From Shadow Horse Theater: This tale of intermingled love and hate was written by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and is one of the most disturbing yet accessible plays he wrote in his short life while writing/directing film and theatre during the post war German New Wave. This play explores the universal dynamics present in close human relationships, including ambiguously lesbian ones, and the darker characteristics within. Petra Von Kant is a very successful career fashion designer with very few friends and an “assistant” she manipulates named Marlene, who never speaks throughout the play. Some time ago, Petra divorced the husband she no longer loved and was possibly brutalized by. Until recently, she has been in a fairly satisfactory relationship with her assistant until she meets Karin, an awkward and damaged young woman with a long sad history. Petra immediately develops an obsession with Karin and fixates on making the beautiful girl a high fashion model, however, things soon become far more complicated and Petra’s history of sadistic relationships soon reemerges.
I caught up with director Paul von Stoetzel to ask him about the show.
Q. Why was this show selected as part of Shadow Horse Theater’s current season?
Paul: The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant is consistent with Shadow Horse’s aesthetic and philosophy for many reasons. Our basic philosophy is to bring darker stories to audiences with a level of accessibility, and Petra is a perfect fit for this concept. The play is a dark feminist master/slave story wrapped in an accessible melodrama coating which is exactly what our company is all about: the idea that art can be dangerous regarding its substance and execution but still accessible. Fassbinder was a very divisive writer/director but his work, no matter how brutal, was usually quite consumable which set his work aside from his peers during the German New Wave. Petra is perfect in that it is challenging, but also a piece of work which is still a very universal story of power, abuse, and regret.
Q. What’s the significance of Petra having an all female cast?
Paul: The show is written as an all female cast because Fassbinder, who sexually fluctuated from men to women, related more to women for the most part because he felt he was a constant outsider in his own culture which he saw in the misogyny in film and culture in general. He, as I mentioned, was obsessed with melodrama and especially Douglas Sirk, his icon, which is fused in this quote “Women think in [Douglas] Sirk’s films. Something which has never struck me with other directors. None of them. Usually women are always reacting, doing what women are supposed to do, but in Sirk they think. It’s something that has to be seen. It’s great to see women think. It gives one hope. Honestly.” Fassbinder never saw hope in men as a whole in regards to society as a whole. He saw masculinity as a hindrance and an already draconian element within culture yet he still loved it which is illustrated in the duality of his many films and plays but which is fully explored in Petra.
Q. What’s next for Shadow Horse Theater?
Paul: Next up for Shadow Horse Theatre will be to continue with our monthly event A Drinking Game which performs the first Saturday of every month (except August because of Fringe Festival) at Phoenix Theater which has been going strong for a little over 5 years strong. I will be directing THE TRAGEDY OF OBI-WAN KENOBI and BLACKBEARD for the Minnesota Fringe Festival this Summer, both of which I am very excited about. Otherwise, Shadow Horse is working on what our next season will be and we are very much looking forward to the future.
Your last chance to see The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant is April 13. Click here to purchase tickets.