Interview With Playwright Juliane Stadelmann

World Literature Editor Ariell Cacciola speaks with German playwright Juliane Stadelmann,1 whose new play “Noch ein Lied vom Tod” is being staged at Schauspielhaus Wien in Austria. The play premiered on January 9 and runs until February 17.

In 2013, Stadelmann was awarded the Hans-Gratzer-Stipendium und Förderpreis and also traveled to New York City, where one of her theatre pieces was performed as a staged reading in both German and English translation. Since 2011, she has been studying at the Deutsches Literaturinstitut in Leipzig, Germany. Her complete list of works and achievements can be viewed here.

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ARIELL CACCIOLA: When I last saw you, a staged reading of your short theatre piece “Die Kinder sind tot” (The Children are Dead) was being  performed in New York City. What have you been up to since then?

JULIANE STADELMANN: The formal short piece became a long piece called "Noch ein Lied vom Tod"2 and premiered in Vienna's Schauspielhaus on January 9, 2015. A lot of things happened since that staged reading in New York. Not only could I finish the play, I could also win the Fischer Theaterverlag for my work by showing up at some festivals and awards during the last year. They support me now by offering my two plays to theatres in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, and they are editing my new work, as well as helping me to stay active as an author. I will soon finish at the DLL and this summer I moved to Berlin, to give that city another useless author and me an exciting new start!

playwright Juliane Stadelmann

Congratulations on your upcoming graduation from the Deutsches Literaturinstitut Leipzig (DLL). I'm sure finishing your degree is one of those exciting, but nervous experiences. With your recent Fischer Verlag publishing contract, are you already starting to experience the transition between student to writer?

To be honest, no. I have so many “real” jobs to get my rent paid and so many sorrows about my future…It's more the thread of the transition between a student and unemployment that I'm feeling right now. Nevertheless the support by Fischer Verlag is a big chance for me and of course a huge motivation to keep going, but I'm still shifting a lot between that exciting life of a writer and that even more exciting life of a young person trying to stand on her own feet. Apart from that, I still can't imagine to “just” write. Even if I ever had a little success and could pay a year of rent with a play or a book, I need different things to do. Things with people and things that feed my brain. The thing I'm most  afraid of is writing myself braindead into loneliness. Maybe this is how I can save myself: keeping in transition ALWAYS.

 

Do you work closely with the staged productions of your plays? Or is it a more hands-off experience for you as a writer when the play is being produced?

I feel more comfortable behind my desk than behind a director. Of course I love to see rehearsals and talk with actors about the story. That's what happens when a scenic reading is prepared. I can also influence the version, which is read by choosing the scenes sometimes. But I haven't experienced a real production of my own play, yet. Vienna is going to be the first time and I'm already pretty excited. I think I can't really have my “hands-off”…but I will see.

Noch ein Lied vom Tod Juliane StadelmannMartin Vischer and Gideon Maoz in a staging of "Noch ein Lied vom Tod" Credit: © Alexi Pelekanos

You were previously awarded a place in the Schauspielhaus Stück für Stück program for emerging playwrights. How was the experience of working with a group of people?

Very good. That's how I worked a lot during the past three years: writers workshops and seminars. That's the concept of the “arbeitsseminare” at the DLL, as well as in a lot of writing competitions: sitting together in a small room and talking about texts. I like it so much that I just started an additional class right now with the FORUM Text organized by UniT Graz where we meet every two to three months close to Graz, Austria to talk about our new scenes, as well as about theory. We are seven young authors and with three teachers who give us directions and exercises for the workshops. I think it is a very luxurious way to work on text, because you have six different, very honest and very smart opinions taking care of your text. I like that way of getting into work. Maybe because it has to do with other people. I hate sitting alone at my desk for days sometimes. I will be in the FORUM Text for the next two years. I like that idea of a “roof” to work under.

 

Although, you only had a short experience in New York City, were there any glaring differences you saw between American and German theatre?

Yes! It is expensive!! I was very shocked when I realized on how expensive it is to see a play in New York City! In Germany we have all kinds of fares for all kinds of people and the theatres are subsidized by the state or federal country or city. Of course the theatres have financial problems over here as well and it is not like a paradise situation for them, but at least it is possible for everybody to afford a ticket.

What I really liked about NYC theatre is that there were a lot of plays melting dance with performing arts. I only saw two while I was there, but I had that feeling that a theatre in NYC is more like a little melting pot of arts. Of course that might have been the big city phenomenon; there is that tendency in Germany as well. I just felt that in New York it is already more usual to see that on stage, but I need to go there on a second trip to prove that! Which I hopefully will some day!

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See Stadelmann discuss her work and read from “Spiel mir das Lied vom Tod” here: http://vimeo.com/91736030

For more information about the current production of “Spiel mir das Lied vom Tod” and to purchase tickets, see http://www.schauspielhaus.at/noch_ein_lied_vom_tod.

  • 1. This interview was lightly edited for clarity and flow.
  • 2. Translated as “Another Song of Death.” The title plays on the movie title Spiel mir das Lied vom Tod, which was a very popular Western in Germany. The English title of that movie is Once Upon a Time in the West.

Ariell is a writer based in New York City. Her writing has appeared in various magazines, journals, and anthologies. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Florida State University and an M.F.A. in Fiction from Columbia University's School of the Arts. More information can be found at ariellcacciola.com.