directed in 51 short scenes towards individual moments in the lives of a large number of nebulously described characters who are by chance staying in the same big hotel at the same time.
Some of them - such as "The Man with an Insect Jar" or the "Two Dancers" -- only make a single appearance, while "The Woman around Thirty", who would like to leave her husband after ten years of partnership and starts a relationship with "The Man from Another City", comes into focus time and again. So too does "The Woman around Seventy" who does everything in the dark so as not to see herself - and the man who is left by the "The Woman around Thirty" and wants to take his revenge by getting involved with "The Red-Haired Woman". Another woman, suppressed by her husband, tries to get back on her feet again by remembering a Great Aunt's basic principle of preserving a sense of humour despite all her suffering.

Schimmelpfennig simultaneously weaves surreal elements into these events. A man crawls up a wall like a spider; another vanishes into a painting and does not emerge again. The inexplicable mingles with everyday banality, which in fact also becomes significant in, for instance, an attempt at getting a light and the heating to work when their absence seems catastrophic.

Responses to the Play

"Before/After" stages what is seen by a camera panning, seemingly purposelessly, across the wide expanses of everyday existence - or also through nothing more than two dozen rooms in the same extended hotel complex. 51 times the camera comes to a stop and spends a little time with people who are alone or lonely à deux, who reflect, remember, or fear, who want to make love or would prefer to quarrel : so-to-speak laconic "short cuts" which Schimmelpfennig presents in monologues, dialogues, or often simply as prose statements ... These are all carefully assembled, wonderfully avoiding elaboration, like petals forming a mandala. The final scene capriciously repeats the first one, demonstratively concluding a somewhat Buddhist encircling of earthly passions.
(Eva Behrendt in "Theater heute", 01/2003)

"Roland Schimmelpfennig unfolds ... a compelling and virtuosic social panorama of our time. Seemingly fragmentarily assembled stories that break off abruptly come together - thanks to the staying-power of the narrative - to form a kind of painting which both painfully and humorously compresses the improbable and mysterious aspects of life, the everyday and the banal, the unpredictable, fortune and misfortune, to make an interwoven network of relationships. People experience their fate and stories, and are obviously not always "in control" of what's happening. They seem to be swimming along in an endless stream of relationships and yet provide each other with impulses, like billiard balls knocking together, so as to discover fresh constellations.

Deploying melancholy and loving regard, Schimmelpfennig tells of the fragmenting of individuals and the community, but then playfully reassembles these fragments as a new prism. The spectator sees the "before" and the "after", but the dramatic event itself eludes his or her perception. This completely new, almost cinematic dramaturgy of narration, which largely does without dialogue, sharpens one's eye for the situational context and also frees the imagination for the possible which could have taken place".
(Press release by Karlsruhe's Badisches Staatstheater, 2003)

Technical Details

Premiere 22.11.2002, Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg
Director Jürgen Gosch
Cast 39 (This number is variable)
Rights S. Fischer Verlag GmbH
Theater und Medien
Hedderichstr. 144
60596 Frankfurt am Main
Tel. 069/ 60 62 339, Fax 069/ 60 62 335
theater@s-fischer.de
Translations Theatre Library