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Volksbühne Theater, Berlin.
Volksbühne Theater, Berlin.

René Pollesch to Head Berlin’s Volksbühne Theater

Berlin’s Culture Senator Klaus Lederer announced on Wednesday that René Pollesch has been appointed the next artistic director of the city’s Volksbühne Theater. He will take the helm of the institution in 2021. The fifty-six-year-old playwright and director was born in Friedberg, Germany, in the state of Hesse, in 1962. Over the course of his career, he has worked in a number of major theater houses in Stuttgart, Hamburg, Vienna, and Frankfurt, in addition to Berlin, where he recently staged Cry Baby and Black Maria at the Deutsches Theater.

Pollesch had also collaborated with the former artistic director of the Volksbühne, Frank Castorf. During his twenty-five-year tenure, Castorf was credited with revolutionizing the theater’s image and staging experimental performances. When Castorf stepped down, he was succeeded by former Tate Modern director Chris Dercon, who only lasted six months in the role. Dercon faced opposition from the creative community from the moment his directorship was announced. Protests were held, and activists organized a six-day sit-in at the theater. Critics of Dercon were afraid that he would corporatize the organization and saw his appointment as a catalyst for gentrification in the city.

Sarah Waterfeld, a spokeswoman for Staub zu Glitzer (Dust to Glitter), one of the activist groups that occupied the theater in 2017, told the New York Times that they approved of the appointment. She said, “There’s a 100-year tradition—a political and artist tradition—and René’s a good person to find new ways to take that into the future.” Volksbühne's former managing director Klaus Dörr will remain the temporary director of the Volksbühne until Pollesch assumes his responsibilities.