Xaver Kroetz was born in Munich, West Germany in 1946, the son
of a government tax official. Growing up in Bavaria, he attended
Catholic school, and this early exposure left him cold to religion.
Kroetz claims to have made his last Confession at the age of
14 and formally left the Church at 20.
An indifferent student, Kroetz was soon forced into a kind
of tradeschool-business college devoted to turning out junior
employees for government use. When the boy was 15, however, his
father died, and Kroetz soon flunked out. He then determined
to become an actor, and after three years of conservatory training,
earned his certificate of competency. During the Sixties, he
managed to land minor roles in various small theatres, including
the late Rainer Werner Fassbinder's antiteater, but was
forced to support himself by working various odd jobs such as
banana cutter, truck driver, and orderly in a mental hospital.
His first experiments in playwriting were influenced by the
realistic, socially-critical plays of ordinary life written in
the 1920s and 30s by Ödön von Horvath and Marieluise
Fleisser, but Kroetz soon began to develop his own distinctive
voice. On April 3, 1970, two one-act plays, Stubborn and
Working at Home, premiered at the Munich Kammerspiele.
They depicted onstage activities such as masturbation, an attempted
abortion, and a child murder. The style, language, and subject
matter of these plays aroused such violent audience reactions
that the theatre had to be put under police protection. In spite
of the scandal, however, the theatre journal Theater Heute
proclaimed Working at Home the "most important new
play of 1971." With the receipt of the Suhrkamp stipend
for young dramatists and the premiere of these two pieces, Kroetz
could finally afford to cast aside his role as a part time laborer
and focus on his writing.
Over the next few years, Kroetz produced a whole string of
short, largely one-act theatrical pieces. These plays are often
composed of short scenes which begin and end abruptly and which
feature a style that could best be described as "super-naturalism."
Onstage, characters take showers, use the toilet, eat meals,
wash dishes, shop, picnic, make love, work, and tell dirty jokes.
Of this early work, his most successful play is probably Farmyard
which tells the story of a love affair between a retarded teenage
girl and a farm worker four times her age.
The first production in the United States to receive widespread
attention was the Joanne Akalaitas/Joan MacIntosh production
of Request Concert at Women's Interart Theater in New
York in 1981. Subsequent American productions have included stagings
by Empty Space Theater in Seattle, Washington; L.A. Theatre Works;
Manhattan Theater Club; and Mabou Mines at the New York Shakespeare
Festival's Public Theater.
By 1973, Kroetz had become Germany's most produced living
playwright, but he was at something of a crossroads in his career.
Eager for some new direction, he decided to join the German Communist
Party. From 1972 until 1980 (when he quit the party) his work
exhibits an uncomfortable tension between his own postmodern
pessimism and the guidelines of the Party, which called for positive
heroes. In spite of repeated attempts to conform, he was never
able to achieve a synthesis between his own theatre aesthetics
and Marxist ideology. Kroetz would later remark, "Positive
plays, positive characters--that seems to me too simple."
Mensch Meier, a family drama written shortly before
Kroetz broke with the Party, marks a return to his earlier techniques
and ideology and proved to be the playwright's first widespread
popular and financial success when it had its world premiere
in four simultaneous productions in 1978. Mensch Meier
tells the story of an insecure Munich assembly-line worker, his
housebound wife, and their teenage son, a silent observer. The
play exhibits many of the features of the early super realist
plays including shocking stage imagery such as intercourse, masturbation,
nudity and violence. Another popular play, Through the Leaves,
portrays the relationship between a female butcher and her lover.
In 1988 Kroetz was cast as corrupt gossip columnist Baby Schimmerlos
in the popular television mini-series, Kir Royale. This
Dynasty-like romp through contemporary Munich cafe society
escalated Kroetz from the status of literary celebrity to media
superstar. His life, opinions, and romantic liaisons are now
grist for tabloid cover stories.