Stephan Kimmig

© Arno Declair
Born in Stuttgart on 1 March 1959. After university entrance examination and alternative civil service, from 1981 to 1984 he trained at drama school in Munich. Assistant director at Schiller Theatre Berlin. From 1988 to 1996 he lived in Amsterdam, from 1986 he worked as a freelance director in the Dutch and Belgian independent scene. After 1991 he also produced in Freiburg, having been brought there by manager Friedrich Schirmer. The connection to Schirmer and his team continued, in various contractual forms, for many years at Stuttgart Staatstheater.

1996-1998 in-house director at Heidelberg Theatre, 1998-2000 full-time director in Stuttgart. Other productions in Hanover and Graz. Since 2000 Kimmig has mainly produced for the Thalia Theatre in Hamburg, but repeatedly also at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin and, in 2004, for the first time at the Burgtheater in Vienna. Kimmig is married to the set designer Katja Hass who has mainly designed the sets for his productions in recent years.

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Portrait: Stephan Kimmig

Stephan Kimmig is one of the most distinctive directors in German-language theatre. He came from the independent scene, worked in medium-sized theatres for many years and now produces in Hamburg, Berlin and Vienna. If we ask ourselves what “directorial style” he owes this success to, no clear formula can be found. Kimmig is one of the most versatile directors of his generation: no specific aesthetic or fixed pattern can be seen. Programmes are alien to him. Kimmig approaches material with a highly unique mixture of curiosity and scepticism, caution and lack of respect. He can leave texts as they are, sensitively sounding out; but, as in his Hamburg production of “Much Ado About Nothing”, he can also unexpectedly merge Shakespeare with modern texts by Rainald Goetz (“Jeff Koons”) into a weird farce about the fun society. He loves discontinuity and open endings. He once, as an aside, expressed his creed as: “Above all, you have to learn to look more precisely and more ambivalently.”

This openness can also be seen in his choice of plays. The spectrum ranges from the Ancient World, through the European classics (Shakespeare, Goethe, Kleist, Büchner, Grillparzer, Ibsen, Schnitzler) right up to the modern age (Camus and Koltès, Kroetz, Fichte, Strauß and Bärfuss, Pinter, Friel and Walsh). Kimmig also premiered three plays by Moritz Rinke: “The Man Who Never Saw Women’s Nakedness” ( Stuttgart 1999), “Republic Vineta” (Hamburg 2000) and "Café Umberto" (Hamburg 2005).

The director was greatly influenced by his migratory years in the independent theatre scene of Holland and Belgium. The love of improvisation, the transitory, the concentration on the physical presence of the actor: all of these flowed into his subsequent work in municipal and state theatres. His interest in a time diagnosis that uncovers potentials for conflict in the microstructures of everyday life and the family and not in society as a whole has also remained. “The family is a cradle of suppression and lies,” he says “the old patterns and images of the ‘family’ and ‘relationship’ idyll don’t work any more.”

Kimmig is a specialist for the quiet relationship catastrophes, for average happiness and unhappiness, regardless of whether they take place in a living room or a salon. Thus – in his most successful production to date, which was invited to the 2003 Berliner Theatertreffen – he presented Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” at Hamburg’s Thalia Theatre as scenes from a normal marriage. Without imposing “modernity” on the play from outside, with great intensity he developed a modern psychological drama that incorporates the sobering experiences of modern middle class people: at the end, his Nora shows no signs of the euphoria of a new dawn, she cannot decide between uncomfortable emancipation and the practical comfort of marriage.

The family is repeatedly the place where the cycle of hatred, jealousy and violence takes place – only the venues change. In Hugo Claus’s version of Seneca’s “Thyestes” (Staatstheater Stuttgart), Kimmig had a reporter with a microphone and laptop investigate the bestial fight between the brothers in the house of the Tantalides. In Venterberg’s “The Celebration” (Thalia Theatre Hamburg), he discovered comical, almost farcical traits in the bitter fight between father and son. In Grillparzer’s “The Golden Fleece” (Burgtheater Vienna), he transformed the classical myth of Medea into a modern marital melodrama, but in the view of some critics, he diluted the tragedy into an “Ancient Soap”.

There have been many attempts to put labels of this kind on him: people have tried to call him a reductionist, a destroyer of myths, small-small realist, TV story-teller. But every new Kimmig production has defied such attempts at definition. The only thing that can be felt, with constantly new formal approaches, is the continuum of an almost old-fashioned question: what does this subject, this text have to do with us and our present – and why? Kimmig's theatre wants to be contemporary - but in a very undogmatic way, with ever changing perspectives.

Gerhard Jörder

Productions - A selection

  • Ödön von Horváth "Tales From the Vienna Woods"
    2014, Munich Kammerspiele
  • Ferenc Molnár "Liliom"
    2014, Munich Kammerspiele
  • Fjodor Dostojewski "The Idiot"
    2013, Schauspiel Frankfurt
  • Michel Houellebecq "Platform"
    2013, Munich Kammerspiele
  • Eugen Ruge "In Times of Fading Light"
    2013, Deutsches Theater, Berlin
  • Ewald Palmetshofer "räuber.schuldengenital" (i.e. "Robbers.Genital of Debits")
    2012, Burgtheater (Akademietheater), Wien
  • Franz Xaver Kroetz/Stephan Kaluza "Stallerhof / 3D"
    2012, Staatstheater Stuttgart
  • Yasmina Reza "Comment vous racontez la partie" ("How You talk the Game")
    2012, Deutsches Theater, Berlin
  • Sophokles, Euripides, Aischylos "Ödipus Stadt" (i.e. "Oedipus City")
    2012, Deutsches Theater, Berlin
  • Simon Stephens "Wastwater"
    2012, Burgtheater (Akademietheater), Vienna
  • Anton Chekhov "The Cherry Orchard"
    2012, Deutsches Theater, Berlin
  • Tom Lanoye "Atropa. Die Rache des Friedens. Der Fall Trojas" (i.e. "Atropa. Revenge of Peace. The Fall of Troy")
    2011, Munich Kammerspiele
  • Eugene O'Neill "Mourning Becomes Electra"
    2011, Deutsches Theater, Berlin
  • Judith Herzberg "Über Leben" (i.e. "Survive")
    2011, Deutsches Theater, Berlin
  • Arthur Schnitzler "The Game of Love"
    2011, Schauspiel Frankfurt
  • Maxim Gorki "Children of the Sun"
    2010, Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin
  • Frank Wedekind "Lulu"
    2010, Schauspiel Frankfurt
  • Friedrich Schiller "Cabal and Love"
    2010, Deutsches Theater, Berlin
  • Lukas Bärfuss "Öl" (i.e. "Oil")
    20098, Deutsches Theater, Berlin
  • Lukas Bärfuss "Amygdala"
    2009, Thalia Theater, Hamburg
  • Dennis Kelly "Love and Money"
    2009, Thalia Theater, Hamburg
  • Ödön von Horvath "Kasimir and Karoline"
    2009, Thalia Theater, Hamburg
  • William Shakespeare "Wars of the Roses"
    2008, Burgtheater, Wien
  • Tennessee Williams "A Streetcar Named Desire"
    2008, Thalia Theater, Hamburg
  • Tom Lanoye "Mamma Medea"
    2007, Münchner Kammerspiele
  • Friedrich Schiller "Mary Stuart"
    2007, Thalia Theater, Hamburg
    Invitation to the Berliner Theatertreffen
  • Odon von Horvath "Faith, Hope, and Charity"
    2007, Munich Kammerspiele
  • After Pierre Ambroise Francois Choderlos de Laclos/Heiner Müller (“Quartett”)/Christopher Hampton “Dangerous Liaisons”
    2006, Gebläsehalle/Landschaftspark Duisburg-Norf, Ruhrtriennale
  • Johann Wolfgang Goethe “Torquato Tasso “
    2006, Burgtheater, Vienna
  • John von Düffel after Thomas Mann „Buddenbrooks“
    2005, Thalia Theater, Hamburg
  • Moritz Rinke „Café Umberto“ (i.e., "Café Umberto")
    2005, Thalia Theater in der Gaußstraße, Hamburg
  • Heinrich von Kleist “Penthesilea”
    2005, Salzburg Festival
  • Lukas Bärfuss "Der Bus" (i.e. "The Bus")
    2005, Thalia Theatre Hamburg
  • Enda Walsh "The New Electric Ballroom"
    2004, Münchner Kammerspiele
  • Henrik Ibsen "Hedda Gabler"
    2004, Thalia Theatre Hamburg
  • Aki Kaurismäki “Drifting Clouds”
    2004, Deutsches Theater Berlin
  • Franz Grillparzer “The Golden Fleece”
    2004, Burgtheater Vienna
  • Thomas Vinterberg/Mogens Rukov “The Celebration” 2003, Thalia Theatre Hamburg
  • Henrik Ibsen “A Doll’s House”
    2002, Thalia Theatre Hamburg, invitation to Berliner Theatertreffen
  • Johann Wolfgang Goethe “Stella”
    2002, Deutsches Theater Berlin
  • William Shakespeare “Much Ado About Nothing”
    2002, Thalia Theatre Hamburg
  • Hugo Claus after Seneca “Thyestes”
    2001, Staatstheater Stuttgart, invitation to Berliner Theatertreffen
  • Harold Pinter “Celebration"
    2001, Thalia Theater Hamburg
  • Moritz Rinke “Republic Vineta”
    premiere 2000, Thalia Theatre Hamburg
  • Moritz Rinke “The Man Who Never Saw Women’s Nakedness”
    premiere 1999, Staatstheater Stuttgart
  • Albert Camus “Caligula”
    1998, Staatstheater Stuttgart
  • Georg Büchner “Leonce and Lena”
    1997, Staatstheater Stuttgart
  • Botho Strauß “Big and Small”
    1997, Heidelberg Theatre
  • Hubert Fichte “Hotel Garni”
    1996, Staatstheater Stuttgart
  • Robert Musil “The Enthusiasts”
    1996, Städtische Bühnen Graz
  • “3 x Jan Fabre”
    premiere 1995, Staatstheater Stuttgart
  • James Joyce “Anna Livia Plurabelle”
    1991, Freiburg Theatre
  • Franz Xaver Kroetz “Dear Fritz”
    1990, Maastricht/Netherlands
  • Anton Chekhov “The Seagull”
    1987, Eindhoven/Netherlands