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East German poster collection performing arts series

 Series
Identifier: C0209

Scope and Content

This series contains posters advertising theater, opera, concert and dance performances in Berlin and other East German cities. This collection consists of 941 posters of various sizes. They range in size from 28 x 58 cm to 86 x 60 cm. The majority of posters measure 57 x 81 cm. The performing arts posters present a complex and nuanced view of performance in the German Democratic Republic during the cold-war years. Most of the posters advertise performances in various venues in Berlin such as the Deutsches Theater, the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, the Komische Oper Berlin or the Palast der Republik, but performances in theaters in Leipzig, Dresden, Rostock, Erfurt, Halle, Gera, and Magdeburg are also included. The works advertised on the posters are predominantly classics: plays by Friedrich Schiller, Heinrich von Kleist, Georg Büchner, Shakespeare and Chekhov; operas by G. F. Handel, Mozart, Wagner, Puccini and Verdi, and ballets by Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. However, contemporary playwrights like Maxim Gorki, Heiner Müller and Peter Weiss are also represented. Examples include posters from the Berliner Ensembles's premiere production of Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage"; Deutsche Theater Kammerspiele's "Der Blaue Boll" by the Expressionist playwright, Ernst Barlach; Landes Theatre Halle's cutting-edge production of "Tamerlan"; Ballet Company of Leipzig's historic performance of "Bilder Der Liebe"; and Maxim Gorki Theatre's "Sinulja" by Alexander Gelman. The majority of the posters consist of drawings or paintings that reflect the artist's interpretation of the works to be performed.

Dates

  • 1955-1997

Access Restrictions

Collection is open to research.

Use Restrictions

There may be restrictions on reproduction - SCRC staff will evaluate on a case by case basis.

Historical Information

The chronology and content of the posters illustrate an undulating timeline of alternately liberal and conservative phases, during which artists crafted their work in periods of greater or more limited autonomy. The performing arts provided an outlet for dealing with tragedy and turmoil that defined the creation of East Germany. The performances often touched on the legacy of the Nazis, the persecution of the Jewish people, and the division of Germany. Despite the strict censorship in East Germany, during the liberal periods authorities allowed a substantial number of Western performances to take place. In the GDR, America was conceived of primarily as a system of production; its levels of profit and abundance both awed and provoked the wartorn and comparatively impoverished East Germans. The American obsession with productivity and consumption drew the most bitter criticism from German observers. Interesting to consider in this context is the performance of "Ein Yankee an König Artus' Hof" (1982), a play adapted from Mark Twain's novel "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," in which the protagonist's escalating disillusionment with technology is a prominent motif. Even though Fordism may have been grudgingly accepted in the GDR as necessary for economic growth and the ultimate progress of the state, the assimilation of America's cultural barbarism through media imports was fiercely resisted. The state may have resisted America's cultural barbarism, but young people did not. Attending productions of the American media was a chance for them to distance themselves from their parents, from National Socialism, and from the failures of World War II. By the 1970s, changes in the performing arts community occurred, particularly in theatre, that included artists leaving as a result of increased censorship and smaller venues opening in cities and towns outside of Berlin.

Extent

941 posters

Language of Materials

German

Abstract

This series contains posters advertising theater, opera, concert and dance performances in Berlin and other East German cities. This collection consists of 941 posters of various sizes. They range in size from 28 x 58 cm to 86 x 60 cm. The majority of posters measure 57 x 81 cm.

Arrangement

Arranged by subject and a numbering system.

Acquisition Information

Purchased from Thomas Hill in 2009.

Related Material

The East German poster collection contains other series, including the art exhibitions series, political series, culture and science series, and film series.

Processing Information

Processed by Lauren Schutt and Friedgard Cowan in 2010-2011. EAD markup completed by Jordan Patty in 2011. Finding aid updated by Amanda Brent in July 2022.

Processing supported by a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources.

Title
East German poster collection performing arts series
Subtitle
Guide to East German poster collection performing arts series
Status
Completed
Author
Jordan Patty
Date
March 12, 2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
English
Sponsor
Funded in part by a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources

Repository Details

Part of the George Mason University. Libraries. Special Collections Research Center Repository

Contact:
Fenwick Library, MS2FL
4400 University Dr.
Fairfax Virginia 22030 United States
703-993-2220
703-993-8911 (Fax)