Berlin’s Volksbühne Theatre Appoints Artistic Director After Years of Turbulence

René Pollesch to head the experimental theatre in 2021, following Chris Dercon’s controversial appointment and departure

Volksbühne theatre during an occupation, Berlin, 2017. Courtesy: Wikimedia 

Volksbühne theatre during an occupation, Berlin, 2017. Courtesy: Wikimedia 

Playwright and director René Pollesch has been named as the new director of Berlin’s storied institution, the Volksbühne Theatre. The news was announced by Berlin’s Department of Culture. The Volksbühne was founded in 1890 with a mission to cater to the working classes.

The appointment comes after years of turmoil which saw Chris Dercon, formerly director of London’s Tate Modern, resign just six months after taking over as director of the experimental theatre in 2017. Dercon departed following protests about his appointment which included a ‘sit-in’ at the theatre staged by left-wing activists, and numerous open letters and petitions demanding he step down. Faeces were also left outside of his door in August 2017. Dercon’s critics regarded the appointment as part of a move to gentrify the theatre’s radical history.

Pollesch will take up the role in 2021 and has previously staged productions at the Volksbühne during the tenure of former artistic director Frank Castorf. He also received Germany’s top theatre award, the Mülheimer Dramatikerpreis, in 2002 for his work.

A spokesperson for the left-wing group Staub zu Glitzer told the New York Times: ‘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.’

Klaus Dörr is currently acting as the theatre’s director on an interim basis after Dercon’s departure. 

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