Hansgünther Heyme

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Hansgünther Heyme
Hansgunther Heyme.jpg
Heyme in 2017
Born (1935-08-22) 22 August 1935 (age 83)
Bad Mergentheim, Germany

Hansgünther Heyme (born 22 August 1935) [1] is a German theatre director and prominent figure in the Regietheater movement of the 1960s and 70s. Born in Bad Mergentheim, he studied at Heidelberg University and then under the German director Erwin Piscator. Heyme was the artistic director of the Staatstheater Wiesbaden from 1964 to 1967, the Schauspiel Köln (Cologne's principal theatre) from 1968 to 1979, the Württemberg State Theatre in Stuttgart from 1979 to 1986, the Ruhrfestspiele theatre festival from 1990 to 2003, and the Theater im Pfalzbau in Ludwigshafen from 2004 to 2014. Now in his 80s, he continues to work as a freelance director. [2]

Theatre director person overseeing the mounting of a theatre production

A theatre director or stage director is an instructor in the theatre field who oversees and orchestrates the mounting of a theatre production by unifying various endeavours and aspects of production. The director's function is to ensure the quality and completeness of theatre production and to lead the members of the creative team into realizing their artistic vision for it. The director therefore collaborates with a team of creative individuals and other staff, coordinating research, stagecraft, costume design, props, lighting design, acting, set design, stage combat, and sound design for the production. If the production he or she is mounting is a new piece of writing or a (new) translation of a play, the director may also work with the playwright or translator. In contemporary theatre, after the playwright, the director is generally the primary visionary, making decisions on the artistic concept and interpretation of the play and its staging. Different directors occupy different places of authority and responsibility, depending on the structure and philosophy of individual theatre companies. Directors use a wide variety of techniques, philosophies, and levels of collaboration.

Regietheater is the modern practice of allowing a director freedom in devising the way a given opera or play is staged so that the creator's original, specific intentions or stage directions can be changed, together with major elements of geographical location, chronological situation, casting and plot. Typically such changes may be made to point a particular political point or modern parallels which may be remote from traditional interpretations.

Bad Mergentheim Place in Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Bad Mergentheim is a town in the Main-Tauber-Kreis district in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. It has a population of around 23,000. An officially recognized spa town since 1926, Bad Mergentheim is also known as the headquarters of the Teutonic Order from 1526 until 1809.


Early years

Heyme was born in Bad Mergentheim. His parents were ballroom dancers who had run away together as adolescents to run a dance school in Cologne. After his father's death from typhoid in World War II, his mother Erika married Kurt Joachim Fischer who became a prominent journalist and screenplay writer in post-war Germany. After the war, the family settled in Heidelberg where Heyme received his secondary education at the Helmholtz Gymnasium. After graduating from the gymnasium in 1955, he briefly studied architecture in Karlsruhe, but then moved to Heidelberg University where he spent seven semesters studying sociology, German studies and philosophy as well as taking acting lessons. [3] [4]

Ballroom dance a set of partner dances

Ballroom dance is a set of partner dances, which are enjoyed both socially and competitively around the world. Because of its performance and entertainment aspects, ballroom dance is also widely enjoyed on stage, film, and television.

Kurt Joachim Fischer German film producer and author

Kurt Joachim Fischer was a German writer who worked as a journalist, film critic and screenwriter. He was the co-founder and first director of the International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg.

Heidelberg Place in Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Heidelberg is a university town in Baden-Württemberg situated on the river Neckar in south-west Germany. In the 2016 census, its population was 159,914, with roughly a quarter of its population being students.

Heyme was Erwin Piscator's pupil and assistant in Berlin and Mannheim in 1956. He then worked as an assistant director at the Heidelberg Castle Festival and as an organizer of the International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg. He also appeared in Bernhard Wicki's 1958 cult film Warum sind sie gegen uns?  [ de ] for which his stepfather had written the screenplay. [3] [5]

Erwin Piscator German theatre director

Erwin Friedrich Maximilian Piscator was a German theatre director and producer and, along with Bertolt Brecht, the foremost exponent of epic theatre, a form that emphasizes the socio-political content of drama, rather than its emotional manipulation of the audience or the production's formal beauty.

International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg annual film festival held in Mannheim and Heidelberg, Germany

Mannheim-Heidelberg International Filmfestival, often shortened to IFFMH, is an annual film festival held jointly by the cities of Mannheim and Heidelberg in Baden-Württemberg. The festival was established in 1952.

Bernhard Wicki Austrian actor and film director

Bernhard Wicki was an Austrian actor and film director.

Director and dramaturge

Heyme began his directing career at the Mannheim National Theatre and at Theater Heidelberg where he became both director-in-residence and an actor in 1958. He then moved to the Staatstheater Wiesbaden in 1963. Known as an "aggressive modernizer" of the classics, Heyme caused a near-riot in the Wiesbaden theatre with his controversial 1965 production of Schiller's play William Tell which he set in the Nazi era. [6] His production of Marat/Sade that same year was the first to bring him national attention and was subsequently performed at the Berliner Theatertreffen festival as were many of his later productions. During the early 1960s he also directed one of the earliest performances in Germany of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker at the Theater im Zimmer in Hamburg and the German premiere of Joe Orton's Loot at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg. [2] [3] [7] [8]

Mannheim National Theatre theatre and opera company in Mannheim, Germany, with a variety of performance spaces

The Mannheim National Theatre is a theatre and opera company in Mannheim, Germany, with a variety of performance spaces. It was founded in 1779 and is one of the oldest theatres in Germany.

Theater & Orchester Heidelberg is a theatre in Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden theatre and opera house in Wiesbaden, Germany

The Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden is the State Theatre of the German state Hesse in its capital Wiesbaden, producing operas, plays, ballets, musicals and concerts on four stages. It is also known as Staatstheater Wiesbaden or Theater Wiesbaden, its orchestra is the Hessisches Staatsorchester. The building was inaugurated in 1894.

The Schauspiel Koln where Heyme was the artistic director and dramaturge from 1968 to 1979 Schauspiel Koln (4189-91).jpg
The Schauspiel Köln where Heyme was the artistic director and dramaturge from 1968 to 1979

From 1968 to 1979 Heyme was the artistic director and dramaturge of the Schauspiel Köln (Cologne's principal theatre). At Cologne he concentrated on works by the classic German playwrights, Schiller, Goethe, and Hebbel and on ancient Greek tragedies and comedies, his "Antiquity Project". The project produced some of the first performances in Germany of Euripides' The Bacchae and Aristophanes' The Frogs . [9] As in Wiesbaden, Heyme's productions of both classic European dramas and ancient Greek plays were marked by their radical modernization which made reference to contemporary political and social issues. It was during this period that Heyme coined the term "subventionierte Opposition" ("subsidized opposition") to describe his vision of modern theatre. His last production for Cologne was a controversial Hamlet designed by the video and installation artist Wolf Vostell. [2] [10] The final scene of the Heyme-Vostell production depicted the dead Hamlet, Claudius, Gertrude, and Laertes lying naked on metal trolleys with their intestines on top of their bodies. Behind them newsreaders drone on flickering television screens while a dwarf repeatedly spins around Hamlet's trolley. [11]

A dramaturge or dramaturg is a literary adviser or editor in a theatre, opera, or film company who researches, selects, adapts, edits, and interprets scripts, libretti, texts, and printed programmes, consults with authors, and does public relations work. Its modern-day function was originated by the innovations of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, an 18th-century German playwright, philosopher, and theatre theorist.

Schauspiel Köln municipal drama theatre in Cologne, Germany

Schauspiel Köln is a theatre in Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It forms together with the Cologne Opera and other houses the stages of the city Cologne. The listed building has 830 seats in the Grand House, 120 in the locksmith and 60 in the refreshment room. In addition, the listed 'Halle Kalk' has 200 seats, it was used until closing in the summer of 2015 because of the danger of collapse. Since the 2013/14 season Depot 1 and Depot 2 have been used as interim venues during the extensive renovation of the Schauspielhaus on the site of the former Carlswerk in Schanzenstraße in Cologne-Mülheim.

<i>The Bacchae</i> ancient Greek tragedy by Euripides

The Bacchae is an ancient Greek tragedy, written by the Athenian playwright Euripides during his final years in Macedonia, at the court of Archelaus I of Macedon. It premiered posthumously at the Theatre of Dionysus in 405 BC as part of a tetralogy that also included Iphigeneia at Aulis and Alcmaeon in Corinth, and which Euripides' son or nephew is assumed to have directed. It won first prize in the City Dionysia festival competition.

In search of new forms of theatrical expression in 1979, Heyme staged an epic production of Sophocles' play Antigone in Calcutta. [12] The work was translated into Bengali and used local actors, many of them amateurs. It was performed outdoors with the actors under a specially constructed tent and drew large crowds. [13] After leaving Cologne, Heyme worked as the artistic director for drama at the Württemberg State Theatre in Stuttgart. In 1986 he left Stuttgart for the Grillo-Theater in Essen and also taught directing at Folkwangschule there. He resigned from his posts in Essen in 1992 in protest at the cuts in the city's budget for cultural institutions. This was followed by a brief, unsuccessful period (1992–1994) at Theater Bremen. From 1990 to 2003 Heyme was also the artistic director of the Ruhrfestspiele theatre festival and concentrated primarily on his work there after leaving Bremen. [1]

Sophocles ancient Athenian tragic playwright

Sophocles is one of three ancient Greek tragedians whose plays have survived. His first plays were written later than or contemporary with those of Aeschylus, and earlier than or contemporary with those of Euripides. Sophocles wrote over 120 plays during the course of his life, but only seven have survived in a complete form: Ajax, Antigone, Women of Trachis, Oedipus Rex, Electra, Philoctetes and Oedipus at Colonus. For almost 50 years, Sophocles was the most celebrated playwright in the dramatic competitions of the city-state of Athens that took place during the religious festivals of the Lenaea and the Dionysia. He competed in 30 competitions, won 24, and was never judged lower than second place. Aeschylus won 13 competitions, and was sometimes defeated by Sophocles, while Euripides won four competitions.

<i>Antigone</i> (Sophocles play) ancient Greek tragedy by Sophocles

Antigone is a tragedy by Sophocles written in or before 441 BC.

Bengali language Indo-Aryan language spoken by the Bengali people of South Asia

Bengali, also known by its endonym Bangla, is an Indo-Aryan language primarily spoken by the Bengalis in South Asia. It is the official and most widely spoken language of Bangladesh and second most widely spoken of the 22 scheduled languages of India, behind Hindi. In 2015, 160 million speakers were reported for Bangladesh, and the 2011 Indian census counted another 100 million.

Heyme's last permanent post was as artistic director of the Theater im Pfalzbau in Ludwigshafen where he served from 2004 through 2014. His production of Goethe's Torquato Tasso inaugurated the newly renovated theatre in 2009. Amongst his other productions in Ludwigshafen were the German premiere in 2007 of Mohamed Kacimi's play on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Holy Land, and the world premiere in 2014 of Gilgamesch, a play based on a new German translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh by Stefan Maul and adapted for the stage by Christoph Klimke. His contract was not renewed at the end of the 2014 season. [3] [4] [6] [14]

Later years

Heyme rehearsing his production of The Tempest in 2015 Heyme und Topchi bei den Proben zum Sturm.jpg
Heyme rehearsing his production of The Tempest in 2015

In late 2014 Heyme began what he called his "Sturm-Projekt" (Storm Project). It was a production of Shakespeare's The Tempest updated to the present day and set in the Neckarstadt-West district of Mannheim, an area notorious for its crime and red-light district. He used a cast of mostly amateur actors, many of whom were Bulgarian immigrants living in the district. The dialogue was in German but occasionally switched to Bulgarian. Funded by the city of Mannheim and grants from private sponsors, the production premiered in the Mannheim district in which it was set on 10 July 2015. [15]

The Storm Project is also central to Heyme's autobiography, Sturm. Splitter (Storm. Splinter), which was published in August 2015 to mark his 80th birthday. Written during the preparation and rehearsals for The Tempest, the book recounts episodes in his life from his early childhood to the present. Each of his memories takes a quote from The Tempest as its starting point, but they are not presented in chronological order. [3] Also published in 2015 was Theater! Arbeit! Heyme!, a book devoted to Heyme's life and work by Peter W. Marx and Harald Müller. [16]

Since leaving his post at the Theater im Pfalzbau, Heyme has continued to work as a freelance director. His later productions have included Ronald Harwood's play Quartet at the Hamburg Kammerspiele in 2016, Goethe's play Götz von Berlichingen at the Burgfestspiele Jagsthausen  [ de ] in 2018, and Viktor Ullmann's opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis for the Pfalztheater in Kaiserslautern in 2018. [17] [18] [19] Although Heyme's directorial work has been primarily devoted to plays, he has directed several opera productions during his career. He had earlier directed Puccini's Manon Lescaut for Frankfurt Opera in 1983, Strauss's Elektra for the Pfalztheater in 2009, and Wagner's Ring Cycle for Theater im Pfalzbau and Oper Halle in 2013. [20] [21] [22]

Personal life

According to a 2018 interview with Heyme in Die Rheinpfalz , his career took a heavy toll on his personal life. He worked 14-hour days, and his controversial productions at times resulted in death threats, petitions to have him fired, and battles with the intendants of various theaters where he worked. Gómez, Heyme's Spanish Water Dog, is named after one such intendant because, as Heyme put it, he wanted to have a Gómez who obeyed him. Heyme has been married five times. His first four marriages ended in divorce. He lives in Ludwigshafen with his fifth wife, Éva Adorján, and the two youngest of his four children. Adorján is an actress and director who lectures in performing arts at the University of Koblenz and Landau. Heyme also has a country estate in the Westerwald region. [4] [23]



Heyme's publications include:

Publications about Heyme's life and work include:

The Theater Studies Collection at the University of Cologne holds an extensive collection of documents, printed material, and photographs from Heyme's career. [34]

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