Jürgen Gosch

© Arno Declair
Born in Cottbus on 9 September 1943, died on 11 June 2009 in Berlin.
1962-1964 Studied at the State Drama School in East Berlin. First job as an actor at Parchim Theatre/Mecklenburg. 1967-1970 hired at Potsdam Theatre, where he debuted as a director. Fritz Marquardt brought him to the Volksbühne in East Berlin, where he created a production of Georg Büchner’s “Leonce and Lena” in 1978 that was critical of the system; it was taken off the programme.

In the same year he moved to West Germany. After his first productions at the Staatstheater Hanover and Bremen Theatre, his breakthrough came in 1984 at Cologne Schauspiel with Sophocles’s “Oedipus Rex”. The production with Ulrich Wildgruber in the lead role was awarded the European Theatre Prize in 1985 at the Theatre Biennale in Venice.

1984-1988 director at Thalia Theatre Hamburg under the management of Jürgen Flimm. 1987 debut as opera director. 1988/1989 member of the artistic management of the Berlin Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz. Then he once again worked as a freelance director, including productions at Schauspielhaus Bochum and Schauspiel Frankfurt/Main.

1993-1999 director at Deutsches Theater Berlin under the management of Thomas Langhoff. Since then, Gosch has worked regularly at Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf and at the Deutsches Theater Hamburg.

In 1988/1989, he succeeded Peter Stein as a member of the artistic management at the Berlin Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz. Subsequently – following the failure of his “Macbeth” – he worked again as a freelance director at various theatres, including the Schauspielhaus Bochum and the Schauspiel Frankfurt/Main. From 1993 to 1999, he was an associate director at the Deutsches Theater Berlin under its artistic director Thomas Langhoff. There followed many works at the Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf (under artistic director Anna Badora) and the Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg (under artistic director Tom Stromberg).

In 2004, he enjoyed great success at a national level with Gorky’s “Summer Folk” in Düsseldorf and Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” at the Deutsches Theater Berlin. Since then, Gosch has celebrated a triumphant comeback in German-language theatre. He received the Theatre Prize of the Association of German Critics in 2006 and was chosen as director of the year in the Theater heute critics survey both in 2004 (for “Summer Folk”) and in 2006 (for his Düsseldorf “Macbeth”). Since the 2006/2007 season, Gosch has again had a permanent position at the Deutsches Theater Berlin, but he remained much in demand as a guest director, staying loyal to the Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf while working at the Schauspielhaus Zurich and other theatres.

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Portrait: Jürgen Gosch

Anyone who has ever experienced Jürgen Gosch on a podium knows that he is not a man of many words. Theoretical justifications and loud discussions are not his style. Gosch is a quiet, consistent worker who expresses whatever he has to say in his productions and also tends towards modesty as a director: “I don’t want to convey anything with my theatrical work that goes beyond its objects.”
Gosch’s theatre is the concentrated work of an ascetic who withdraws completely in textual work and avoids anything that is to do with show, effect and glamour. He has been called a “pedant", a “Puritan”, even a “preacher of repentance”. He has often subjected his audience to “drawn-out, lengthy, grimly dreary séances” wrote Der Spiegel in 1987. But we are doing Gosch an injustice if we write off his work as the spiritual exercises of a joyless theatre monk because they are often illuminated from within and are of a scenic and theatrical quality with which they can plainly and self-confidently stand up to the fashions and bad habits of the zeitgeist. Gosch is always true to himself and his style and has thus always remained contemporary. Thus, for example, in January 2004 he lightly freed Gorky’s “Summer Folk” of all its dust and class-war pathos on a large, empty box stage at Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf and conjured an illuminating, modern play out of it in small, fragmentary stories. “Rarely has there been so much to learn about people on the stage,” wrote Andreas Rossmann in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “Densely composed and full of breaks, the production gains social accuracy and a virtuous proximity to reality.” The production was invited to the Berliner Theatertreffen, where Gosch has already been a guest with many productions.
Gosch comes from the former GDR, where he caused trouble as early as 1978 with a production of Büchner’s “Leonce and Lena”. His intimations of the Berlin Wall and being enclosed in this state – for example, by exaggeratedly slamming many doors – led to the production being taken off the programme and Gosch ultimately moved to West Germany. His most important sponsor was Jürgen Flimm, who brought him to Cologne and then to the Thalia Theatre in Hamburg. Gosch and his productions – mostly in cooperation with the set designer Axel Mathey and the literary manager Wolfgang Wiens – played a major part in the rise of Flimm’s theatre to the ranks of elite theatre. His unbelievably refreshing and spirited “Misanthrope” production with Hans Christian Rudolph in the lead role was a great success in 1983; he celebrated a triumph with Sophocles’s “Oedipus Rex”, played by Ulrich Wildgruber – a production with masks and cothurnuses.
Kleist, Molière, Shakespeare, Büchner and Beckett are Gosch’s preferred writers, he has produced some of their plays several times, for example Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” in Cologne in 1984, Hamburg in 1987 and at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin in 1996. Whether Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” or Kleist’s “Prince Frederick of Homburg” – Gosch’s productions always have something of great rituals, black and white are the dominant colours, small symbols acquire great significance. “Here, someone is seeking a new myth, a coherent image, a sort of shared worship that nevertheless does not disengage the brain,” was the diagnosis of Lothar Schmidt-Mühlisch in Die Welt in 1987.
In 1988 Gosch was appointed to the directorium of the Berlin Schaubühne as the successor to Luc Bondy. His anaemic opening production of Schakespeare’s “Macbeth” was such a debacle that he then “released” himself from the artistic direction and left the theatre in 1990 after two more productions. From 1993 until the replacement of Thomas Langhoff in 1999 he found an artistic home at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin. Once again, he examined the great classics, always reticent when faced with the text, but in this time he also developed a liking for contemporary drama. In his cautious, puritanical way he won existential interpretations from the plays by Peter Handke, Jon Fosse and, more recently, Roland Schimmelpfennig. Jürgen Gosch has lots to say – in his own way.
Christine Dössel

Productions - A selection

  • Roland Schimmelpfennig "Idomeneus"
    2009,Deutsches Theater Berlin
  • Anton Chekhov"The Seagull"
    2008, Coproduction Deutsches Theater Berlin with the theatre Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Berlin
    (Invitation to theBerliner Theatertreffen)
  • Roland Schimelpfennig "Hier und Jetzt" (i.e. "Here and Now")
    2008, Schauspielhaus Zürich
  • Anton Chekhov "Uncle Vanya"
    2008, Deutsches Theater Berlin (Invitation to the Berliner Theatertreffen,
    Production of the year2008in the magazine Theater Heute)
  • Roland Schimmelpfennig "Das Reich der Tiere"
    2007, Deutsches Theater Berlin
  • William Shakespeare "Ein Sommernachtstraum"
    2007, Deutsches Theater Berlin
  • Yasmina Reza "Le dieu du carnage" (i.e., "The God of the Carnage")
    2006, Schauspielhaus Zurich
    (Invitation to the Berliner Theatertreffen)
  • Roland Schimmelpfennig "Ambrosia"
    2006, Deutsches Theater Berlin
  • Yasmina Reza "Dans la luge d'Arthur Schopenhauer" (i.e. "On Arthur Schopenhauer's Sledge")
    2006, Deutsches Theater Berlin
  • Roland Schimmelpfennig „The Woman Before“
    2006, Schauspiel Köln
  • Maksim Gorky „The Lower Depths“
    2006, Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg
  • Roland Schimmelpfennig „Auf der Greifswalder Straße“ (i.e., "On Greifswalder Street")
    UA 2006, Deutsches Theater, Berlin
  • Anton Tschechow „The Cherry Orchard“
    2005, Schauspielhaus, Zürich
  • William Shakespeare „Macbeth“
    2005, Schauspielhaus, Düsseldorf (Invited to theBerliner Theatertreffen)
  • Anton Tschechow „Three Sisters“
    2005, schauspielhannover (Invited to the Berliner Theatertreffen)
  • Yasmina Reza „Ein Spanisches Stück“ (i.e., "A Spanish Play")
    2005, Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg
  • Edward Albee "Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf"
    2004, Deutsches Theater Berlin (Invitation to the Berliner Theatertreffen)
  • Henrik Ibsen "Peer Gynt"
    2004, Schauspielhaus Bochum
  • Heinrich von Kleist “The Broken Pitcher”
    2004, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
  • Maxim Gorky “Summer Folk”
    2004, Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf, invitation to Berliner Theatertreffen
  • William Shakespeare “As You Like It”
    2003, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
  • Roland Schimmelpfennig “Before/After”
    premiere 2002, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
  • Roland Schimmelpfennig “Push Up”
    2001, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
  • Jon Fosse “Someone is Going to Come”
    2001, Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf
  • Jon Fosse “The Name”
    2000, Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf
  • Heinrich von Kleist “Katherine of Heilbronn”
    2000, Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf
  • Heinrich von Kleist “Prince Frederick of Homburg”
    1995, Deutsches Theater Berlin
  • Peter Handke “Preparations for Immortality”
    1997, Deutsches Theater Berlin
  • Heinrich von Kleist “Amphitryon”
    1993, Deutsches Theater Berlin
  • Peter Handke “The Hour When We Knew Nothing of Each Other”
    1993, Schauspielhaus Bochum
  • William Shakespeare “Macbeth”
    1988, Schaubühne Berlin
  • Samuel Beckett “Waiting for Godot”
    1987, Thalia Theatre Hamburg
  • Molière “The Misanthrope"
    1986, Thalia Theatre Hamburg
  • Heinrich von Kleist “Penthesilea”
    1985, Thalia Theater Hamburg
  • Sophocles “Oedipus Rex”
    1984, Schauspiel Cologne/Thalia Theatre Hamburg, invitation to Berliner Theatertreffen
  • Samuel Beckett “Waiting for Godot”
    1984, Schauspiel Cologne
  • William Shakespeare “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
    1983, Schauspiel Cologne
  • Molière “The Misanthrope”
    1983, Schauspiel Cologne, invitation to Berliner Theatertreffen
  • Maxim Gorky “Night Asylum”
    1982, Schauspiel Cologne, invitation to Berliner Theatertreffen
  • William Shakespeare “Hamlet”
    1981, Bremen Theatre
  • Heinrich von Kleist “Prince Frederick of Homburg”
    1978, Staatstheater Hanover