Thomas Ostermeier


© David Baltzer
Born in Soltau on 3 September 1968. Grew up in Landshut/Lower Bavaria. After university entrance examination and alternative civil service, in 1990/91 he started as an actor in Einar Schleef’s “Faust” project at the University of the Arts in Berlin. 1992-1996 studied direction at Ernst Busch University for Dramatic Arts in Berlin, in these years he assisted and acted under his teacher Manfred Karge. First own directorial work; his graduation production “Research Faust/Artaud” (1996) attracted attention.

From 1996 to 1999 he was director and artistic manager of the “Baracke”, the secondary stage of the Deutsches Theater Berlin (in 1998 it was voted theatre of the year in the critics’ survey of “Theater heute”). Invitations to produce guest plays and first awards: 1998 Friedrich Luft Prize, 1999 “Best Young Director” at the MESS Festival in Sarajevo.

Since 1999 he has been part of the artistic managerial team at the Berlin Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz. In 2000 he was awarded the European Theatre Prize (“New Theatrical Realities”) in Taormina, in 2002 the Herald Angel Award for “The Girl on the Sofa” in Edinburgh. For 2004 he has been appointed “artiste associé” in the management of the Festival d’Avignon.

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Portrait: Thomas Ostermeier

Thomas Ostermeier is one of the most distinguished directors and theatre managers of the middle generation; his stage career has been exceptional. Within a few years he made the leap from drama school, to management of a small cult theatre in Berlin right up to artistic responsibility for one of the most important venues of German-language theatre. Since 1999, together with Jens Hillje, Sasha Waltz and Jochen Sandig, he has been in charge of artistic direction at the Berlin Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz. In total, he has realised around thirty productions. Apart from his own theatre, he has also worked at the Salzburg Festival, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg, the Munich Kammerspiele and at the Burgtheater in Vienna.

The early fame was also a millstone round the director’s neck. After the celebrated successes at Berlin’s "Baracke" and after being invited to the Berliner Theatertreffen twice in 1998, it was to be expected that his work at the Schaubühne, this "Holy Grail" of German theatre, would be under enormous pressure from the outset. The start with the young ensemble of actors and dancers was not easy. Critics often expressed disappointment about Ostermeier’s first productions at the Schaubühne.

Previously, in the bunker of the small "Baracke" his preference for the "little dirty plays" of young English-language writers had exactly hit the nerve of the place and time; Mark Ravenhill’s loser story "Shopping & Fucking" (1998), a brilliant, acrobatic tightrope walk between slapstick and tragedy, had become a cult production there. But then, in the "sophisticated" space of the Schaubühne the director’s project of uncovering concrete reality even on the margins of society (e.g. with Lars Norén’s "People 3.1", 2000) was held against him as a socio-romantic pose. Nevertheless, Ostermeier has not let himself be put off. He has repeatedly taken up the subject of the social underdogs: in Marieluise Fleisser’s "The Strong Tribe" (2002), in Franz Xaver Kroetz’s "Request Concert" (2003), in Georg Büchner’s "Woyzeck" (2003).

Ostermeier’s understanding of realism is ultimately aimed at enlightenment. He is in favour of a new substance to theatre, against the arbitrariness of destruction and the aesthetics of "anything goes". "Especially since people’s social experiences are so disrupted and, in many cases, broken, the need to at least fake something like unity, context and design is growing": this, he says, is the reason for the realistic approach in his work. But the moral is not in the direct statement; much rather it is in the form.

Narrative story-telling and body language characterise his productions. Ostermeier is a traditionalist through and through as far as closeness to the text and acting. The actor is at the heart. Maximum physical commitment is required of him. Emotion should be visible in concrete action and not in "psychological affectations". It is noticeable that the director, who initially relied on a very young ensemble, increasingly wants to work with experienced actors.

From the very start Ostermeier was mainly interested in contemporary theatre. With workshops and the "Festival of International New Drama" (FIND), he and his team have set new standards to promote writers in the German theatre. He himself has produced countless national and international premieres.

Over time, his interest in classic modern plays has grown; Ibsen’s "A Doll’s House" (2002) has been his biggest success of recent years. The production illustrates how Ostermeier’s understanding of reality now fully incorporates the media reality of today: the emancipation drama is transferred directly into middle class society of the present and into the image-filled world of the consumer society. Visual and acoustic quotes from the cinema, TV soaps, comics and pop, effectively and grotesquely heightened, indicate: modern man’s search for identity is surrounded by inflationary role clichés.

Gerhard Jörder

Productions - A selection

  • Lillian Hellman "The Little Foxes"
    2014, Schaubühne am Lehiner Platz, Berlin
  • Henrik Ibsen "Ghosts"
    2013, Théâtre Vidy, Lausanne
  • After Thomas Mann/Gustav Mahler "Deat in Venice/Songs on the Death of Children"
    2012, Théâtre National de Bretagne, Rennes
    Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin
  • Henrik Ibsen "An Enemy of the Public""
    2012, Festival d'Avignon
  • William Shakespeare "Measure for Measure"
    2011, Salzburg Festival
  • William Shakespeare "Othello"
    2010, Hellenic Festival, Epidauros and Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin
  • Lars Norén "Dämonen"(i.e. "Demons")
    2010,Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin
  • Herbert Achternbusch "Susn"
    2009, Münchner Kammerspiele (Werkraum)
  • Henrik Ibsen "John Gabriel Borkmann
    2009, Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin
  • William Shakespeare "Hamlet"
    2008, Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin
  • Martin Crimp und Mark Ravenhill "THE CITY and THE CUT"
    2008, Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin
  • John Murray und Allen Boretz "Room Service"
    2007, Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin
  • After the film by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Script by Peter Märthesheimer and Pea Fröhlich)
    "The Marriage of Maria Braun"
     
    2007, Munich Kammerspiele
  • Mark Ravenhill "Product"
    2006, Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin
  • Tennessee Williams "A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"
    2007, Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz
  • Christoph Nußbaumeder "Liebe ist nur eine Möglichkeit" (i.e. "Love Is Only A Possibility")
    2006, Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin
  • After William Shakespeare „A Midsummer Night's Dream“ (Together with Constanza Macras)
    2006, Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin, Coproduktion with the Hellenic Festival Athens 2006
  • Eugene O’Neill „Mourning Becomes Electra“
    2006, Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin
  • Henrik Ibsen „Hedda Gabler"
    2005, Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin
    (Invitation to the Berliner Theatertreffen)
  • Gerhart Hauptmann „Before Sunrise“
    2005, Kammerspiele, Munich
  • Sarah Kane „Blasted“
    2005, schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin
  • Marius von Mayenburg "Eldorado"
    2004, Schaubühne Berlin
  • Frank Wedekind “Lulu”
    2004, Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin
  • Henrik Ibsen “The Master Builder”
    2004, Burgtheater Vienna
  • Karst Woudstra “The Exterminating Angel”
    2003, Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, Berlin 
  • Georg Büchner “Woyzeck”
    2003, Berliner Schaubühne
  • Franz Xaver Kroetz “Request Concert”
    2003, Berliner Schaubühne
  • Henrik Ibsen “A Doll’s House”
    2002, Berlin Schaubühne, invitation to Berliner Theatertreffen
  • Jon Fosse “The Girl on the Sofa”
    premiere 2002, Edinburgh International Festival/Berliner Schaubühne
  • Richard Dresser “Better Days”
    2002, Berliner Schaubühne
  • Marieluise Fleisser “The Strong Tribe”
    2002, Munich Kammerspiele
  • Biljana Srbljanovic “Supermarket”
    premiere 2001, Vienna Festival/Berliner Schaubühne
  • Georg Büchner “Danton’s Death”
    2001, Berliner Schaubühne
  • Jon Fosse “The Name”
    2000, Salzburg Festival/Berliner Schaubühne
  • Marius von Mayenburg “Parasites”
    premiere 2000, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg/Berliner Schaubühne
  • Sarah Kane “Crave”
    2000, Berliner Schaubühne
  • Lars Norén “People 3.1”
    2000, Berliner Schaubühne
  • Marius von Mayenburg “Fireface”
    1999, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
  • Maurice Maeterlinck “The Blue Bird”
    1999, Deutsches Theater Berlin
  • Enda Walsh “Disco Pigs”
    1998, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg/Baracke at the Deutsches Theater Berlin
  • Mark Ravenhill “Shopping & Fucking”
    1998, Baracke at the Deutsches Theater Berlin, invitation to the Berliner Theatertreffen
  • Alexei Shipenko “Suzuki”
    premiere 1997, Baracke at the Deutsches Theater Berlin
  • Bertolt Brecht “A Man’s a Man”
    1997, Baracke at the Deutsches Theater Berlin
  • David Harrower “Knives in Hens”
    1997, Baracke at the Deutsches Theater Berlin, invitation to Berliner Theatertreffen
  • Nicky Silver “Fat Men in Skirts”
    1996, Baracke at the Deutsches Theater Berlin
  • Thomas Ostermeier “Research Faust/Artaud”
    1996, bat Berlin