“All Plays with English Surtitles”. Berlin’s ‘(post)migrant theatre’ and the capital city’s shifting language hierarchies

Activity: Talk or presentationPresentation


This paper explores the value of languages by analysis of the dominance and associated power of privileged languages in Berlin’s spoken theatre. I propose that theatre, as a self-reflexive art form, lends itself to exploring the interplay between language, power and values. Theatre reflects and contributes to shaping how a culturally diverse society defines itself in the present. My analysis provides a historical context and contemporary assessment of the ongoing role of German as the main language spoken on stage and considers the increasing importance of English as a language used for supertitles, for communication in multilingual rehearsal rooms and, more broadly, in the creative arts scene. A production at the so-called postmigrant Maxim Gorki Theatre, Yael Ronen’s The Situation, provides a case study for the analysis to show how the increase in using various Englishes affects other languages and how different ways, in which we value languages, relate to their function and expressive power when used for specific purposes in multilingual and culturally diverse environments.
Keywords: glossodiversity, semiodiversity, access, ‘postmigrant theatre’, decolonialisation, ‘language hierarchies’, Maxim Gorki Theatre (Berlin), Yael Ronen
Period15 Dec 2021
Event titleThe Value of Languages in a Multicultural World
Event typeConference
LocationSydney, AustraliaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational