Christmas Eve 1942.
Fourth Christmas during the war In this diary I want to report to you, my dearest son Hinrich, the joy and suffering during this intensive struggle of nations. You now are with your grandfather, on the farm in Brunshausen, after the heroic death of my only brother Klaus Friedrich in Sewastopol.
Again we missed your father since he could not be with us “under” the christmas tree. You were shooting the rifle, it was cute.
10th of january 1943
Our soldiers are now in Russia, in Stalingrad. Uncle Hans Herbert has been honored with the premier Iron Cross.
4th of march 1943
Yesterday’s fear is still stuck in my bones This time you saw for yourself how the English bombed our beautiful Altes Land for 90 minutes. I was alone with four kids in the washing cellar for several terrifying hours. There were fires everywhere.
15th november 1943
The war is turning into a spooky state. They are retreating in the east, Italy is breaking down, there continue to be terror-attacks on Germans farms, on defenseless women and children.
My belief in the Führer still is unshaken, even though I cannot explain it myself. A nation that has fought and suffered so much must survive!
In this two hander theatre-maker Jochen Stechmann – joined live by his mother, Margrit – takes a personal and intimate look at the way our family histories shape our present experiences.
Family Matters begins with a song that welcomes you into the home of the Stechmann family, while we slowly zoom in on the parental bedroom where Jochen was conceived. On stage his mother performs the triple role of assistant, witness and soothing presence.
Through a wealth of documentary material including his grandmother’s diary, taped interviews with her and autobiographical anecdotes, we learn of Jochen’s childhood at the family fruit farm and the dubious political affiliations of his grandparents. The piece develops into a reflection on the old and the new, an inter-generational dialogue with ghosts of the past. One of them is Rosa Luxemburg, whose picture occupies a central place on stage, like a shrine. In 1919, during the left-wing Spartacus Revolt, she was beaten and shot in the head by right-wing militiamen. Jochen’s grandfather was directly involved. Another ghost – printed on Jochen’s T-shirt – is Ulrike Meinhof. In the early nineteen-seventies she was engaged in a double rebellion that was as much personal – against her foster parents’ Nazi past – as it was a political revolt against the hypocrisy of a society that had superficially whitewashed itself, leaving the Nazis’ industrial and economic power structures untouched. These two women represent the other, revolutionary face of Germany, one that despises the passive middle-class submission to the militarism and nationalism summarized in the German term ‘Spiesbürgertum’.
Without the slightest hint of sarcasm, Jochen sums it up at the end of the piece, with these words to his grandfather: I am sorry that the only way you are still present in this world is as material for my theatre. And I left the theatre thinking that some ghosts had been laid to rest.
Boris Gerrets - DasArts Laudatio 2010
This semi-autobiographical performance reflects upon a set of symbolic objects representing both collective and personal history. An honest attempt to negotiate a position between confrontation of the past and a final reconciliation with it
How can we deal with our emotional heritage? How does it affect our daily life? What does it mean to be German nowadays? Can we ever outlive the sins of our ancestors?
Stechmann is stepping into the shoes of his grandparents and tells his story straightforward by using items that are loaded with meaning
Joost Goutziers - Brabants Dagblad
performance: Margrit Stechmann
live voice over: Birgit Wieger (German version), Mariangela Tinelli (English version)
light-design: Dennis van Paassen
advisors: Titus Muizelaar, Edit Kaldor
videos: Jochen Stechmann
Family Matters is a DasArts Final Project produced by Theater Zeebelt and Stichting Traum-A
Theater Zeebelt, Den Haag
Theater De NWE Vorst, Tilburg
Theater De Melkweg, Amsterdam
Theater Frascati, Amsterdam
Verkadefabriek, Den Bosch