It is an inglorious specialty of Berlin’s cultural scene: the director of a state-financed theater also produces at another state stage. And not in Hamburg or Munich, but in the capital, with the competition. René Pollesch, artistic director of the Volksbühne since the beginning of this season, does it this way. On July 1st his new production at the Deutsches Theater comes out, “Love, simply extraterrestrial”.

Pollesch’s texts are usually somewhat cryptic. And again ambiguous to clear: “Our mission is finished??? No, we have to go back??? No!!!!!!! I can’t believe we’re being recalled. Do you think I won’t miss them, the people I’ve grown to love here? The way people look away when I approach them? Or those up there in the second tier who don’t see me anyway?”

That’s what it says on the DT website, and there’s a lot to think about. But first ask the cultural administration. Senator Klaus Lederer enthroned Pollesch at the Volksbühne with great enthusiasm. Can the theater boss have such part-time jobs? Lederer’s spokesman Daniel Bartsch says: “Specific details of the contract are not public.” pushed behind. However, in order not to break his word, René Pollesch kept the appointment.”

Pollesch’s appointment with the Deutsches Theater and its director Ulrich Khuon is at least three years old. Pollesch signed for the Volksbühne in June 2019. In August 2020 he had another premiere at the DT, “Melissa kriegt alles”, followed in October by a premiere at the Staatstheater Nürnberg with the prophetic title “Take the Villa and Run!”.

It is common, says the response from the cultural administration, “that directors can take on guest directorships at other houses”. What is meant are certainly guest productions. But it’s not usual. Not in the same city.

The management of the Volksbühne is one of the most difficult jobs in the German-speaking theater world. The house is big, and its tradition seems even bigger, from Erwin Piscator to Benno Besson to Frank Castorf. Not only the full commitment of a strong artistic personality is required. And things are not going well at Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz.

A space utilization of 67 percent is reported for 2021. That’s where the pandemic is. It could only be played again from June, subject to conditions. Nevertheless, one would have imagined a little more audience for the start of a new directorship. In the first quarter of 2022 it was even less: only 62 percent occupancy, the worst result of all the big stages in Berlin, no wonder with the thin artistic offer.

With such teething problems, you have to worry a lot about the house. The problem of artistic part-time jobs is made even clearer by an older example. Harry Kupfer was chief director of the Komische Oper from 1981 to 2002. Which, in his self-importance, did not stop him from staging a Wagner cycle at the State Opera. This also put the Komische Oper in a dangerous imbalance. And even then, the cultural administration looked on.

Kupfer’s successor Andreas Homoki and above all Barrie Kosky stabilized the house again and released it in a big way. The Volksbühne now needs such energy in the relegation battle.