Frank Castorf

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Frank Castorf (born July 17, 1951 in East Berlin ) is a German director and former director of the Volksbühne on Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz .


Castorf trained as a skilled worker at the Deutsche Reichsbahn from 1969 to 1970 . After military service with the border troops of the NVA , he studied theater studies from 1971 to 1976 with Ernst Schumacher , Rudolf Münz and Joachim Fiebach at the Humboldt University in Berlin . The topic of his diploma thesis was: “Basic lines of the 'development' of the ideological-ideological and artistic-aesthetic positions of Ionesco on reality” and was rated “very good”.

From 1976 to 1979 he was dramaturge at the Bergarbeitertheater Senftenberg and from 1979 to 1981 director at the Brandenburg Theater in Brandenburg an der Havel . From 1981 to 1985 Castorf was senior director at the Anklam Theater . There, in 1984, his production of Bertolt Brecht's Drums at Night was discontinued under pressure from the SED district leadership. Disciplinary proceedings followed and he was released without notice. In the following years Castorf worked for the Schauspielhaus Karl-Marx-Stadt , the Neue Theater Halle , the Volksbühne Berlin and the Deutsche Theater Berlin . His production of Ein Volksfeind ( Henrik Ibsen ) received an invitation to the GDR theater festival.

Even before the fall of the Wall in 1989, he was allowed to direct at West German theaters, including at the Bavarian State Theater in Munich ( Miss Sara Sampson by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing ) and at the Schauspiel Köln ( Hamlet by William Shakespeare ). In 1990 he became in-house director at the Deutsches Theater Berlin. His production of Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman there received an invitation to the Berlin Theatertreffen in 1991. Castorf sparked controversy with his Basel version of Wilhelm Tell ( Friedrich Schiller ) on the 700th Swiss national anniversary, in which he settled with the self-image of Switzerland and drew parallels between Switzerland and the GDR. From 1992 Castorf worked as director of the Volksbühne on Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz in Berlin-Mitte; he last extended his contract in 2012 to 2016. In 1993, in the first year of his directorship, the house was awarded the title of “Theater of the Year” by the magazine Theater heute . Castorf ended his career at the Volksbühnen at the end of the 2016/2017 season, among other things with a six- to eight-hour staging of Faust . The last Castorf production in the house was the play Baumeister Solness by Henrik Ibsen on July 1, 2017 . Castorf's successor was the Belgian curator and museum manager Chris Dercon , appointed by the Berlin Senate , former director of the London Tate Modern , whose plans for the future artistic direction of the house were rejected by many members of the Volksbühne and who resigned in spring 2018.

In 1994 Castorf was awarded the Fritz Kortner Prize . In 1998 he delivered his first opera production in Basel with Otello ( Giuseppe Verdi ). In 2000 he and the actor Henry Hübchen received the Berlin Theater Prize from the Prussian Sea Action Foundation and a nomination for the Nestroy Theater Prize , and in 2002 the Schiller Prize of the City of Mannheim ; In 2003 he was awarded the Prize of the International Theater Institute (ITI) and the Friedrich-Luft Prize of the Berliner Morgenpost . In 2002 and 2003, the magazine Theater heute voted Castorf “Director of the Year”.

In 2004, in addition to his work as artistic director at the Berliner Volksbühne, Castorf was also briefly artistic director of the Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen , when he was dismissed prematurely by the supervisory board one month after the opening premiere of Greed for Gold ( Frank Norris ) due to a significant drop in audience numbers has been. Its failure was widely discussed in the features section. A legal dispute that Castorf brought against the Ruhrfestspiele after his dismissal was settled in early 2005 after an arbitration; Two partnerships were agreed between the Volksbühne and the festival, and the sponsors of the Ruhr Festival, the German Trade Union Federation and the city of Recklinghausen, allowed Castorf to continue paying part of his salary.

In 2013, on the occasion of Richard Wagner's 200th birthday, he staged the Ring des Nibelungen at the 102nd Bayreuth Festival (premiere: July 26th to 31st; musical direction: Kirill Petrenko ).

In April 2020, Castorf caused a stir with an online interview in the Spiegel in connection with measures in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic . The headline read: “I don't want to let Ms. Merkel tell me that I have to wash my hands”. His statements such as the caption "I am shocked to find that I suddenly even like Trump" met with broad criticism.

Castorf has seven children from five women.

Theater work

Castorf's productions can be attributed to what the last few years, both in drama and in the features section , as post-dramatic theater is called. His staging and working method are usually based on an attitude that differs significantly from the “normal” work process. Castorf mostly uses a literary model to create a peculiar, "private" view of what his actors are doing on stage through biographical details, alienating means such as nonsense, slapstick, and coarseness, which Castorf regularly brought in the accusation of being a "breaker of pieces" and called conservative theatergoers to the barricades. For some years now, one of the main means has been the intensive, experimental use of video cameras and screens, which enable a peculiar perspective of perception. Despite all the criticism, ranging from contemptuous polemics to intellectual disputes, the Berliner Volksbühne under Castorf's direction has enjoyed cult status for years, especially among younger people who regularly perceive going to the theater as a “party substitute”. In addition, Castorf's theater work can be seen as serious and trend-setting experimental aesthetics, which since the beginning of his directorship in 1992 has been decisive for new tendencies nationwide, for example in the question of the aesthetics of political theater . In this context, a statement by Castorf caused a scandal, after which he longed for steel thunderstorms , which meant nothing else than that emotionality, immoral aggression and the intensity of physical experiences belonged to his program and his "longing", which the West German press generally condemned as “fascist commemoration” and mentioned Castorf in the same breath as director Einar Schleef .

According to Castorf, it's about being able to create a state of “unique reality” on stage, so that the problems, fates and states of the characters are always understood as states, fates and problems of the actors and so in a humanly tangible way show their effect. That doesn't mean that the actors have the same worries, but they have to be able to convey them “alive”. Castorf is not interested in empathy or alienating play as in Stanislawski or Brecht ; he does not believe in the possibility of a mimetic reproduction of world conditions on stage and does not want to stage an "as if theater". Instead, his actors try to achieve this state through maximum physical exertion, so that the "sense" arises by itself in the viewer's perceptual posture. For this purpose, the actors are given the opportunity at rehearsals to deal with the specifications as far as possible in an experimental way in order to be able to try out spontaneous game states and moments of “authenticity”. In this respect, Castorf's rehearsal work differs significantly from conventional rehearsal processes that are controlled by a leading director. Nonetheless, Castorf expressly reserves the right to approve or reject ideas, enrichments or ways of playing.

The “complexity of the world” is thematized on the written basis of dramas or, for some years now, novels from world literature. Authors such as Dostoyevsky , Bulgakow , Tennessee Williams , Pitigrilli, but also Heiner Müller and Bertolt Brecht provide the material for Castorf's productions. However, the texts only provide set pieces and are censored, shortened, mostly supplemented and alienated by association material, film quotes, foreign dramas, political speeches or manifestos, philosophical texts or songs, according to personal preferences. A complex social or anthropological dimension of a novel, for example, is reduced to a “human-related” level that can be narrated and understandable and thus implicitly conveyed the big idea, such as politics, in a “human” way.


Artists with whom Castorf works regularly, or has already worked, include: a .:

Productions (selection)

[Sources: Unless otherwise stated, the list of productions up to 1995 follows the directory of directors by Jürgen Balitzki: Castorf, the iron dealer . Theater between potato salad and a steel storm. 1995, pp. 234-237; thereafter up to and including 2012 based on press reports from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ("drama premieres "), supplemented by information from the Munzinger archive and reviews from (from 2007)]




  • Jürgen Balitzki: Castorf, the iron dealer . Theater between potato salad and steel storm , Berlin 1995, ISBN 3-86153-092-9 .
  • Robin Detje : Castorf: Provocation on principle , 2002.
  • Dorte Lena Eilers, Thomas Irmer and Harald Müller (eds.): Castorf. Arbeitsbuch 2016. , Theater der Zeit , Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-95749-073-5 .
  • Carl Hegemann (Ed.): Frank Castorf: Forever Young , Berlin, Alexander Verlag 2003.
    • ders .: End of the line. Longing . Program booklet for the production "Endstation Sehnsucht" by Frank Castorf, Berlin, Alexander Verlag 2000.
    • ders .: Endless happiness . Program booklet for the production of "Elementarteilchen" by Frank Castorf, Berlin, Alexander Verlag 2000.
    • ders .: Enjoy humiliation . Program booklet for the production "Humiliated and Insulted" by Frank Castorf, Berlin, Alexander Verlag 2001.
    • ders .: Break in reality. With a text by Frank Castorf, Alexander Verlag 2002.
    • ders .: The dizzying thing . On Frank Castorf's production “Kokain”, Berlin, Alexander Verlag 2004.
  • Tobias Hockenbrink: Carnival instead of class war. The political in Frank Castorf's theater , Marburg: Tectum Verlag 2008, ISBN 3-8288-9819-X .
  • Thomas Irmer, Harald Müller (Ed.): Ten Years of the Volksbühne - Artistic Director Frank Castorf , Theater der Zeit, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-934344-21-6 .
  • Peter Laudenbach, Frank Castorf: They would prefer to have vegan theater. Interviews 1996–2017. Theater der Zeit, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-95749-132-9 .
  • Frank Raddatz: Republic of Castorf. The Volksbühne at Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz 1992–2016 . Conversations. Alexander Verlag Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-89581-377-1 .
  • Aune Renk, Helmut Müller-Enbergs: Short biography on:  Castorf, Frank . In: Who was who in the GDR? 5th edition. Volume 1. Ch. Links, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86153-561-4 .
  • Hans-Dieter Schütt : The eroticism of betrayal. Conversations with Frank Castorf , Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-320-01916-3 .
  • Jutta Wangemann: Prairie. A user manual , Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-89581-156-4 .
  • Siegfried Wilzopolski Theater of the Moment: Frank Castorf's theater work. A documentation , Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-929333-12-0 .

Web links


  1. Vita ( memento of April 2, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) on the Volksbühne Berlin website, accessed on May 22, 2018
  2. a b c d e f g h Castorf, Frank in the Munzinger archive , accessed on November 3, 2012 ( beginning of the article freely accessible).
  3. a b Jörg Wagner and Heike Zappe: There was something enchanted, like Sleeping Beauty”. Interview with Frank Castorf. Retrieved November 3, 2012 .
  4. a b c Till Briegleb: Frank Castorf. Goethe-Institut, accessed on November 3, 2012 .
  5. Balitzki: Castorf, the ironmonger. Theater between potato salad and a steel storm. 1995, p. 227.
  6. ^ Andreas Rossmann: Under the spell of vertigo. "Hamlet" from the point of view of GDR director Frank Castorf at the Cologne theater. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. April 27, 1989, p. 33; Premieres in October. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. September 30, 1989, p. 29.
  7. Ape sixes. Selection for the Berlin Theatertreffen 1991. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. March 2, 1991, p. 25.
  8. Barbara Villiger Heilig and Tobi Müller: The tolerable difficulty of being. Interview with Frank Castorf. In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung. March 24, 2001, p. 85.
  9. Open letter ( memento from June 6, 2017 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on May 22, 2018
  10. daring. Fritz Kortner Prize for Frank Castorf. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. November 17, 1994, p. 35.
  11. Frieder Reininghaus : Historically undressed, psychologically bared. Frank Castorf directs Verdi's “Otello” in Basel. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. September 16, 1998, p. 39.
  12. Ruhr Festival. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. June 21, 2004, p. 31.
  13. Resigned. Castorf agrees with the Ruhr Festival. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. January 20, 2005, p. 34.
  14. Theater director Castorf on Corona policy "I don't want to be told by Ms. Merkel that I have to wash my hands" , Interview by Wolfgang Höbel , Der Spiegel April 28, 2020
  15. Castorf interview in “Spiegel”: Kammerspiel for a director Theater director Frank Castorf doesn't want to wash his hands and therefore calls for a revolution. He just didn't understand the piece. , by Daniel Kretschmar, editor taz 2 April 28, 2020
  16. Coronavirus Theater Theater director Frank Castorf: I don't want Merkel to educate me , RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland April 28, 2020
  17. Comment on Coronavirus Theater Against Merkel and for Trump: How Frank Castorf strays to the right , Comment by Markus Decker, RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland April 28, 2020
  18. Frank Castorf shoots against Merkel , Nordkurier , DPA April 28, 2020
  19. Frank Castorf reunites with his ex-girlfriend. Retrieved January 6, 2020 .
  20. The title was changed to Amanullah Amanullah shortly before the premiere for legal reasons . See Dirk Pilz: There is only such a mistaken monarch in Berlin., accessed on November 19, 2012.
  21. Hysteria of the Revolution. “Tschewengur” by Frank Castorf at the Stuttgart State Theater. In: October 23, 2015, accessed December 10, 2015 .
  22. Copyright dispute. Castorf's “Baal” can only be performed twice. In: February 18, 2015, accessed March 20, 2016 .
  23. ^ Nestroy Prize 2016: The Nominations . Press release of September 27, 2016, accessed on September 27, 2016.
  24. - Frank Castorf receives Nestroy for life's work . Article dated September 27, 2016, accessed September 27, 2016.