Nicolas Stemann


© David Baltzer
Born in Hamburg in 1968. After briefly studying Philosophy and Literature, assistant director and musician at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg. Then studied direction at the Max Reinhardt Seminar in Vienna and at the Institute for Theatre, Musical Theatre and Film at Hamburg University under Jürgen Flimm and Manfred Brauneck.

In 1996 he started to produce independent projects with the “Stemann Group” that he founded, including “Zombie 45 – Adolf Hilter On Bass” (1997) and the “Terror Trilogy” (1997). Since 1997 his theatre video project “Werther!” with Philipp Hochmair has been guesting in many theatres and at festivals. Stemann produces in Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Hanover, Vienna and Basel.

Related links

Portrait: Nicolas Stemann

The theatre of Nicolas Stemann is surrounded by various risks: those of rebellious pose, emotionality, media nonsense and frivolity. But all of these threats result from one core impulse: unbound joy in playing. And this stance usually leads to very ironic brushes against the grain of familiar material that suddenly appears fresh again.

With a youthful lack of respect, he found the first victim for this contemporary cleaning at the start of his directorial career in the late 1990s. Stemann reduced Goethe’s “Werther” and “Torquato Tasso” to basic elements and robbed them of their reverence with video inserts, the atmosphere of flat shares or symbolic gestures. In the “Tasso” project, Goethe himself was on the stage every evening, as a plaster bust smashed on the floor – so much for the rebellious pose

But Stemann then developed a complex and very musical way of acting from the shards of the classic, which then deals with modern problems of understanding with various inserted plays and theatrical media. The modern individual, who is responsible for himself alone without ideological support and experiences this as excessive demands, is at the heart of most of these mosaics.

Stemann’s most well-known production, the adaptation of “Hamlet” at Schauspiel Hanover, which was invited to the Berliner Theatertreffen in 2002, portrays a media prince who disintegrates due to “Anything Goes” more than treachery. Philipp Hochmair, who plays the leading role in many Stemann productions, loses himself as Hamlet between media pictures that surround him and a court that views guilt very casually with merry helplessness.

In his best productions, the lack of tragedy often seen in Stemann productions refers to the fact that the prettification of fear and the lack of commitment in contemporary society are the devil’s freedoms. The apparent openness of our society remains a deceptive comfort when the moral values that make orientation possible in the first place blur.

The fact that the prettification that he wants to portray is also perceived as his aesthetic (especially when using fashionable media such as video, music, pop tools) occasionally resulted in the accusation of superficiality. At the same time this highly effective means of production is certainly no obstacle for his great success.

Stemann, who comes from a highly productive generation of Hamburg director students (Falk Richter, Sandra Strunz and Matthias von Hartz studied with him), is now one of the most in-demand young directors and produces everywhere from the Deutsches Theater in Berlin to the Burgtheater in Vienna.

In the Akademitheater there, a production of Elfriede Jelinek’s “The Work” originated in 2003 that demonstrated in the best way possible Stemann’s qualities when dealing with complex texts. Using the wordy text about man’s disastrous handling of nature using the example of the Kaprun barrage, Stemann developed a sensitive, scenic collage that show irony in its critical tradition. Stemann used a large chorus of workers, a cannibal mountain man, young debaters and hysterical girls to turn Jelinek’s indictment into an acidic spectacle.

However, Stemann’s contradictions also mean that the quality of productions can vary greatly. As someone who argues from a moral standpoint without banishing the showmanship from his productions, who likes to combat the inability to love with kitsch and sometimes takes the spirit of the texts too seriously and sometimes ignores it completely, Stemann swings from brilliance to superficiality and back again. An embarrassing reconstruction of Brecht Theatre with “The Threepenny Opera” in Hanover is just a few weeks apart from a “Katherine of Heilbronn” as a lightweight pop fairy story in Berlin and the gardening joys of Jelinek’s text landscapes. But the theatre can only benefit from such daring and that is why Stemann is rightly one of the most important young directors in contemporary theatre.

Till Briegleb

Productions - A selection

  • "Kommune der Wahrheit. Wirklichkeitsmaschine" (i.e. "Commune of Truth. Machine of Reality")
    2013, Thalia Theater, Hamburg, Coproduktion with the Vienna Festival
  • Elfriede Jelinek/Nicolas Stemann and the Schnelle Theatrale Eingreiftruppe "Rein Gold"
    2012, Prinzregententheater, Munich
    First Lecture within the frame of the Munich Opera Festival
  • Nicolas Stemann/Thomas Kürstner/Sebastian Vogel/Benjamin von Blomberg
    "Der demografische Faktor" (i.e. "The Demographic Element")
    Amusement tragedy with music
    2012, Schauspiel Köln
  • Johann Wolfgang Goethe "Faust I and II"
    2011, Perner-Insel, Hallein, Salzburg Festival, Coproduction with Thalia Theater, Hamburg
  • Nicolas Stemann, Thomas Kuerstner, Sebastian Vogel und Benjamin von Blomberg "Aufhören ! Schluss jetzt ! Lauter ! 12 letzte Lieder" (i.e. "Stop It ! There's An End of It ! Sing Up ! 12 Last Songs")
    2011, Deutsches Theater, Berlin
  • Johann Wolfgang Goethe "Faust", Work in Progress
    2010, Thalia Theater Hamburg, Salzburg Festival 2011
  • Bertolt Brecht "St. Joan of the Stockyards"
    2009, Deutsches Theater, Berlin
  • Gotthold Ephraim Lessing "Nathan the Wise"
    2009, Thalia Theater and Schauspiel Köln
  • ELfriede Jelinek "Die Kontrakte des Kaufmann" (i.e. "The Contracts of the Merchant")
    2009, Schauspiel Köln and Thalia Theater, Hamburg
    Invitation to the Berliner Theatertreffen and the Mülheimer Theatertage
  • Friedrich Schiller "The Robbers"
    2008, Thalia Theater, Hamburg
  • After Euripides and Johann Wolfgang Goethe "Iphigenie"
    2007, Thalia Theater, Hamburg
  • Elfriede Jelinek "Über Tiere" (i.e., "About Animals")
    2007, Deutsches Theater Berlin
  • Friedrich Schiller "Don Karlos"
    2007, Deutsches Theater Berlin
  • Elfriede Jelinek "Ulrike Maria Stuart" (i.e., "Ulrike Maria Stuart")
    2006, Thalia Theater Hamburg (Invitation to the Berliner Theatertreffen)
    (Invitation to the Mülheimer Theatertage "Stücke 2007/Plays 2007")
  • Sophocles „Antigone“ (Together with „Colegio del Cuerpo“ within the scope of „Akte Kolumbien“)
    2005, Laookon-Festival Kampnagel factory, Hamburg
  • After Kurt Vonnegut „Schlachthof 5“ (i.e., "Slaughterhouse 5")
    2005, Schauspiel Hannover, Hannover
  • Elfriede Jelinek „Babel“
    (Invitation to the Mülheimer Theatertage „Stücke 2006“/"Plays 2006")
    2005, Burgtheater, Wien
  • Gerhart Hauptmann "Before Sunrise"
    2004, Burgtheater Wien
  • Esther Bialas , Sebastian Blomberg , Sachiko Hara-Franke , Philipp Hochmair , Claudia Lehmann , Katrin Nottrodt , Myriam Schröder "German Roots" (together with Bernd Stegemann)
    2004, Ruhr Festival, Thalia Theatre
  • Heinrich von Kleist “Katherine of Heilbronn”
    2003, Deutsches Theater Berlin
  • Elfriede Jelinek “The Work”
    Premiere 2003, Burgtheater Vienna, invited to Berlin’s Theatertreffen 2004
  • Georg Büchner “Danton’s Death”
    2002, Basel Theatre
  • William Shakespeare “Hamlet”
    2001, Niedersächsisches Staatstheater Hanover, invitation to Berliner Theatertreffen
  • Nicolas Stemann after Johann Wolfgang Goethe “Buy Tasso!”
    2000, Schauspielhaus Bochum
  • Albert Ostermaier “Death Valley Junction”
    2000, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
  • Stemann Group “Conspiracy”
    1999, Kampnagel Hamburg
  • Stemann Group “Zombie 45 – Adolf Hitler on Bass”
    1998, Kammerspiele Hamburg
  • Nicolas Stemann after Johann Wolfgang Goethe “Werther!”
    1997, independent production