Frank Castorf was born in East-Berlin on 17 July 1951. He studied Theatre Studies at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and worked initially as a dramaturg at Theater Senftenberg and later as a director at the Brandenburg Theater. From 1981 until a politically motivated summary dismissal in 1985, he was head of drama at Theater Anklam. During the following years, he staged plays by García Lorca, Goethe, Shakespeare, Lessing, Lenz, Schiller, Ibsen, Brecht and several texts by Heiner Müller at various city theatres in the GDR (Halle, Gera, Karl-Marx-Stadt) and from 1988 on also in the FRG and Switzerland. From 1990–1992, he was director-in-residence at Deutsches Theater Berlin.
With the 1992/93 season, Frank Castorf took up his post as Artistic Director of the Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz in Berlin, where his production “Räuber von Schiller” had already set new standards for strong-willed contemporary theatre in 1990. Under his directorship and with Bert Neumann (1960–2015) as chief set designer, the Volksbühne became an institution of world-wide renown, creating a lasting influence on German-language theatre and touring all the world’s continents with celebrated guest performances.
Frank Castorf also worked as a guest director at other theatres and opera houses in cities like Basel, Hamburg, Munich, Stockholm, Vienna, Zurich, Copenhagen, São Paulo, Stuttgart and Paris. Over a period of 25 years, he created more than 100 productions and turned some of them into films, among them Dostoyevsky’s “Dämonen (Demons)” and “Der Idiot (The Idiot)”. His work oscillates within the tension between Eastern and Western thought, which is evident in his investigation of the works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill, to whom he dedicated numerous productions. He draws on a large part of European literature from the past 2500 years as material and refers not only to the classic canon, but also to its outliers. In 2013, the anniversary of Richard Wagner’s 200th birthday, he directed a controversial and celebrated production of “Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung)” (musical direction by Kirill Petrenko, set design by Aleksandar Denic). Since the end of his tenure as Artistic Director at Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz in August 2017, Frank Castorf has been working as a freelance director, or, as he himself puts it “as a vagabond and arsonist”. Varying members of his old Volksbühnen-company travel with him. He has premiered three large-scale productions since then, at Schauspielhaus Zürich, Berliner Ensemble and Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg.
His work as a theatre and stage director has received many awards. They include the Fritz-Kortner-Award, the Theatre Award Berlin of Stiftung Preußische Seehandlung, the NESTROY-Award, the Award of the International Theatre Institute, the City of Mannheim’s Schiller-Award, the Order of Merit of the State of Berlin, the Friedrich-Luft-Award, the Golden Laurel Wreath Award of the International Theater Festival MESS, the German Theatre Award DER FAUST as well as the Großer Kunstpreis Berlin (2016). Frank Castorf is a member of the Berlin Academy of the Arts, the German Academy of Performing Arts and a full member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts.
His last but one work at the Volksbühne, a seven-hour staging of “Faust”, will be Frank Castorf’s 15th production to be presented at the Berlin Theatertreffen. All his productions have a subversive power in common that stops at nothing, not even at Castorf himself. His provocations are always self-provocations, too. His truths are contradictory. The theatre, medium of lies, seems to be particularly well suited for expressing this fact. It feeds off resistance against the powers that would repress this truth and off the solidarity with the powerless that are prevented from speaking it.
Source: Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz (under the Artistic Direction of Frank Castorf)
As of February 2018