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MY COMRADE – THE DIVA. Theater on the front lines and at the internment camps of the First World War

5. September 2014 – 30. November 2014

5 September to 30 November 2014

Opening on 4 September at 7 pm

Website: www.kamerad-diva.de

Curator: Anke Vetter

Marking the 100th anniversary of World War I, the Schwules Museum* presents MY COMRADE –THE DIVA, an exhibition on war theater at internment camps and at the front.
The show examines theater as a collective phenomenon in traditionally male spaces. For soldiers and prisoners in the First World War, theater was far more than just a cultural highlight.
Role playing, dressing in costume and assuming a civil identity acquired important circumstantial meaning: Performative transformation relativized the all-present war and allowed players to distance themselves from the horrors of reality, from mutilation, death and isolation, if only for the duration of the show. At the same time, all this made space for an illusion of normality, home and family. Role playing and dressing in costume also brought “the female” into the lives of nearly completely isolated male societies, while the performances of men playing women set gender-coded role constructs in motion by shifting the limits of gender identities. More than one soldier achieved a level of stardom as female imitator.

MY COMRADE – THE DIVA weaves together an internationally relevant cultural-historical theme with the individual biographies of significant figures in theater and film, including Erwin Piscator and G. W. Pabst, putting these in the historical context of the First World War. Its examination of internment camp and front-line theater is not restricted to the war stages of Germany, but extends to those of France, England and Russia.
Rare photos, documents and film materials will be shown, most of which were produced with propagandist intent. Visitors will be able to listen to first-hand accounts at audio stations, as well as to the contents of historical documents.

In no previous exhibition have the phenomena of internment camp and front-line theater been examined in such a comprehensive form and with such an interdisciplinary scholarly approach that includes issues of gender research, theater history and contemporary history.

A symposium hosted by Humboldt-Universität will penetrate further into the topic, academically speaking. The exhibition is accompanied by the publication “MY COMRADE – THE DIVA. Theatre of the front and the internment camps of World War I”- Publisher: et+k edition text+kritik (20 EUR).

The project has been realized with the kind support of the Hauptstadtkulturfonds.


Every Friday at 4 p.m. the curator gives a free guided tour. The tour will be held in German.