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Hinter den Kulissen

New Publication by Margaret Setje-Eilers

Hinter den Kulissen. Theaterfrauen des BE erzählen

Berlin: Neues Leben, May 2015

Hinter den Kulissen. Theaterfrauen des BE erzählen

Since the founding of the Berliner Ensemble (BE) in 1949, women have contributed to the theater’s success and its current position as one of the most renowned stages in Germany. At Bertolt Brecht’s request, his wife – Helene Weigel – took on the artistic direction of the BE from the start until her death in 1971, and their daughter – Barbara Brecht-Schall – looked after the legal rights and licensing of Brecht’s materials until her very recent death in August 2015. This book captures the history of the BE through the eyes of its Theaterfrauen (literally “theater women”) in fourteen interviews. Thirteen women – and one man who plays Queen Elizabeth – remember the BE and their own personal history in theater from the beginning of the German Democratic Republic to the present. The interviews appear here in light of the theater’s imminent change in leadership in 2017, when Claus Peymann will step down as artistic director.

Many of the interviewees, such as Barbara Brecht-Schall (actress, costume designer, and Brecht’s heir), photographer Vera Tenschert, and actors Angela Winkler, Jürgen Holtz, and Margarita Broich, are familiar figures to theater, film, and television audiences in Germany. Yet the book also includes voices not previously heard. Each one represents many decades of theater experience: Eva-Maria Böhm (prompter), Angelika Ritter (stage manager), Ursula Ziebarth (regular theatergoer since the 1950s), Barbara Naujok (director of costume and make-up design), Ulrike Heinemann (supervisor of make-up artists), Gisela Schlösser (BE archive director, 1961-1999), Petra Hübner (archive director to the present), Gisela Knauf (director of the Brecht-Heirs Office, Bertolt-Brecht-Erben-Büro), and Maria Steinfeldt, photographer. The views of the Theaterfrauen differ provocatively. “The BE no longer exists.” (Barbara Brecht-Schall) “We can’t do theater the same way we did fifty years ago. That is impossible. Theater must continue to develop.” (Ulrike Heinemann).

(Translations by the author.)


Margaret Setje-Eilers published "Hinter den Kulissen. Theaterfrauen des BE erzählen" in May 2015 (Berlin: Neues Leben, 2015). She participated in four book-related events: Interview, Manuela Reichart, Kulturadio rbb (Berlin, 14 June 2015), Book release, Einar & Bert Theaterbuchhandlung (Berlin, 1 July 2015), Reading: Brecht-Weigel-Haus (Buckow, 7 July 2015), Interview, Märkische Oderzeitung (Berlin, 20 July 2015).

Hinter den Kulissen. Theaterfrauen des BE erzählen