In Memoriam: Marie Zimmermann (1955 – 2007)

Artistic Director of the Wiener Festwochen, took Her Life Apr. 18 in a Clinic in Hamburg

“My beloved wife decided this morning, after a long and severe illness, which she endured with great courage, to take leave,” announced Friedrich Schirmer on April 18.

She was Marie Zimmermann (51), the renowned German producer and Artistic Theater Director of the Wiener Festwochen, who had been suffering from manic depression and had ended her life in a psychiatric clinic in Hamburg.  The announcement by Schirmer, himself Artistic Director of the distinguished Hamburger Schauspielhaus, has left the German speaking theatre world shaken.

Only days away from the festival opening, the Wiener Festwochen organisers changed their web page to pay tribute to this influential intellectual who has helped to shape Vienna’s cultural life since 2001.

This year would have been Zimmermann’s last season in the city, reaching out for the Artistic Directorship of one of Europe’s most prestigious theatre festivals, the Ruhr Triennale (2008 – 2011).

Born into a Roman Catholic family in Aachen, Zimmermann started out as a freelance journalist before branching out into the theatrical arts in 1985. Her first experiences as a producer brought her to the German theaters in Esslingen and Freiburg before she was internationally recognised as Artistic Director since 1998 of the German Festival “Theaterformen”, which in 2000 was part of the EXPO in Hannover.

In 2001, Luc Bondy brought her to the Wiener Festwochen. In her programming she confronted the Viennese audiences with a fresh, some even said enlightened message, putting focus on previously neglected artistic areas. In his initial reaction, Festwochen Director Bondy spoke most of deep personal loss: “My great friend Marie Zimmermann has decided to walk out of life.” He said. “I and my colleagues are filled with enormous grief.”

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