INTERVIEW with the AUThOR ROLAND SCHIMMELPFENNIG
The playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig was born in Göttingen in 1967 and is one of the most-performed contemporary German dramatists. His plays have been performed all around the world, winning numerous awards. He has worked together with the Residenztheater on numerous occasions and several of his plays have received their world premieres here. To coincide with his debut play for young audiences «Die Biene im Kopf», first performed in 2016 at the Consoltheater Gelsenkirchen, we talked to him about the power of the imagination, theatre artists who have influenced him and inner fortitude.
«Die Biene im Kopf» was your first play for young audiences – what makes writing for children different from writing for adults?
From my point of view, there’s hardly any difference – except perhaps in terms of length. Both in «children’s theatre» and in theatre for adults, I try to take the audience with me on a journey on which they can test the «reality» in their everyday lives and discover something for themselves – a journey that also requires their imagination.
You have one child and three voices: why did you choose this form of storytelling?
There were several reasons. I think I wanted to avoid having a single narrator, male or female, who knows everything already. I was keen to have additional details, contradictions and also encouragement within the group of actors, that somehow merges with the audience. I wanted to put the process of collective storytelling on stage – a little bit like us being there while children are inventing a story as a game – only this story is constantly jumping between different levels.
What was your first formative theatre experience?
One of my first formative theatre experiences was definitely «Around the World in 80 Days» at the Deutsches Theater in Göttingen. There were sets! And actors doubling! That production really did open up a world for me. And, just as important: puppet theatre on a small scale at home and in «proper» theatres, especially the Marionette Theatre in Prague: Spejbel and Hurvinek – I think that’s when it all started.
Psychologists see the imagination as an important building block in creating resilience: can theatre help to make people more able to resist things?
If theatre itself seeks to expand people’s horizons and the extent of their imaginations – and under certain circumstances to open them up in the first place – that makes it precious and it can become an inestimably valuable experience for a young audience. Imagination in an enormously important tool. It makes us strong. It opens up paths to pursue.
Using imagination to get yourself through everyday life: is this something you’ve experienced yourself or is it something you imagine?
For me, personally? It’s something I’ve experienced.
Is there one thing you wish that children and adults might be able to take from your play?
Interview by Elisabeth Kerschbaumer and Linda Nerlich.