Sandra Strunz

© Thalia Theater
Sandra Strunz was born in Hamburg in 1968. She trained as a director with Jürgen Flimm at the University of Music and Theatre in Hamburg, and directed her first productions at the Kampnagel-Fabrik in Hamburg and the Kaserne Basel. Her production of Parsifal earned her an invitation to the Impulse Festival in 2000. She has worked at municipal and state theatres in Lucerne, Stuttgart, Frankfurt am Main, Hanover and Freiburg, as well as the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg. In 2000, she received the Bensheim Gertrud Eysoldt Prize for Young Directors for her adaptation of Thomas Bernhard's novel Frost.
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Portrait: Sandra Strunz

The knights wore jogging bottoms, while young performers injected pleasure in movement, a quest for meaning and pent-up sexuality into the story of Parsifal. Wolfram von Eschenbach's verse novel was kept loosely in mind as the basis for an energy-charged, two-and-a-half hour evening in the theatre that made the director Sandra Strunz internationally known. Her invitation to the Impulse Festival, the gathering of the best of fringe theatre from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, opened many doors, including those of the big theatre companies. To the present day, however, Sandra Strunz still keeps working in the independent theatre as well and cannot be so easily pinned down to a single style.

Nevertheless, there is one thing almost all her productions have in common: humour, preferably black and oblique, as well as a search for ever-new formal solutions. The fresh exploration of classic materials took up more of her time in the first few years after 2000. She staged Henrik Ibsen's Lady from the Sea at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg in a tiled square with a view of an aquarium sea behind a glass wall. The watery world was a parallel society, the yearning for which never waned. Sandra Strunz presented seven pairs of twins who were, of course, not to be found in Ibsen. They stood for the various characters' inner turmoil and, above all, the conflicts within the eponymous heroine's own heart. She had to decide which way of life to choose, but was unable to make up her mind.

The production was performed in the Malersaal rather than on the main stage. Maybe the company's then management team did not trust a young divergent thinker to cope with one of the classics in such a cavernous auditorium. Certainly, Sandra Strunz made her name with other kinds of subject matter in the years that followed. Adaptations of novels have played a major role in her career, for which she often seeks out complex, weighty books that cover so much ground a theatre production can only scratch the surface. Such as Orhan Pamuk's Snow in Freiburg, a staging that was performed with Turkish surtitles. Apart from this, Sandra Strunz creates her own projects again and again, sometimes with the dramaturg Viola Hasselberg. One project, Vabanque – ein deutsch-polnisches Stück mit Bankräubern (Va Banque – A German-Polish Play with Bank Robbers), brought together amateur actors, young and old, from Germany and Poland to tell tales of love, old age, money and their different countries. Superficially, the approach was reminiscent of the work done by Rimini Protokoll, but this kind of research into reality and its closeness to the documentary have a more multifaceted significance for Sandra Strunz. As will already have been evident from the twins in her Hamburg Ibsen – she is interested in confusions: the kinds of confusion that arise when she confronts art and real life, or indeed professional and amateur actors. One of her latest productions, The Brothers Lionheart at Theater Freiburg, also displayed this pleasure in moments of friction. Astrid Lindgren's story of a critically ill nine-year-old and his self-sacrificing elder brother was told by Sandra Strunz with actors, dancers and avatars. The two boys (actors) created fantasy figures (dancers), whose appearance was transformed by video artists with drawings and images created on handheld cameras.

More than anything else, Sandra Strunz has become an expert in new drama, staging numerous premieres over the last few years. She has directed Reto Finger, Kathrin Röggla and Juli Zeh, among others. She was particularly successful at the Staatsschauspiel Dresden with Dirk Laucke's There's Not Enough to Go Round, which was produced in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut's After the Fall festival. Laucke himself likes it best when his plays, based as they are on what he learns from eavesdropping attentively on the contemporary world, are directed as simply and directly as possible without directorial extravagances. Sandra Strunz took no notice of this and, for that very reason, brought out the true spirit of the piece. She opened a great deal of space up for the characters' dreams with changes of lighting and surreal moods. A cellist created strong atmospheres, sometimes playing melodies reminiscent of spaghetti western music, as when Laucke's antihero Heiner marched across the stage. Heiner had been a tank commander in the National People's Army. His wife and daughter had fled the GDR, but Heiner had stayed, become an alcoholic and lost his job. Now he dreamed of opening a tourist attraction where he would give rides in his tank. A couple who lived from smuggling found an abandoned lorry on a country road, crammed full with cigarettes. And illegal immigrants. The Asians in Sandra Strunz's staging seemed ghostly and grotesque. The fact that desperate people were dying in horrible conditions inside the lorry was reflected in the pangs of conscience felt by the characters on the outside. They had to be tough to survive, although Sandra Strunz showed their feelings and dreams. One even attempted to behave morally and died in the attempt. With her mixture of sensitivity and the courage to create powerful images, her never-ending search for the right form and the passion with which she questions all her own certainties, Sandra Strunz is one of the most interesting women directors of her generation.
Stefan Keim

Productions - A selection

  • "Die Unsichtbaren" (i.e. "The Invisible")
    2012, Theaterhaus Gessnerallee, Zurich
  • Dagrun Hintze "Die Zärtlichkeit der Russen" (i.e. "The Tenderness of Russian People")
    Aus dem Leben einer Kriegsgeneration (i.e. "From the Life of a War Generation")
    2011, Staatsschauspiel Dresden
  • Tom Waits/Katleen Brennan/Robert Wilson after Georg Büchner "Woyzeck"
    2011, Staatsschauspiel Dresden
  • "Die Brüder Löwenherz. Eine theatrale Gratwanderung mit Schauspielern, Tänzern und Avataren" (i.e. "The Brothers Lionheart: A Theatrical Balancing Act with Actors, Dancers, and Avatars")
    2010, Theater Freiburg
  • "Robinson oder die Insel der Visionen. Eine theatrale Feldforschung von Sandra Strunz/Treibhaus Produktionen" (i.e. "Robinson or the Island of Visions: A Piece of Theatrical Field Research")
    2009, Theaterhaus Gessnerallee Zürich
  • Dirk Laucke "Für alle reicht es nicht von" (i.e. "There's Not Enough To Go Round")
    2009, Staatsschauspiel Dresden within the frame of the festival After the Fall
  • After Orhan Pamuk" Snow"
    2008, Theater Freiburg
  • Reto Finger "Vorstellungen und Instinkte" (i.e. "Ideas and Instincts")
    2008, Schauspielhaus Zürich
  • Karen Duve "Rain"
    2003, Schauspiel Hannover
  • Dea Loher "Adam Geist"
    2002, Schauspiel Frankfurt
  • Henrik Ibsen "The Lady from the Sea"
    2001, Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg
  • Nach Ingeborg Bachmann "Die Tanzhalle" (i.e. "The Dacehall")
    2001, Kampnagel Hamburg/Schauspiel Hannover
  • After Wolfram von Eschenbach "Parsifal"
    2000, Kampnagel Hamburg
  • After Thomas Bernhard " Frost"
    1999, Theater Luzern