[This page by Michael Wood]

Roland Schimmelpfennig

Born in Göttingen on 19 September 1967, Roland Schimmelpfennig began writing his own texts in 1994 and immediately shot into fame. Since then, his dramatic output has been immense, and he now bears the accolade of being the most-performed contemporary German dramatist in the world. He started his professional life as a journalist in Turkey before beginning studying directing at the Otto-Falckenberg-Schule in Munich in 1990. His experience as a journalist is an influence which clearly permeates his output. Schimmelpfennig has directed a number of his own plays, and he has received recognition for his outstanding achievement as both playwright and director, including the Else-Lasker-Schüler-Preis (1997), Nestroy Theaterpreis (2002 and 2009), Else-Laske-Schüler-Dramatikerpreis (2010), and the Mülheimer Dramatikerpreis (2010). Outside the German-speaking world, Schimmelpfennig recently launched into international stardom with his Der goldene Drache; The Golden Dragon. Aside from his plays, he has written a number of radio plays, and is currently working on a novel.

Aesthetically, Schimmelpfennig’s plays vary to quite some degree. Some of his works take on a clearly Brechtian influence, deploying such techniques such as Verfremdung (alienation), and the Lehrstück method of having different actors play the same role, as well as one actor playing numerous roles. His texts tend to consist of various, seemingly unrelated strands, and in some cases, such as Arabische Nacht; Arabian Night and Der goldene Drache; The Golden Dragon, these strands come together to form a network of smaller narratives within a grand narrative. While some plays appear to treat a difficulty or breakdown of social interaction, within the framework of a clash of temporalities in a very playful way (e.g. Vor langer Zeit im Mai; A Long Time Ago in May), other texts are much more magical realist in their bent. Schimmelpfennig’s plays often involve the existence or entrance of otherness into a cultural frame, and the results which occur. Also, he makes much use of chance encounters, whilst situating them in a contemporary globalised climate, in which the world is theoretically much smaller than it was formerly.

His theatre texts include (dates indicate world premières):

Keine Arbeit für die junge Frau im Fühlingskleid; No Work for the Young Woman in her Autumn Dress (1996)

Fisch um Fisch; Fish for Fish (1999)

Vor langer Zeit im Mai; A Long Time Ago in May (2000)

MEZ (2000)

Die arabische Nacht; Arabian Night (2001)

Push-Up 1-3; Push Up (2001)

Vorher/Nachher; Before/After (2002)

Die Frau von früher; The Woman Before (2004)

Calypso (2008)

Der goldene Drache; The Golden Dragon (2009)

Peggy Pickit sieht das Gesicht Gottes; Peggy Pickit sees the Face of God (2010)

A small selection of his works are available in English translation:

Arabian Night, trans. by David Tushingham (Oberon, 2002)

Push Up, trans. by Maje Zade (Nick Hern, 2002)

The Woman Before, trans. by David Tushingham (Oberon, 2005)

The Golden Dragon, trans. by David Tushingham (Oberon, 2011)

Further Reading

Birgit Haas, ‘The Return of the Dramatic in Germany after 1989’, in Denise Varney (ed.), Theatre in the Berlin Republic. German Drama since Reunification (Bern: Peter Lang, 2008), pp. 81-114