The final cancellation of all performances of the play “Vögel” at the Metropoltheater provokes many reactions. “The surprising information that the resumption cannot take place now seems to me to be the end of the debate. Even if the circumstances of this cancellation are not happy for all sides, I would above all wish that the debate calmed down,” says Charlotte Knobloch, President of the Jewish Community in Munich and Upper Bavaria (IKG).
The theater based in the Freimann district, which is freely financed but supported by the city of Munich, announced on Sunday that it would not be showing the work of the Lebanese-Canadian writer Wajdi Mouawad again as planned from March 26th. After the Association of Jewish Students in Bavaria and the Jewish Student Union Germany raised anti-Semitism allegations against the staging in November, it was suspended for the time being. Nothing will come of the new edition because Mouawad insists that his text be presented in Munich without any abridgement or alteration.
The authors’ publishing house, which publishes the play in Germany, defended this requirement: The situation in Munich was “a completely unusual one”: “The author has written a play that poses the question of reconciliation and is received as such worldwide without exception It is obvious that the staging in Munich unfortunately led to something else, for reasons that neither he nor we can understand. We see the author and his play exposed to ongoing accusations of anti-Semitism.”
The “heated debate in Munich” is being carried out at the expense of an artist and person “who is neither part of our society nor our history, who does not speak German, who neither comes from our theater tradition nor knows the Munich production”: “How else should it be you protect an author against such serious allegations as they were made in Munich than with his own unchanged words?”
Wajdi Mouawad was born in Lebanon in 1968. His family is Maronite, that is, of Christian faith. In 1975, as a child, he witnessed a Christian militia attacking a bus carrying Palestinian civilians. He still sees the roots of his writing about political and religious identity conflicts in this experience.
The play “Birds” is about a love affair between the Jewish geneticist Eitan and Wahida, who is of Arabic descent. The Metropoltheater had refused to play the work in its entirety because this would be tantamount to the expense of a new production, which could not be afforded.
Town hall greens are “irritated”
It’s a shame that the resumption isn’t possible after all, says Munich’s cultural advisor Anton Biebl: “I hope that the contextualization announced by the theater will still take place.” A reading by Ronen Steinke (SZ author) from his book “Terror gegen Juden” is planned for April 23 in the Metropoltheater. On June 22, Meron Mendel, director of the Anne Frank educational institution, and the cultural scientist Stella Leder will discuss the play and the allegations made against it.
SPD city councilor Julia Schönfeld-Knor describes the cancellation by the Metropoltheater as a “logical step”. The requirement of the rights holders cannot be fulfilled. It is a pity that they have only now communicated their demand. “I feel sorry for the theater and the actors,” says Schönfeld-Knor.
The cancellation of the resumption had provoked criticism of the city over the weekend. The former Greens member of the Bundestag, Jerzy Montag, reprimanded those “who did not immediately stand in front of the theater to protect themselves and allow debates about cuts in funds, bans on performances and censorship measures by self-appointed anti-Semitism supervisors to run wild”.
Green party leader Dominik Krause finds such criticism “irritating”; he thinks it should be aimed more at the addresses of publishers and theatres. After all, the city has nothing to do with the decision not to perform the play again.
Next week, a series of events on the subject of “Anti-Semitism in Art and Culture – Limits of Artistic Freedom and Freedom of Expression” will start, initiated by the Department of Culture and the city’s Department for Democracy. On March 27, the Kammerspiele will host a reading and discussion on the topic “Above suspicion? Anti-Semitism in art and culture”. On March 28th, also at the Kammerspiele, there will be a workshop on the subject of antisemitism in cooperation between the Kammerspiele, the Institute for New Social Sculpture, the Research and Information Center for Antisemitism in Bavaria (RIAS) and the Department for Democracy. On April 26, the Munich adult education center and the cultural department will hold an event on the subject of “Artistic freedom – limits and responsibility. Thinking about anti-Semitism in art”. Other formats are being planned, announces cultural advisor Biebl.