On the art of planning

Reiner Ernst Ohle

Reiner Ernst Ohle

Theater schedules are not the devil's work – but all too often the details are devilishly difficult. Like all plans, our annual schedules are subject to planning rule no. 1: "Go make yourself a plan / And be a shining light. / Then make yourself a second plan, / For neither will come right.” Bertolt Brecht’s analysis of “doers” in all walks of life in his "Ballad on the inadequacies of human planning”, is naturally equally true for planning a theater season: make a plan, and then maybe a second plan – and don’t expect either of them to work! Bertolt Brecht’s thinking man, Mr. Keuner, who could be regarded as the patron saint of all planners, responds with disarming openness when asked what he is working on: “I’m having a hard time – I’m preparing my next mistake.” Everyone who has ever been involved in planning something can empathize with that and learns to carry on, humbly and meekly, and not to give up.

Certainly, it is not just a matter of chance: all sorts of incalculable events are powerful elements in shaping a program: What is available on the market? What is suitable for our theater – including the technical side? When could it be performed? The decision in favor of a specific play also depends on the people planning the program, their goals and philosophy, experience and contacts, and the knowledge they can add to the planning process. The aim is to ensure that the performances are high-quality, varied, ambitious, artistically exciting - in short, exhilarating. Whatever happens: theater can ultimately be anything the organizers can and want to put on – as long as it isn’t boring.

A successful season of plays should not simply leave a lasting impression, it should also be thought-provoking, and a source of political and social mobilization. Programs evolve from intentions, attitudes, challenges and audacity. They reflect the taste, style and theatrical understanding of the organizers. The biggest driving force in putting together a theater season is without doubt a passion for texts, actors, ensembles and productions. Ideally, all these elements should blend perfectly. That is the origin of magical moments on stage, moments that recreate and interpret the world, when everything comes together perfectly: a socially relevant topic enveloped in artistic expressiveness, grandiose protagonists played with great assurance by an ensemble that is able to spark new life out of old ideas.

Christian Stückl and the Münchner Volkstheater have achieved exactly that with their production of Lessing's Nathan der Weise (Nathan the Wise). In his play, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Germany's first playwright, whose works have been performed continuously right up to the present day, addresses the question of which is the right religion: Islam, Christianity or Judaism? With all the religious wars around the world, this work – written 200 years ago – is a play of our times, an appeal for insight and humanism, a play that takes a stand against religious bigotry and ordains the idea of peaceful and tolerant co-existence of religions. It is plays like this that make the conventional division of our program into “classic” and “modern” theater superfluous and have led to our decision that in future we will only present “theater”.


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