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XI Edition - zadek_biografia
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Peter Zadek was born in Berlin. His family emigrated to England where Zadek
studied first at Oxford and later, direction at the Old Vic Theatre School in
London. After working as a director for the BBC and numerous productions for
the English stage he returned to Germany in 1958. He worked with Kurt Hübner in
Ulm and Bremen and staged his first Shakespeare productions: Maß für Maß
(Measure for Measure, 1960) and Der Kaufmann von Venedig(The Merchant of
Venice, 1961). From 1967 on, Zadek directed at a number of German theatres
(Wuppertal, Stuttgart, Berlin, Munich) as well as making films, such as Rotmord
(after Tankred Dorst’s Toller) , Ich bin ein Elefant, Madame / I’m an Elephant,
Madame,Der Pott (after Sean O’Casey’s (Silver Tassie) and Eiszeit.
He was artistic director (Intendant) in Bochum from 1972,directing such
outstanding productions as Kleiner Mann, was nun (after Fallada’s novel),The
Merchant of Venice, King Lear, Hamlet and Hedda Gabler. From 1985 he directed
the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg, which Zadek's productions made one of
the most fascinating theatres in Europe (e.g. Shakespeare's Othello (1976) and
Das Wintermärchen(A Winter's Tale, 1978), Webster's Die Herzogin von Malfi (The
Duchess of Malfi, 1985) and Wedekind's Lulu (1988)). Since 1990 he has worked
as an independent director in Berlin (Berliner Ensemble, Theater des Westens,
Freie Volksbühne), Vienna (Burgtheater), Hamburg (Thalia Theater,
Kammerspiele), Munich (Kammerspiele), Paris (Théâtre de l´Europe) and at the
Salzburger Festival (Brecht/ Weill: Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagony

Together with Fritz Marquardt, Heiner Müller and Peter Palitzsch he directed
the Berliner Ensemble from 1993 to 1995, where his productions included
Brecht's Der Jasager und der Neinsager (1993) and Shakespeare's Antonius and
Cleopatra (1994). His recent work includes Ibsen's Rosmersholm (2000),
Marlowe's Der Jude von Malta (The Jew of Malta, 2001), Tennessee Williams's Die
Nacht des Leguan (The Night of the Iguana, 2002), Mutter Courage und ihre
Kinder (2003) and the 2004 Berliner Ensemble production of Ibsen's Peer Gynt,
his first of this play after his many successes with Ibsen's other works. The
production celebrated an overwhelming success at the Edinburgh Festival. In
June 2005, Zadek staged Strindberg's Der Totentanz I and II (The Dance of
Death) for the Wiener Festwochen at the Burgtheater and in 2006 Der bittere
Honig (A Taste of Honey) by Shelagh Delaney at Hamburg's St.-Pauli- Theater.
Peter Zadek has been a member of the Akademie der Künste since 1991. He
received the Kunstpreis Berlin and the title Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres
in 1992 and the Order of Merit of the German Federal Republic in 2002. His
productions have repeatedly been invited to the Wiener Festwochen, the
Theatertreffen in Berlin and the Edinburgh Festival. Theater heute has several
times named him Director of the Year – most recently in 1999 for Hamlet (his
20th Shakespeare production) and in 2001 for Ibsen's Rosmersholm and the
production of von Neil La Bute's Bash. Peter Zadek lives in Lucca, Berlin und

For nearly fifty years, Peter Zadek has been the outstanding director of
German Theatre. His productions “split” both the audiences and the critics –
but, overall, the success of his theatre was overwhelming. He has revitalised
the art of theatre direction, both working through a “conceptual” way of
directing and directly on texts with “his” group of actors. A whole generation
of outstanding German actors appeared in his productions, to name but a few:
Ulrich Wildgruber, Hermann Lause, Hans Mahnke, Günter Lüders, Bruno Ganz, Otto
Sander, Hans Michael Rehberg, Gerd Voss, Ignaz Kirchner – and actresses like
Hannelore Hoger, Edith Clever, Eva Mattes, Susanne Lothar, Jutta Hoffmann,
Angela Winkler. And the focus of Zadek’s work as a director of plays were his
three “saints” Shakespeare, Ibsen and Tschechow. For more than twenty years the
German poetress Elisabeth Plessen does the translation-work for Zadek’s
productions of these classics.
Says PZ: ”Imagination is the greatest of all, it is untouchable. If human
beings had no imagination, they would be boring – they would be like beasts,
probably. Imagination is a very precious quality of human beings. It is the
most private “possession” a human being has. When Peter Stein and myself
started in the sixties, we argued permanently about the subject of
imagination. He always said, analysis was the most essential – and I said:
imagination. I don’t care a bit about analysis.”
Quoted from the recent edition of Nahaufnahme Peter Zadek Gespräche mit Klaus
Dermutz Alexander Verlag Berlin 2007.