Other Literary Forms
Although Tankred Dorst is known primarily as a dramatist, he has written essays and other prose works that he often used as springboards for his plays. In addition to serious drama, he has extensively written and produced plays for children and fables for grownups, some of which were performed in puppet theaters. Dorst is also known for his radio plays and scripts for television, and in the 1970’s and 1980’s, he distinguished himself in the German film industry by writing and directing motion pictures. Dorst has supplied libretti for several operas and ballets and translated several plays from the French and English. His 1962 article “Die Bühne ist der absolut Ort” (the stage is the unequivocal place) contains Dorst’s views of the theater, its role, its relationship to reality, and the theatrical devices he employs.
At a time when only a handful of German dramatists were able to contribute anything original for the stage, Tankred Dorst—though inspired by already established German ( Bertolt Brecht) as well as by some foreign, especially French, models ( Jean Giraudoux, Jean Anouilh, and Eugène Ionesco)—appeared in the German theater as a fresh and independent voice endowed with an innate sense of theater and stage technique. Unflinchingly, Dorst persevered in cultivating his vision, often in face of critical or political pressure to “take sides,” especially in plays dealing with controversial figures or issues. That he was quite successful in his pursuit is demonstrated by prizes and awards received not only in Germany but also abroad. His theater debut, Gesellschaft im Herbst (autumn party), won for him the prize of the city of Mannheim (in 1959), which was followed by the Villa Massimo stipend for a sojourn in Rome. Other awards came almost yearly: the Gerhart Hauptmann Prize in 1964, the prize of the city of Munich in the same year and again in 1969, the prize of the city of Florence and the Theater Prize of Lisbon in 1970, the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts Prize for Literature in 1983, and the Royal Film Institute of Belgium’s L’Age d’Or award in 1984.
Giles, Steve. “The Anxiety of Influence of Tankred Dorst’s Deutsche Stücke.” In A Radical Stage: Theatre in Germany in the 1970’s and 1980’s, edited by W. G. Sebald. New York: Berg, 1988. Deals with Dorst’s political commitment and the politicization of the West German stage in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Hayman, Ronald, ed. The German Theater: A Symposium. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1975. Symposium proceedings dealing with German theater of the 1970’s.
Innes, Christopher D. Modern German Drama: A Study in Form. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1979. A monograph that devotes approximately eight pages to Tankred Dorst.