Franz Xaver Kroetz

Franz Xaver KroetzFranz Xaver Kroetz was born in Munich, West Germany in 1946, the son of a government tax official. Growing up in Bavaria, he attended Catholic school, and this early exposure left him cold to religion. Kroetz claims to have made his last Confession at the age of 14 and formally left the Church at 20.

An indifferent student, Kroetz was soon forced into a kind of tradeschool-business college devoted to turning out junior employees for government use. When the boy was 15, however, his father died, and Kroetz soon flunked out. He then determined to become an actor, and after three years of conservatory training, earned his certificate of competency. During the Sixties, he managed to land minor roles in various small theatres, including the late Rainer Werner Fassbinder's antiteater, but was forced to support himself by working various odd jobs such as banana cutter, truck driver, and orderly in a mental hospital.

His first experiments in playwriting were influenced by the realistic, socially-critical plays of ordinary life written in the 1920s and 30s by Ödön von Horvath and Marieluise Fleisser, but Kroetz soon began to develop his own distinctive voice. On April 3, 1970, two one-act plays, Stubborn and Working at Home, premiered at the Munich Kammerspiele. They depicted onstage activities such as masturbation, an attempted abortion, and a child murder. The style, language, and subject matter of these plays aroused such violent audience reactions that the theatre had to be put under police protection. In spite of the scandal, however, the theatre journal Theater Heute proclaimed Working at Home the "most important new play of 1971." With the receipt of the Suhrkamp stipend for young dramatists and the premiere of these two pieces, Kroetz could finally afford to cast aside his role as a part time laborer and focus on his writing.

Over the next few years, Kroetz produced a whole string of short, largely one-act theatrical pieces. These plays are often composed of short scenes which begin and end abruptly and which feature a style that could best be described as "super-naturalism." Onstage, characters take showers, use the toilet, eat meals, wash dishes, shop, picnic, make love, work, and tell dirty jokes. Of this early work, his most successful play is probably Farmyard which tells the story of a love affair between a retarded teenage girl and a farm worker four times her age.

The first production in the United States to receive widespread attention was the Joanne Akalaitas/Joan MacIntosh production of Request Concert at Women's Interart Theater in New York in 1981. Subsequent American productions have included stagings by Empty Space Theater in Seattle, Washington; L.A. Theatre Works; Manhattan Theater Club; and Mabou Mines at the New York Shakespeare Festival's Public Theater.

By 1973, Kroetz had become Germany's most produced living playwright, but he was at something of a crossroads in his career. Eager for some new direction, he decided to join the German Communist Party. From 1972 until 1980 (when he quit the party) his work exhibits an uncomfortable tension between his own postmodern pessimism and the guidelines of the Party, which called for positive heroes. In spite of repeated attempts to conform, he was never able to achieve a synthesis between his own theatre aesthetics and Marxist ideology. Kroetz would later remark, "Positive plays, positive characters--that seems to me too simple."

Mensch Meier, a family drama written shortly before Kroetz broke with the Party, marks a return to his earlier techniques and ideology and proved to be the playwright's first widespread popular and financial success when it had its world premiere in four simultaneous productions in 1978. Mensch Meier tells the story of an insecure Munich assembly-line worker, his housebound wife, and their teenage son, a silent observer. The play exhibits many of the features of the early super realist plays including shocking stage imagery such as intercourse, masturbation, nudity and violence. Another popular play, Through the Leaves, portrays the relationship between a female butcher and her lover.

In 1988 Kroetz was cast as corrupt gossip columnist Baby Schimmerlos in the popular television mini-series, Kir Royale. This Dynasty-like romp through contemporary Munich cafe society escalated Kroetz from the status of literary celebrity to media superstar. His life, opinions, and romantic liaisons are now grist for tabloid cover stories.

Kroetz' Plays  |  Biographies/Studies


Kroetz' Plays


Related Sites

German Theatre Index

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