Protest-Hit Director Quits Berlin Theater

Protest-Hit Director Quits Berlin Theater

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Chris Dercon, who had an international pedigree as a former director of contemporary art museums including Tate Modern in London, led the Berlin Volksbühne theater for less than a year.

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Jens Kalaene/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

BERLIN — The director of Berlin’s storied Volksbühne theater, Chris Dercon, quit on Friday, after months of heated debate that saw the building occupied by left-wing activists who opposed his appointment as a betrayal of the theater’s roots.

Klaus Lederer, Berlin’s senator for culture, said in a statement that Mr. Dercon would leaving his position immediately, citing a failure of the Belgian-born director’s vision for the Volksbühne to work out as hoped for in the roughly six months that he led the theater.

“We all agreed to make a new start possible,” Mr. Lederer told reporters on Friday, after informing theater employees of the decision, which he said was reached on Monday, after realizing that the Volksbühne was facing “a difficult situation.”

Within hours of the announcement, bright yellow posters saying “Bye Chris” in black gothic lettering appeared in the subway near the theater and were pasted over billboards advertising upcoming productions.

Since the naming of Mr. Dercon to replace its longtime director, Frank Castorf, the theater has been at the heart of a bitter debate that pitted employees and Mr. Castorf’s supporters against the new director’s idea to open the theater up as an interdisciplinary space for international productions.

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Activists protesting Mr. Dercon’s appointment last year.

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Omar Messinger/Getty Images

Under Mr. Castorf, an icon of German theater, the Volksbühne made a name as a home for ambitious experimental productions with a rebellious, intellectual spirit that reflected the attitude of the newly reunified city. In the eyes of the theater’s many supporters, the appointment of Mr. Dercon, who had an international pedigree as a former director of contemporary art museums including Tate Modern in London, but relatively little experience in theater, seemed an affront.

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