The University of Iowa

‘Jesus Rides a Bike: Oberammergau On Stage and Off’ Oct. 14

October 4th, 2011

Topic: “Jesus Rides a Bike: Oberammergau On Stage and Off”
Presented by: Glenn Ehrstine, UI associate professor of German
When: Oct. 14, 2011, at noon
Location: Room 1124, University Capitol Centre

Abstract: The Passion Play of Oberammergau is arguably the most famous amateur theater tradition in the world, attracting a half-million spectators to this Bavarian alpine village every ten years. Indeed, the appeal of the play lies in its very status as lay theater: visitors flock to the village not just to witness a performance of the passion, but also to affirm the community’s dedication to a centuries-long tradition. To satisfy such an audience, the community’s role play behind the performance must be visible to outsiders. In addition to offering a general history of the play, the talk will explore the secondary performance frame of the “Oberammergau experience,” which shapes audience reception by representing the “real lives” of the performers. However, unscripted encounters with the play’s actors also reveal changing attitudes towards tradition.

Glenn Ehrstine is an associate professor of German at the University of Iowa. He teaches courses on medieval and Renaissance literature, the history of carnival, and contemporary German culture. His first book, Theater, Culture, and Community in Reformation Bern, 1523-1555 (Brill, 2002), examined the role of carnival and biblical plays in creating cultural community in Bern, Switzerland following local Protestant reform. He is currently engaged in an investigation of medieval staging practices in the context of lay piety, tentatively titled “Staging Salvation: Devotional Spectatorship in Early German Theater.”