Kroetz, Franz Xaver

(1946- )
   Playwright. Kroetz attempted to make a career of acting with little formal training, but found himself drawn to the plays of Marieluise Fleisser and Ödön von Horvâth. He attempted to write the way they did, often in the dialect of his native lower Bavaria. His success was so phenomenal that by the mid-1970s, he was second only to Bertolt Brecht as the most frequently performed playwright in the German theater. During that decade, he was an active member of the German Communist Party, a fact which largely informed his creation of what were termed "critical Volksstücke" that concentrated on the dialectical relationship between characters and establishment power. His characters were usually inarticulate, unemployed, uneducated laborers who suffered from a variety of social dysfunctionality in settings that were often primitive and rural.
   Kroetz's breakthrough came in 1971 with the premieres of two one-acts, Heimarbeit (Work at Home) and Hartnäckig (Stubborn) at the Munich Kammerspiele. Both plays featured implied criticism of the Bavarian state's social services and policies. Stallerhof (Barnyard) and Mensch Meier (an almost untranslatable phrase, meaning in some sense "Everyman" and at the same time "Oh, what the hell!") were among his most frequently performed plays. Stallerhof concentrated on a mentally impaired couple who attempt unsuccessfully to care for their baby, whom the mother eventually kills. It, like Wunschkonzert (Hit Parade) and others in the Kroetz oeuvre, featured scenes of onstage defecation, which prompted consternation among most audiences. In Wunschkonzert, a typist spends the evening in her cramped apartment listening to a string of songs; she experiences painful constipation as the radio plays hit songs of the past. Then she commits suicide. Characters in his plays often seem tightly bound to basic bodily functions and instincts — situations Kroetz implies can never be improved without state assistance. In Mensch Meier, a family consisting of father, mother, and son wrestle with the seeming pointlessness of everyday life, all of them taking turns hammering at each other in verbal attacks.
   Kroetz's career went into a downward trajectory in the mid-1980s from which it never fully recovered. In 2000 Claus Peymann staged the premiere of his Das Ende der Paarung (The Breakup) as a highlight of his first season at the Berliner Ensemble; it treated the last days of the Green Party politicians Gert Bastian and Petra Kelly in 1992, when Bastian shot and killed Kelly, then committed suicide. Most critics greeted the play with condemnation.

Historical dictionary of German Theatre. . 2006.

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