Potsdam – When asked how she was dealing with being Potsdam’s first theater director for 60 years, Bettina Jahnke answered very briefly in 2018: “Actually not at all.” For her it was normal. But then came a sentence that stuck. “Potsdam is generally a female city.”Potsdam, a city of women? In culture you can say: Definitely. Not only the Hans Otto Theater, the largest item in Potsdam’s cultural budget, is in female hands – since the end of 2018 the management has also been female with Petra Kicherer, as well as the head dramaturge of the house anyway. Budget items two and three are also headed by women. Heike Bohmann has been in charge of the Potsdam Sanssouci Music Festival and the Nikolaisaal since 2018, while Dorothee Oberlinger is in charge of the music festival. Jutta Götzmann has headed the Potsdam Museum since 2012.
Museums mostly in women’s hands
In general, Potsdam’s museums are mostly in the hands of women. When the Potsdam City Forum 2021 invited six museum directors from the city, there was exactly one man among them: Kurt Winkler. He will retire at the end of March. But what does that mean for the content? Ortrud Westheider, the founding director of the Museum Barberini, recently said on the occasion of her institution’s 5th anniversary that female painters had not played a prominent role in the program until now. The Potsdam Museum has not yet drawn attention to itself with a focus on female artists.[Wenn Sie aktuelle Nachrichten aus Potsdam und Brandenburg live auf Ihr Handy haben wollen, empfehlen wir Ihnen unsere App, die sie hier für Apple und Android-Geräte herunterladen können.]There are other indications for Christine Handke and Ilka Brombach, who have been running the Potsdam Film Museum together since 2020: March is entitled “Women’s March” and is dedicated to female film heritage. Katja Melzer, the new managing director of the Brandenburg Society for Art and History and head of the House of Brandenburg-Prussian History (HPBG), previously directed a feminist media art festival in Montreal. Will this focus also characterize the HPBG in the future? Does being a woman play a role for Maria Schultz, director of the Lindenstrasse Memorial Foundation since 2021, or Paola Malavassi, founding director of the Minsk Museum? Wait.
courage to make exceptions
The cultural city of Potsdam has not only been a city of women since 2018. As early as the 1950s, Potsdam had the courage to be exceptional in terms of cultural policy: Back then, from 1950 to 1957, Ilse Weintraud-Rodenberg directed the Hans Otto Theater. The Potsdam Film Museum would not exist today without its long-time director, Bärbel Dalichow. Andrea Palent conceptually reinvented the Sanssouci Park Festival after 1990 and turned it into the crowd puller that the Potsdam Sanssouci Music Festival is today. And she fought through the construction of the new Nikolai Hall, shaping its profile for almost two decades.
Potsdam’s culture councilor remains diplomatic
Potsdam as a city of culture is therefore female. But is it also a city that advances women’s causes – a feminist one? Culture Councilor Noosha Aubel (independent) formulated diplomatically: “We are on the right track.” Coming from Hilden in North Rhine-Westphalia, she took up the post in Potsdam in 2017 and was impressed by how natural it was for many here that a mother of two children takes on a time-consuming managerial job. “In North Rhine-Westphalia, traditional family relationships prevailed, with a full-time wage earner and a mother who worked part-time at most.” “The quota has to be right,” said Jahnke when he started in Potsdam. To classify: A study in 2016 showed that 70 percent of the productions at German theaters come from men. Bettina Jahnke is consistent when it comes to director quotas: seven out of 14 new productions this season are directed by women. “It doesn’t happen by itself,” she says. “We also deliberately look for plays and make sure that our women get to play great, beautiful things.” However, the quota for the female authors does not look so brilliant: Among the 14 new plays for Adults are two by females.[Was ist los in Potsdam und Brandenburg? Die Potsdamer Neuesten Nachrichten informieren Sie direkt aus der Landeshauptstadt. Mit dem Newsletter Potsdam HEUTE sind Sie besonders nah dran. Hier geht’s zur kostenlosen Bestellung.]
Also, read on the occasion of Women’s Day
Potsdam hasn’t reached its goal yet
So back to the big question: Is the cultural city of Potsdam feminist? When it comes to the answer, it is precisely those who hesitate most vehemently. “Potsdam has good prerequisites,” says Bettina Jahnke cautiously. “But we’re still a long way from where we need to be. Women with children, single women, men with children have a hard time.” What concerns Jahnke in concrete terms: What financial support could there be for couples with children involved in volunteer work? How to organize evening rehearsals with pregnant women? When will theaters pay babysitters? “This is not provided for in the legal grants,” says Jahnke, passing the ball on to politics. “Regulations have to be found together.” Sabine Chwalisz has been running a Potsdam theater in partnership with Sven Till for thirty years. There was never an explicit quota at the factory, but as early as the 1990s it was characterized by “equal thinking,” says Chwalisz. At Tanztage 2022, three quarters of the guests are women – not because they are women, says Chwalisz, but because of their topics. Chwalisz is also happy about the female dominance in Potsdam’s culture – and unlike Jahnke, she doesn’t hesitate to describe it as feminist. But you have to ask yourself how the discrepancy with other areas came about. “Where are the women in the management floors of Pro Potsdam?” she asks. “Why is it apparently easier to fill cultural posts with women than others – in business, for example? Is this a coincidence? Does it have method? Who benefits from this?” Uncomfortable questions. Women’s Day, says Chwalisz, is a reminder to face them. Every year anew.
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