Roland Schimmelpfennig
A “Meister” of Collage

Roland Schimmelpfennig not only writes for the stage, but since 2016, novels as well.
Roland Schimmelpfennig not only writes for the stage, but since 2016, novels as well. | Photo (detail): © dpa-Zentralbild / Jan Woitas

Roland Schimmelpfennig is considered to be one of the most prolific theatre writers in Germany. In 2019, not one, but two of his plays were performed at the Jaffa International Theatre Festival in Israel.

Short, seemingly incoherent scenes; snapshots against the backdrop of a Chinese restaurant, which – cut and superimposed in quick sequence – give an insight into the different ways individual people live their lives. Der Goldene Drache (The Golden Dragon) is one of dramatist Roland Schimmelpfennig’s greatest achievements.
Ten years after its premiere at Vienna’s “Burgtheater”, the piece was shown at the Jaffa International Theatre Festival in 2019 . There was, however, another of Schimmelpfennig’s works on the program of Israel’s biggest theatre festival – Wintersonnenwende (Winter Solstice). A translation of the plays into Hebrew was commissioned especially for the festival; the works were performed by actors from Israel’s Gesher Theatre.

Productive both at home and abroad

Roland Schimmelpfennig is currently regarded as Germany’s most performed contemporary playwright – and also as the most productive. Up to now he has written a good three dozen stage and radio plays. Schimmelpfennig studied direction at the Otto Falckenberg School of the Performing Arts in Munich. Since 2000 he has been writing plays for major theatres such as the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, the Schauspielhaus Bochum or, since 2018, the Staatsschauspiel Dresden. Furthermore his internationally commissioned work has also been performed at venues in Toronto, Tokyo and Stockholm.

The short-cut method

It is above all the collage-like composition of the scenes, recurring time leaps, changes in location and perspective that are so characteristic of the works of this playwright who lives in both Berlin and Havana. This creates a special effect, as is the case in the Golden Dragon. This is when “short-cut dramatic composition embraces the genre of social drama,” as Christine Dössel explained at the 2010 Mülheimer Theatertagen festival. Social drama is drawn out of the “musty corner of realism” in such a way that it is not defused. The play won the Mülheim Dramatist’s Award in 2010 and earlier, in a critics’ survey conducted by the Theater heute magazine in 2009, it was voted “Play of the Year”.

From playwright to book author

In addition to his work as a playwright, Schimmelpfennig recently delved into the format of the novel. In 2016 he made his debut with An einem klaren, eiskalten Januarmorgen zu Beginn des 21. Jahrhunderts (On a cold, clear January morning at the beginning of the 21st century) which was nominated for the Leipzig Book Fair Prize in the same year.