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Free Content Court jesters of the GDR: the political clowns-theatre of Wenzel & Mensching

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The Da Da eR clown productions of Hans-Eckardt Wenzel and Steffen Mensching were deemed too risky for publication in East Germany (the GDR) and have largely remained a secret among the initiated. Originally members of the Liedertheater (song theatre) group Karls Enkel, Wenzel and Mensching branched out from 1982 onwards into the realm of clowns, acquainting themselves with the history and theory of this theatrical tradition from commedia dell'arte through to Karl Valentin. With their masks, parodic linguistic hybrids and awareness of the particular significance of body, time and space that constitutes the clown's chronotope (Bakhtin 1981), they created a grotesque mise-en-scne from which to comment on the last years of the GDR, finally laying the dying state to rest in a chorus of laughter in 1989. This article will also show how Wenzel and Mensching dealt artistically with the abrupt shift from socialist to capitalist society in the 1990s after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Keywords: Bakhtin; GDR; German unification; Liedertheater (song theatre); carnival; censorship; clowns; comedy; political song

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/cost.1.1.85/1

Affiliations: Queen's University of Belfast.

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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  • Comedy Studies covers multiple aspects of comedy, with articles about both contemporary and historical comedy, interviews with practicing comedians and writers, reviews, letters and editorials. The journal seeks to be instrumental in creating interdisciplinary discourse about the nature and practice of comedy, providing a forum for the disparate voices of comedians, academics and writers.
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