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Freie Universität Berlin Studies International Interconnections between Theater Cultures

New Research School to Open at the Institute of Theater Studies

№ 204/2007 from Sep 19, 2007

Large theaters have international ensembles, and theater festivals attract participants from around the world. Few other branches of the art world operate across as many borders as theater. But what are international interconnections of theater cultures? What effects do they have on cultural identity and the social community? Two scholars of the Institute for Theater Studies at Freie Universität, Prof. Dr. Erika Fischer-Lichte and Prof. Dr. Gabriele Brandstetter, intend to find answers to these and similar questions. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Resarch has announced that it will subsidize the establishment of a new international research school in the humanities at Freie Universität to study these themes. The initial subsidies for this project will amount to 10 million euros over the next six years.

Gabriele Brandstetter
Prof. Dr. Gabriele Brandstetter
Erika Fischer-Lichte
Prof. Dr. Erika Fischer-Lichte

According to Fischer-Lichte, "Across all cultures, theater is more than merely an art institution. Theater always has a political dimension as well as social implications, and very often it is tied to religious rituals." With increasing globalization, the world of theater coalesces, as different cultures intersect and influence each other. The stage becomes a "laboratory" for testing new forms of living together.

Both scholars of Freie Universität Berlin work under the assumption that these types of interconnections do not lead to a homogenization of the various cultures of theater, but rather to many new differentiations. "A good example is the productions by Ong Keng Sen or Ariane Mnouchkine, who work with elements from many different theater cultures. These productions fulfill various functions, and many new nuances originate this way," states Fischer-Lichte. Brandstetter provides a second example with dance theater. As the result of many international meetings and workshops around the world, a new form of dance uniting elements of ballet, modern dance, and hip hop has arisen. "But the new style is only apparently uniform. A closer examination shows that there are great regional differences."

The research is intended to describe variations and analyze them under consideration of regional points of view. The new research school will work closely with Freie Universität's Center for Area Studies as well as its departments of art and cultural studies. In addition, it will also cooperate with the Haus der Kulturen der Welt and the Goethe Institute.

The federal subsidies include funding for ten fellowships for visiting scholars from such diverse areas as Asia, India, Africa, South America, Eastern Europe, and the Near East. The fellows will ensure an international perspective in research and will also contribute to teaching students. Professors Fischer-Lichte and Brandstetter are confident that the new research school will "make major contributions to research and teaching."

Journalists may obtain additional information from:

  • Professor Dr. Erika Fischer-Lichte, Institute for Theater Studies at Freie Universität, Telephone: 030 / 838-50340
  • Professor Dr. Gabriele Brandstetter, Institute for Theater Studies at Freie Universität, Telephone: 030 / 838-50336