Karin Beier

Karin Beier Foto: © Sonja RothweilerBorn in Cologne in 1965. Read English Literature and Theatre, Film and Television Studies at the University of Cologne. Together with director Elmar Goerden, she founded the English-speaking theatre group “Countercheck Quarrelsome” there in 1986, which staged a number of productions of Shakespeare’s plays in the original.

From 1991-1992, she was assistant director at the Schauspielhaus in Düsseldorf, mainly under David Mouchtar-Samorai. From 1992, she produced her own work in Düsseldorf. In 1994, she was voted young director of the year for her Düsseldorf production of Romeo and Juliet, a production that was also invited to attend the Berlin Theatertreffen along with Der Sommernachtstraum – Ein europäischer Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night’s Dream – A European Shakespeare). From 1995 to 2000, she had regular assignments at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg as well as in Bonn, Hanover and Cologne. These were followed by productions in Bochum, Munich, and Vienna, at the Worms Festival and in Zürich. Since the 2007/2008 season, she has been general manager at Schauspiel Köln. Her stage adaptation of Ettore Scola’s film Die Schmutzigen, die Hässlichen und die Gemeinen (Ugly, Dirty, Bad) was invited to attend the Berlin Theatertreffen 2010. Karin Beier also produces operas.

Karin Beier received the Nestroy Theatre Award in 2006 for her production of Maxim Gorky’s The Petty Bourgois at the Akademietheater in Vienna and the 2009 German Theatre Award DER FAUST in the Best Play Director category for her production of Franz Grillparzer’s Das Goldene Vliess (The Golden Fleece) at the Schauspiel Köln.
Her adaption „Down and Dirty“ by Ettore Scola was invited to the Berliner Theatertreffen 2010 and elected in the yearbook Theatre Today 2010 as production of the year. The Schauspiel Köln was mentioned as "Theatre of the Year 2010", and a second time as "Theatre of the Year 2011"
Since the 2013/2014 season Karin Beier is director of the Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg.

    Portrait: Karin Beier

    All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. Karin Beier has internalised this disarming philosophy from Shakespeare’s As You Like It. The play’s very title is ultimately an expression of her guiding ideal. Karin Beier always does what she likes and as she likes it, unconstrained and light-heartedly, also fearlessly taking up what enthuses her about the work of other artists. For her, the stage is the unconditional space of a great jest called life.

    Perhaps things cannot turn out any differently if you grow up in Cologne, the capital city of fools, if you have a British mother, and if your first encounter with professional theatre is as an assistant to an English youth theatre putting on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, perhaps Shakespeare’s most versatile play, which puts all the world's laws out of joint. Since then, this playwright has influenced Karin Beier’s work as nobody else, encouraging her again and again to sound out and try out everything that theatre offers by way of playful potential.

    Already at Cologne University she put on nine radically modernised Shakespeare productions in English in five years and went on to pursue this cross-border work at the Schauspielhaus in Düsseldorf. In 1995, she staged A Midsummer Night’s Dream, an amalgamation of many languages and stylistic elements, using 14 actors from nine countries who cover the entire theatrical spectrum from Commedia dell’arte to Brechtian theatre. Her recent fame as a promising talent for creative theatre where the focus is on great acting does not prevent Beier’s wild, often clown-like stage spectacle failing to do justice to some writers. She staged Werner Schwab’s Eskalation ordinär (Escalation: obscene) at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg, making it a circus-like revue with acrobatic and mime, which did not receive unanimous plaudits. Beier is increasingly developing an interest in political issues. Since 2000, she has been addressing her generation’s attitude to life in the “Futur Zwei” project, which she developed herself, and she has sought parallels with 9/11 and the bombardment of Afghanistan in classical works of drama such as Richard III, which she staged in Bochum.

    Seeking the spirit of the age without brooding – Beier’s strength is sometimes also her weakness. She can immerse herself in socially-critical plays with curiosity and commitment, and can tease out archaic pleasure even from accomplished and well-honed comedies, as she does in her Munich production of Season’s Greetings and her Cologne production of Der Gott des Gemetzels (The God of the Carnage). But sometimes she loses herself in ideas and an eclectic mixture of styles that displays her artistic references rather than a compelling approach.

    Many ideas in her 2007 Cologne production Nibelungen are reminiscent of Andreas Kriegenburg’s Munich production, from the slapstick of a domesticated Barbie-Brunhilda to the posturing of vengeful Kriemhilda as a black spider. Beier mixes trash theatre with highly-charged psychology, and zeitgeist with the history of literary reception. “Peace is our profession” say the posters of the people of Worms, after George W. Bush, while the gramophone plays Wagner’s funeral march upon Siegfried’s death. Without rigour, there is also something actionist and hail-fellow-well-met about Karin Beier's urge to make associations. She transports Peer Gynt to an old peoples’ home, making it a senilely fantasised retrospective view of life, but rather than seeing a shortage of nursing staff, one sees the shortcomings of a director whose scenic means slip out of control among all the slapstick and songs, despite the exciting basic idea. In King Lear, Beier presents herself as an epigone of Jürgen Gosch. With all the intoxication of the primevally powerful and impressive acting performance, she loses sight of why she has staged the drama exclusively with women, something that attracted a great deal of attention.

    Karin Beier wants a great deal, if not everything, from the theatre. Tragedy and laughter, drama and commentaries on it, old and contemporary. These levels come together in her successful works, circulating pulsatingly between the head and the heart. In 2008, she presented Grillparzer’s Golden Fleece in Cologne with a quartet of top-class actors as a trilogy of age-old estrangement. It begins with large archaic masks, proceeds to trace civilisation through a sandy gladiatorial arena and ends up in the icy modern era of self-alienation. In her almost silent film adaptation of Die Schmutzigen, die Hässlichen und die Gemeinen (Ugly, Dirty, Bad), she turns her audience into voyeurs for two hours, observing an underclass behind soundproofed windows, heightening our awareness, particularly in playing with our otherwise so superficial view of the precarity of living on Hartz IV benefits. Here, a mobile home is a stage, and the theatre lies between the drama on stage and real-life drama. Karin Beier lives her Shakespeare with new verve every time. All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players ….

    Vasco Boenisch

    Productions - A selection

    • "Anton Chekhov "Uncle Vanja"
      2015, Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg
    • "Pfeffersäcke im Zuckerland (Eine Menschenausstellung) & Strahlende Verfolger (Elfriede Jelinek)"
      2014, Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg
After Euripide / Jean-Paul Sartre / Aischylus / Hugo von Hofmannsthal "Die Rasenden" (i.e. "The Furious")
Iphigenie in Aulis, The Women of Troy, Die Oresteia/Electra

      2014, Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg
    • Euripides/Jean-Paul Sartre "Les troyennes ("The Trojan Women")
      2013, Schauspiel Köln
    • Bettina Auer, Karin Beier, Rita Thiele "Demokratie in Abendstunden. Eine Kakophonie" (i.e. "Democracy In the Evening Hours. A Cacophony")
      With texts by Joseph Beuys, John Cage, Rainald Goetz and others
      Elfriede Jelinek "Kein Licht (i.e. "No Light")"
      2011, Schauspiel Köln
    • Elfriede Jelinek "Das Werk/Im Bus/ Ein Sturz" (i.e. "The Works/ In the Bus/ A Fall")
      2010, Schauspiel Köln
      Invitation to the Berliner Theatertreffen
    • Ettore Scola and Ruggero Maccari "Down and Dirty" ("Brutti sporchi e cattivi")
      2010, Schauspiel Köln, Invitation to the Berliner Theatertreffen
    • William Shakespeare "King Lear"
      2009, Schauspiel Köln
    • Pedro Caldéron de la Barca „Life is a Dream“
      2009, Burgtheater, Vienna
    • Henrik Ibsen "Peer Gynt"
      2008, Schauspiel Köln
    • Franz Grillparzer „The Golden Fleece“
      2008, Schauspiel Köln
    • William Shakespeare „Measure for Measure“
      2007, Burgtheater, Vienna
    • Yasmina Reza „Le Dieu du Carnage“ (i.e. "The God of the Carnage")
      2007, Schauspiel Köln
    • Friedrich Hebbel „Die Nibelungen“
      2007, Schauspiel Köln
    • Maxim Gorki "Petty Bourgeois"
      2006, Akademieteheater, Vienna
    • Simon Stephens „On the Shore of the Wide World“
      2006, Schauspielhaus, Zürich
    • Franzobel „Wir wollen den Messias jetzt oder Die beschleunigte Familie“ (i.e., "We Want The messiah Now or The Accelerated Family")
      2005, Akademietheater, Wien
    • Biljana Srbljanovic „God save America“
      2004, Akademietheater, Vienna
    • Johann Friedrich Hebbel „The Nibelungen“
      2004, Worms Festival
    • Alan Ayckbourn „Season's Greetings“
      2003, Münchner Kammerspiele
    • Gotthold Ephraim Lessing “Minna von Barnhelm”
      2003, Schauspielhaus Bochum
    • Neil La Bute “The Shape of Things”
      2002, Schauspielhaus Bochum
    • Albert Ostermaier “99 Degrees”
      Premiere 2002, Münchner Kammerspiele
    • William Shakespeare "Richard III”
      2001, Schauspielhaus Bochum
    • Karin Beier “Future II”
      2000, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
    • Molière “The Misanthrope"
      1998, Schauspiel Köln
    • William Shakespeare “The Tempest”
      1997, Schauspiel Köln
    • William Shakespeare “As You Like It”
      1996, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
    • Witold Gombrowicz “Yvonne, the Princess of Burgundy”
      1996, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
    • Werner Schwab “Escalation: obscene”
      1995, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
    • William Shakespeare “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
      1995, Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus, invitation to Berliner Theatertreffen
    • William Shakespeare “Romeo and Juliet”
      1993, Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus, invitation to Berliner Theatertreffen
    • George Tabori “The 25th Hour”
      1992, Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus