Some notes on a new theory of Regie, prompted by contemporary directions in German “directors’ theatre”

Peter M. Boenisch[1] (University of Kent)


Regie beyond Regietheater?

The 2014 edition of the annual Berlin Theatertreffen – the showcase of Germany’s best theatre productions as chosen by a jury of critics – seemed to bid farewell to a generation of classic German Regietheater. The festival showed one of the final works by late Bulgarian director Dimiter Gotscheff (1943-2013), the former assistant to Benno Besson and Fritz Marquardt and close friend of Heiner Müller: his 2013 production, for Residenztheater Munich, of Müller’s Zement. Also, after a hiatus of more than a decade, the enfant terribleof German directing Frank Castorf (b. 1951) finally returned to Theatertreffen with another one of his exuberant, hour-long performances: his stage adaptation of Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s 1932 novel Voyage au bout de la nuit, equally produced by Residenztheater Munich. Castorf is, of course, still noticeably alive in 2014; yet he recently announced his forthcoming retirement, after twenty-three years as Artistic Director of the Berlin Volksbühne, to coincide with the theatre’s centenary in 2016. What connects both Gotscheff and Castorf’s theatre work to the pioneers of German Regietheater who emerged in the 1960s and 1970s – from Hans-Günther Heyme, Claus Peymann and Peter Zadek to the genre’s Über-director Peter Stein – is that their theatre work is defined by the great political conflicts of the twentieth century: by the aftermath of two world wars and the holocaust, and by the often disavowed legacies of communism and fascism.

In its directorial take on canonical classics as well as on recent texts Regietheater confronted and challenged the post-War European societies from critical positions that were as much propelled by the dynamic impetus it shared with the revolutionary protests of 1968, as it later at times stubbornly countered the absorption of these critical energies of the (former) left into a seemingly singular, globalised capitalist ideology after 1989 (see Boltanski and Chiapello 2005). Politically, this artistic work still neatly fitted the old demarcations of ‘left’ and ‘right’, siding of course with the former. Conceptually, meanwhile, this historic form of Regietheater was aligned with positions of postmodern theory. The critical reassessment of the discourse of the Western theatre canon and the explorations of the disavowed dark sides of Western post-War societies (the continuing fascism, anti-Semitism, etc.) that prevailed in the works of Stein, Zadek and their contemporaries since the late 1960s lent itself to be explored through the theoretical lenses of Foucault, Lacan, and others. Meanwhile, the radical directorial deconstructions of the classics on stage, epitomised by Castorf, resonated with Derridean conceptual approaches. This not only applies to the recent history of German theatre; we find examples of “directors’ theatre” elsewhere in Europe, too, if we think of Peter Brook, Joan Littlewood, Ariane Mnouchkine, Roger Planchon or even Jerzy Grotowski and, from the US, Robert Wilson (see Bradby and Williams 1988).

Their work has started the thorough revaluation of the task and art of theatre direction, which is now generally understood as ‘never simply a question of “interpreting” but rather about shaping, representing, positioning and creating.’ (Delgado and Rebellato 2010, 18) We may here, in particular, refer to Patrice Pavis’s singularly systematic explorations of what he terms mise en scène (see Pavis 1982, 1992, 2013). As a result, the director is in contemporary theatre theory no longer considered simply as a homogenous individual but rather as a construct that itself articulates wider debates around the intersections between theatre, nation, state and the broader structures through which geographical, political and cultural spaces intersect or collide. Directing is shown to be both a function and a profession, a brand and a process, an encounter and a market force. (Delgado and Rebellato 2010, 21)

Today, as a new generation of theatre directors has taken to German stages, mostly born in the 1960s and after, and grown up largely after the fall of the Eastern European communist states in 1989, the analytic perspective of the theatre researcher is confronted with two questions:

1.) Should the terms Regietheater and Regie be confined to the specific historic (as well as geographic) point in European theatre history that is demarcated by the period between 1945 and 1989?

2.) Alternatively, can we, and should we, propose a critical notion of Regie to describe a much wider artistic, aesthetic and therefore also political process of cultural mediation in (essentially European) theatre? And, how would such a concept relate to established terms such as theatre directing, directors’ theatre, and mise en scène?

Regie as mediating force

These are some of the fundamental questions that prompted the work on my forthcoming book-length study Directing Scenes and Senses: The Thinking of Regie (Boenisch 2015/in print). It is an attempt to think through the practice of Regie and to consider the potential of theatre directing in the twenty-first century, its aesthetic possibilities, and its political implications. By introducing into the English critical language the foreign notion of Regie, I not least attempt to resist the reiteration of a handful of common clichés and reductive stereotypes about theatre directing. Far more than a functional craft of translating and adapting pre-existing texts for the stage, and more than the arrangement of signs and meanings that ‘produce’ the play on stage, as suggested by a common but all too reductive understanding of mise en scène, I understand Regie as a cultural technique and specifically theatral (mediating) force which (re-)negotiates the relations of texts and theatre, scenes and senses, performances and audiences, of cultural histories and traditions and the present with its ultimately pressing issues and concerns.

My approach to Regie draws on principles of Hegelian dialectic thinking and of Schillerian play (thus concepts which emerged simultaneously to early manifestations of Regie at the beginning of the nineteenth century, reflecting a significant cultural shift at the backend of the momentous historical rupture of the 1789 French Revolution) to outline an understanding of Regie as theatral play, as a dialectic act of theatral mediation, and as a speculative style of thinking. It counters, above all, the most unhelpful of these deeply ideological discourses that prevent a clearer insight and understanding ofRegie: the persistent debates about authority and authorship, which suggest an insurmountable tension between director and playwright, and a clash between the playtext and its performance. The director of “directors’ theatre” is from this perspective placed opposite the text, seen as either suppressing the playwright, or the other way round, as ultimate liberator who breaks down the despotic hierarchy of ‘the Text’. From here, it is only one step to the persisting caricature of Regie as the purely subjective, ‘private’ whim of an idiosyncratic director. We could hardly get further away from a proper understanding of the, at its very heart, essentially collective, social and political practice of Regie. The discursive paradigm of (individual) authorship – thus, the director’s alleged claim for authorship and superior authority – only serves the most regressive political purpose of cleansing any emancipatory impulse contained in the expressly political Regie of theatre-makers from Schiller to Jessner, Brecht, the post-War Regietheater pioneers of the 1960s and 1970s, down to the contemporary generation of late twentieth and twenty-first century theatre-makers as diverse as Jürgen Gosch and Michael Thalheimer, tg STAN and Andreas Kriegenburg, Ivo van Hove and Guy Cassiers, and Frank Castorf and Thomas Ostermeier, to name the directors whose work features most prominently in the chapters of the forthcoming book.

The politics of postdramatic Regie

This generation of theatre directors represents what Pavis describes as ‘the return of text and of new writing in the 1990s’ (Pavis 2013, 15), which reflects a wider cultural rapprochement to canonical classics and to theatre and other cultural institutions, which can be perceived in theatre as well as in literature, film, visual art and philosophy: a new, close and serious exploration and reappropriation of histories, traditions, forms and institutions, precisely with all their ‘baggage’ as bastions of a middle-class, white cultural elite that a previous generation vociferously attacked and rejected. I suggest that this distinct strategic move of the early twenty-first century can no longer adequately captured with the conceptual tools of postmodern deconstruction. Where Hans-Thies Lehmann, in his epochal study of theatre and performance practises of the 1980s and 1990s, described the ‘rift between the discourse of the text and that of the theatre’ (Lehmann 2006, 46) as driving motor supplying the energy of postdramatic theatre and its exploration of space, time, bodies, media, and – indeed – texts, he also made clear that this was not simply anti-dramatic theatre:

Even if one was quickly moving away from the traditional presentation of drama, and even if some of the advocates of autonomy and ‘retheatricalization’ of the theatre advanced to the demand for a banning of the text altogether, radical theatre was not motivated simply by contempt for the text but also by the attempt of rescue. The emerging ‘theatre of directors’ was often precisely concerned with wrenching texts away from convention and saving them from arbitrary, banal or destructive ingredients of ‘culinary’ theatrical effects. Whoever calls for rescuing text theatre from the crimes of directing nowadays should remember this historical context. The tradition of the written text is under more threat from museum-like conventions than from radical forms of dealing with it. (ibid., 52)

The recent strategies of German theatre directors reflect further ‘radical forms of dealing with it’. They not only continue, update and extend the work of the preceding Regietheater generation, but moreover reinvigorates from a postdramatic standpoint an entire tradition of Regie that dates back into the nineteenth century. Since then, Regie has through its playful and ‘wrong’ acts of repeating and mediating the playtext opened up spaces for critical examination and for playful thinking within the at once historically situated, yet equally (in a precise Schillerian dialectic) strictly autonomous aesthetic realm of theatre, where the pragmatic demands and functional imperatives of everyday ideologies do not uphold their regime. Regie’s play with the text propels the texts, the art of theatre, and our cultural traditions and memories of the past into a present (defined by globalised capitalism), and hence further forward into a future yet to come.

This postdramatic turn of Regie is therefore precisely the opposite of a renunciation of the critical and expressly political attitude of Regietheater; with this reproach, Bernd Stegemann’s verbose and polemicKritik des Theaters (Stegemann 2013) utterly misunderstands the notion of postdramatic theatre as introduced and outlined by Lehmann. His ‘theatre after drama’ stages its rupture with the ‘dramatic’ (Lehmann 2006, 55f.), characterised by, in Lehmann’s terms, ‘the plexus of the dominance of the text, the conflict of figures, and the totality of plot and world representation.’ (ibid., 54). Yet, it does so not in order to submit to the ideologies of an encompassing neoliberal marketisation, which Italian activist Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi describes as ‘semiocapitalism’ (Berardi 2009): our global capitalist configuration, where art and culture are no longer mere aspects of the ideological superstructure. Instead, they have themselves become the very sites of alienation, conflict, and exploitation, as (at least in the metropolitan West) intellectual and creative labour have replaced physical force and manual work as central mechanisms of capitalist exploitation and profit generation. Equally, the dramatic form with its insistence on (psychologically defined) individual characters and a surveyable totality of cause and effects has become the dominant narrative of globalised media narratives. In this regard, US-American thinker Jodi Dean, emphasising the role of digital technologies and social media, aptly outlines today’s ‘communicative capitalism’ (Dean 2009). Two decades into the twenty-first century, in the age of Web 2.0, it far exceeds the technological context of video, the emerging internet and other ‘new digital media’ that had framed and defined the original generation of postdramatic theatre-makers in a similar way as the legacy of fascism and the communist cause had driven Regietheater. For contemporary directors, the socio-political and cultural-economic context of global ‘semiocapitalism’ has replaced the described historic frame of reference of twentieth century Regietheater, defined by the dominant political ideologies of the time. What we see, above all, in current Regie is not, as Stegemann intimates, the sell-out of postdramatic performance, but the recuperation of a play with theatre texts, the theatre stage and with us as theatre spectators. It is the further radicalisation of the ‘politics of perception’ and of the ethics of ‘response-ability’, which Lehmann outlined in the conclusion of his seminal study as political vision of the postdramatic: an ethical aesthetics that insists on ‘the mutual implication of actors and spectators in the theatrical production’ (Lehmann 2006, 186).

The play of contemporary Regie

Today, we thus encounter changing strategies of Regie which activate strategies of dialectic speculation and Hegelian sublation (Aufhebung) in order to still insist on an attitude of playfulness that fosters thinking and imagining, against the all-encompassing logic of economy, efficiency, sustainability, and austerity that defines the neoliberal semiocapitalist agenda. It sees as ‘good citizen’ the well-behaving consumer of goods, bite-sized chewable chunks of information and spectacle. Against the pervasive ‘business ontology in which it is simply obvious that everything in society […] should be run as a business’ (Fisher 2009, 17, orig. emphasis), which always threatens to absorb theatre and its artists as well, turning it from an artform into an economically beneficial and profit generating ‘creative industry’,Regie resists the imperative of ‘doing the play(-text)’ and ‘producing a show’. Instead, the dialectic speculations of (post-)postdramatic Regie create an autonomous theatral space vis-à-vis the text and the demands of everyday life. Its ‘politicity’, which is Jacques Rancière’s term to describe a political potential that springs not so much from the contents but from the very formal and structural fabric of an art form, articulates itself mainly in four aspects: in the realism of Regie, in its play with media and spectating relations, in a reinforced textuality, and finally in the corporeality of play:

1.) Regie and Realism: Fifteen years after being propelled to the forefront of German theatre directing by a controversial staging of Ferenc Molnár’s Liliom at Hamburg’s Thalia Theater, which the city’s mayor famously left midway through the performance, yelling at the stage and slamming the door of the auditorium behind him, Michael Thalheimer (b. 1965) still causes a stir: Thirty minutes into the premiere of his 2014 take on Ödön von Horvath’s 1931 Tales from the Vienna Woods at Vienna Festwochen festival, the audience started to boo and interrupt the performance. A few months earlier, he had applied his recognisable directorial toolkit on a comedy, Molière’s Tartuffe, produced at Schaubühne Berlin: here, laughter hurt as much as the tragedy of the Viennese underdogs in Horvath, and we certainly felt no sympathy whatsoever for any of the noble personnel of Molière’s play. Once more, Thalheimer had reduced popular classics to their bare core, refusing any illustration and representation in his condensed and stylised abstractions of the plays he directs. At first sight, his approach could not be more different from the ‘neo(n)realism’ of Thomas Ostermeier (b. 1968). Recognisable contemporary characters and situations turn classics into contemporary plays about the present financial crisis, most recently in his productions of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People (2012) and Lilian Hellman’s Little Foxes(2014). Yet, both Thalheimer’s confrontational defamiliarisation and Ostermeier’s embracing and inviting blend of contemporary lives and classical plays point us to a different kind of realism: It asserts the ultimate reality of the theatral experience and it is committed to the ultimate ‘Real’ of the playtexts, which far beyond the levels of a ‘realistic’ narrative, plot, and representation sets in motion the full force of the text’s implicit critical tensions and contradictions by means of theatral play.

This realism radically asserts a perspective that acknowledges its own particularity and subjectivity, rather than pretending to ‘objectively’ represent the text. It reinforces what Alain Badiou calls ‘subject language’: an engaged subjective perspective, an interested viewpoint that permeates ‘objective’ structures and challenges the very assumption of such ‘objectivity’: the myth of a ‘simple’, transparent and singular ‘true’ representation of a text, manifest in a directorial approach ‘in the service’ of the playwright and ‘just staging’ the text. Yet, we should suggest with Slavoj Žižek that precisely the director who poses as the text or playwright’s humble instrument commits the most violent intervention: ‘it is the allegedly “objective”, “impartial” gaze that is not in fact neutral but already partial – that is, the gaze of the winners, of the ruling classes.’ (Žižek 1999, 137)

2.) Regie, media and spectating: The filmic theatre events by British director Katie Mitchell (b. 1964), with which she has become a regular presence on German stages, prevent the audience’s outright immersion into a fictional dramatic world. The spectators are offered an almost clinically distant perspective on, for instance, the depressive visions of the main character in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1891 Yellow Wallpaper, which Mitchell staged at Schaubühne Berlin in 2013. More recently, her live cinema setup dissected Duncan Macmillan’s war drama The Forbidden Zone, inspired by the German-Jewish nobel laureate Fritz Haber, who invented the poisonous gas formula that would be applied to most deadly effects in both world wars. The spectators simultaneously watch a stream of images, and they see how these images are produced, and how the soundtrack is created. A similar reflexive approach to staging characterises the work of Flemish director Guy Cassiers (b. 1960), whether in his seminal four-part adaptation of Marcel Proust’s Search for the Lost Time (2002-5), his three part stage version of Robert Musil’s Man Without Qualities (2010-12), or his recent Shakespeare adaption, with playwright Tom Lanoye, Hamlet vs Hamlet (2014): the use of livestream video, pre-recorded images, and of microphones and voice amplification and manipulation allows him to introduce reflexive and subjective gaps into the fabric of medial representation. Both Cassiers and Mitchell’s Regie no longer creates spectacles staged for our distanced, ‘secret’ gaze of the consumer, but it demands a confrontation with our own acts of spectating (see Boenisch 2012). Yet, our affective relation and engagement with the fictional situations is amplified precisely because of our heightened awareness of our own reality of spectating: What we see in front of us ultimately really affects us, not just them.

This Regie takes its duty to mediate seriously, in its fullest Hegelian sense of Vermittlung: as a necessary intervention and dialectic sublation. It triggers our reflexive awareness of media and processes of mediation, and plays with our own habitual spectating conventions. Against the use of media content to provide imaginary projection mirrors of subjectivities to identify with, their essentially relational and reflexive Regie exemplarily asserts the position of spectating, making us aware that ‘media have to be mediated by a subjectivity that takes upon itself the role of mediator of the media’ (Groys 2011, 9) – and that we, as spectators, are this contingent subjectivity. These purely theatral moments that prompt what Alain Badiou, in his Rhapsody for the Theatre, calls ‘intermission’ – momental intervals when the audience can see and experience itself as audience rather than disappearing into the anonymity of a consuming mass (Badiou 2008, 209) – demand all our ‘response-ability’.

3.) Regie and textuality: In Spring 2014, Berlin-based actor and playwright Nora Abdel-Maksoud (b. 1983) presented her Kings at Berlin’s Ballhaus Naunynstrasse, a farcical play about globalisation and failing revolutions in the absurd tradition of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, mixed with the postdramatic text collages of Rene Pollesch (b. 1962). Like his work, Abdel-Maksoud wrote and directed her play. With his play-texts that almost exclusively consist of cut and paste quotations and citations (and which he never allows to be staged in further productions by another director), Pollesch represents what Helmar Schramm has termed ‘post-theatral drama’: plays that refuse their straightforward e-mission on stage, as the texts become the absolute, impenetrable symbolic horizon behind which there is no ground and no ultimate reality. In his recent work, such as the Balzac-inspired Glanz und Elend der Kurtisanen(Volksbühne Berlin 2013) and Gasoline Bill (Kammerspiele Munich 2013), Pollesch now masterfully distributes his sampled text-collages onto several speakers. In contrast to his comedic discourse theatre, the similarly dense text collages by nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek tackle tragic topics that defy conventional dramatisation, such as anti-Semitic masscares, the death of asylum seekers trying to reach Europe, or the unrepresentability of the financial crisis. In their ultimate erasure of psychology and claims on originality, this drama of absolute textuality is the ultimate rejection of the fashionable craze for ‘authenticity’, evident in verbatim drama and performances with ‘real’ people playing themselves (as in the work of Rimini Protokoll). It presents an ultimate challenge to directors such as Nicolas Stemann (b. 1968), who has directed many Jelinek-premieres over recent years.

4.) Regie and the corporeality of play: Not unlike Pollesch, dramatist Falk Richter (b. 1969) used to show in his plays characters which are entirely determined by the recycled texts and quotations from popular culture and media which they utter. Since 1999, Richter collaborates with dancers and choreographers such as Anouk Van Dijk to find a scenic format to tell his narratives about contemporary lives without falling back onto a purely semiotic logic of representation. Similar dynamics are at work in collaborations of playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig with the late director Jürgen Gosch, and of Dea Loher with director Andreas Kriegenburg (b. 1963). Kriegenburg, in particular, exploits his actors’ physical play to set in his radically non-psychological Regie tangible kinetic counterpoints to the play’s narratives, even more so in his productions of classics, most notably in his 2008 theatre adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Trial, in which he had his eight performers negotiate a revolving stage that was suspended in the vertical, covering the theatre’s proscenium arch. The corporeal and affective ‘excess’ in this approach of Regie points towards what philosopher Martin Seel terms an ‘aesthetics of appearing’ (Seel 2003). For him, art works never exhaust themselves at the levels of artistic imagination nor the creation of fictional worlds alone. Instead, the sensory investment and the kinetic encounter in the very moment of ‘appearing’ (Erscheinen) cannot be relegated to a (secondary) level of ‘reception’. Art works, for Seel, ultimately gain their ‘sense’ only as ‘genuine events of appearing’ (ibid., 48). The corporeal dynamics exemplarily evoked in Kriegenburg and Richter’s Regie relies on a theatral excess of ‘scenes and senses’ that spills over functional, efficient representation. It foregrounds the moment of appearing, of becoming sensible as the moment of true actualisation of the play (-text) as play (-performance). Brimming with energy and playful liveliness, it emanates what German phenomenologist Bernhard Waldenfels, in another context, described as ‘signs of life below the threshold of meaning’ (Waldenfels 2010, 70). Discussing the medial effect of images, Waldenfels analyses how paintings by Goya and Bosch evoke a palpable unease that inevitably challenges our spectatorial engagement, and which demands a certain response, requiring us to position ourselves with our acts of spectating – similar to the effect generated through the use of media in the works of Mitchell and Cassiers. Reflecting both the performers’ and the spectators’ sensory perception and affective engagement back into the text, these signs also bring us to life.

Regie and ‘response-ability’

Regie is thus more than another pompous Germanic term to mystify existing ideas of direction and mise en scène. Militating against what Peter Brook once, and still validly, described as ‘dead theatre’, Regieopens up a living space of thinking, and of thinking differently, a vital room for possibilities, a vibrant place for dissensus. Regie is a public intervention through theatre and theatral thinking, even a utopia of human play and liberty. Instead of clarifying, illustrating and ascertaining unambiguous clear meaning, and rather than suggesting the immediate availability of everything as commodity, the play of Regieproblematises any such uniform clarity. It throws comfortable truths and accepted givens into doubt, and confronts performers, theatre makers and spectators alike with difficulties, with risk, and with responsibilities – thereby emphasising our ‘response-ability’. As the agent of mediation and sublation,Regie is predicated on the irresolvable distance and difference, on the antagonistic tension, on the excess engendered by each text. It zooms into the molecular fabric of the texts and their symptomal self-limitations, and celebrates them (in a truly Hegelian ‘negative’ stance) as their actual ‘truth’ that playfully remaps standardised patterns of representation and cognition.

This playful, inefficient, and unprofitable act of thinking and interpreting takes away the fear of ‘thinking for ourselves’, of ‘interfering’, and of ‘thinking differently’. It gives access to and offers a perspective – its perspective, and our own perspective against the dominant logic of neoliberal narratives and its dramatic representations. Regie thereby creates the shared communities of ‘active interpreters, who develop their own translations in order to appropriate the “story” and make it their own’, who Jacques Rancière put at the centre of any true emancipation of the spectator (Rancière 2009, 22). For this reason, Regie, in its very play with classic texts, from Greek tragedy to Shakespeare and great novels, from Ibsen to contemporary plays and new writing, is able to take seriously all our subjective fears, passions, concerns, anger, and irrational gut feelings as artists and spectators, turning them into the very ground for the true ‘concrete universality’ of these classics, as Hegel would phrase it. Against the logic of Capital positing itself as the one and only universal narrative and signifier, and as the sole link to transcend any division of nation, gender, race, or class, the speculative theatral mediation of these canonical texts, which Regie unlocks, counters with its own claim for universality. The text becomes the lens through which we can focus on the social, ‘public’ realities of today’s globalised economy of semiocapitalism in our acts of interpreting the world around us. The mediation of these texts through our acts of directing and spectating, their sublation through theatral thinking, may then allow us to collectively take ownership and to share (rather than possess and consume) the scenes and senses of this cultural capital, so it becomes a starting point for our ‘recognition or reappropriation of the hitherto alienated social order’ (Jameson 2010, 107).

Regie / directing / mise en scène

As a critical concept on theatre art and practice, thus, Regie certainly revolves around the same core as its fellow concepts directing and mise en scène, each of which offers something which escapes the other approaches:

· directing captures the practical aspect of putting a playtext on stage and mounting a production. It describes the craft and labour of making theatre. It is, thus, situated on the theatrical level.

· mise en scène is an analytic concept which expresses the dynamic process of emitting and releasing the playtext on stage, as comprehensively described by Patrice Pavis (2013 e.a.). It transforms literary writing into a multi-dimensional, sensory experience in the theatre. Mise en scène sets in motion (and is set in motion) through direction, but it does not exhaust itself in describing the ‘directorial concept’ or ‘intention’ of the director. It is an analytic tool situated at the level of mediation between the theatrical and the theatral.

· Regie is an aesthetic concept, in the full sense of Jacques Rancière’s use of this term. It is both historically associated with what he calls ‘the aesthetic regime of arts’ (see Rancière 2013), and it engages with the aesthetic level of the sensible. Regie expresses a cultural process of ‘making sense’, which traverses the symbolic order of discourse as well as the imaginary order of channelling desire. It is a critical concept that points us towards a playful ‘carnival of (theatral) thinking’, to paraphrase Helmar Schramm. It constantly reminds us of Schiller’s old imperative: We are only fully human beings when we have (and claim) the liberty to play, and thereby to think – freely, autonomously, differently. In the spirit of the Rancièrian goal of emancipation, Regie is thus our ally in theatre in order to make a claim in the face of the global hegemony of Capital by insisting on the ‘universal particular’ of Culture: of a human community, bound not by the circle of production and consumption, but by common playing and thinking.


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[1] Peter M. Boenisch is Professor of European Theatre at the University of Kent, where he was founding co-director of the European Theatre Research Network (ETRN). His primary interest is in the aesthetics and politicity of theatre performance, especially in the context of theatre directing and dramaturgy, dance and corporeality, and theatre and intermediality. His monograph Directing Scenes and Senses: The Thinking of Regie will be published by Manchester University Press in Spring 2015. With German theatre director Thomas Ostermeier, Boenisch currently works on their co-authored volume The Theatre of Thomas Ostermeier (Routledge 2016).

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The Play of Regie