New dispute at Schiffbauerdamm: playwright and house owner Rolf Hochhuth cancels the theater’s lease.
What a theater: playwright Rolf Hochhuth wants to kick out the Berliner Ensemble (BE) and its director Claus Peymann. As the owner of the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, Hochhuth, through his Ilse Holzapfel Foundation, has given "extraordinary and immediate" notice of termination of the lease to the State of Berlin, the stage’s tenant, for alleged breaches of contract. The house must be handed over to the foundation "cleared and swept clean," according to Hochhuth’s threat.
The cultural administration confirmed the 25-page letter of termination yesterday, but reacted calmly. They see "no danger that the BE will not be able to continue playing," Gunter Kolodziej, spokesman for State Secretary of Culture Andre Schmitz (SPD), told the taz. So far, he sees no reason for a termination. The administration is nevertheless in the process of thoroughly examining the termination, he said. BE lawyer Peter Raue also said on Monday that there had been no breaches of contract with Hochhuth, as the latter was implying.
Up to the white heat
The Ilse-Holzapfel Foundation, named after Rolf Hochhuth’s mother Ilse, owns the theater. The state is the tenant of the property, which since 1998 has been sublet by Berlin to Peymann’s Berliner Ensemble GmbH, which performs there. The rent is 240,000 euros, not exactly excessive, but in return Hochhuth is granted certain rights to the stage in the contract – which Claus Peymann doesn’t always like and which he makes known publicly. This in turn drives Hochhuth up the wall from time to time. And that’s the problem.
The rental contract stipulates that Hochhuth’s drama "Der Stellvertreter" must be performed three evenings a year at the Berliner Ensemble. In addition, Hochhuth’s plays are to be staged on the stage during the theater vacations in the summer. This "contractual obligation," according to the notice of termination, had not been complied with. Overall, there would have been "cumulative violations" of the rights agreed in the lease – to the detriment of the foundation.
Up to now, Peymann and Hochhuth had gone at each other – often very entertainingly – in a show-fighting manner. What is new is that the contract with Berlin is now becoming a bone of contention, another move by Hochhuth against the BE. Kolodziej said that while the cultural administration is not aware of any breach of contract, it does not take the letter lightly – and hopes for a solution with the 82-year-old playwright.