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Theatre Censorship in Honecker’s Germany

From Volker Braun to Samuel Beckett

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Barrie Baker

This book presents the full story of state-supervised theatre in East Germany during the Honecker era (1971-1989). Through use of disparate unpublished material and interviews with key survivors in Berlin, Potsdam, Dresden and Leipzig, new and often disturbing insight is gained into the drama production of the socialist republic and into the situation and behaviour of playwrights, directors and dramaturges. Censorship in many forms is brought to light, as well as the social and political pressures, revealing the true burden of coercion on the theatrical profession, including targeted operations by the secret police assisted by informers. A study of the fortunes of the play Die Übergangsgesellschaft by the prominent GDR dramatist and poet Volker Braun vividly illustrates the tension of negotiating these perils. Finally, against a background evaluation of the influences of tradition and modernity on the form and content of East German drama, and of the fluctuation of cultural policy, the author shows how the regime of Erich Honecker underwent a fundamental change of attitude from an original ban to a final bow for Samuel Beckett’s so-called ‘decadent’ play Waiting for Godot.
Contents: ‘Kulturpolitik’ – Theatre Practice and State Control – Directions in Drama – Only one Stone in the Mosaic: Die Übergangsgesellschaft – ‘There is no way in which we can relate to this play’: Waiting for Godot – Apparatus of Control.