Peter Palitzsch was born in Deutmannsdorf (now: Zbylutów, Poland) on September 11, 1918. He grew up in Dresden. After graduating from high school, he apprenticed as a graphic artist and ran an advertising agency with his brother. From 1940-1945, he was drafted into military service and became a prisoner of war.
After WWII, Palitzsch returned to Dresden and started his dramaturgic career at the Volksbühne Dresden. In 1949/50, Brecht recruited him as a graphic designer for his Berliner Ensemble (BE), for which he also designed the famous logo. He soon began working there as dramaturg and assistant director, and in 1955, he debuted as a director with an old Chinese folk play Der grosse Tag des Gelehrten Wu (A Day in the Life of the Great Scholar Wu). Palitzsch also worked at other German theaters. Together with Manfred Wekwerth, he staged the world premiere of Brecht’s play Der aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturu Ui (The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui) at the Staatstheater Stuttgart in 1958. It was re-staged at the BE in 1959, and successfully toured to London and Paris in 1960. This collaboration brought both directors international recognition. The production ran for more than 15 years with Ekkehard Schall in the leading role. Palitzsch and Wekwerth also co-directed the DEFA film adaptation of Brecht’s play Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (Mother Courage and Her Children) with Helene Weigel in 1960. The film was screened at the prestigious Locarno Film Festival in 1961.
After Brecht’s death in 1956, Palitzsch became an international representative of Brecht’s theater theories and concepts and found himself in high demand. He re-staged several of Brecht’s model productions in West Germany and decided not to return to East Germany in protest of the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961. He continued staging Brecht’s plays all over the world, including Der kaukasische Kreidekreis (The Caucasian Chalk Circle) in Oslo, with the young Liv Ullmann in 1961.
From 1966 to 1972, Palitzsch was the director of drama at the Staatstheater Stuttgart. His Shakespeare productions became well-known. Before he worked as a freelance director, he joined the Schauspiel Frankfurt, where he initiated a policy of inclusive participation of all the staff members in running the theater. Beginning in 1980, he worked at various theaters in Vienna, Rio de Janeiro and Oslo. In 1992, he returned to the newly privatized BE, whose director, his old colleague Wekwerth, had been forced to resign. Palitzsch was one member of a short-lived, five-man management that also included Peter Zadek and Heiner Müller. He left the BE in 1995. His last theater production ever, Alles Theater (It’s All Theater) at the Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf in 1999, was a revue based on the career of the director Gustav Gründgens.
Peter Palitzsch, who made a major contribution to German theater, died in Havelberg, Germany, on December 18, 2004. The Guardian wrote in its obituary: “Palitzsch was a man of impeccable integrity and a consummate professional. He was also a serious intellectual who brought considerable intelligence to his productions.”
|1969||Marija (TV, theater version)|
|1969||Leben und Leben lassen (Live and Let Live, TV, theater version)|
Der Prozess der Jeanne D’Arc zu Rouen 1431 (The Trial of Joan of Arc at Rouen, 1431; TV, theater version)
|1960||Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (Mother Courage and Her Children)|
Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti (Mr. Puntila and His Man Matti, TV version of BE production)