In the view of the director of the Bad Hersfeld Festival, Joern Hinkel, there is a clear need for improvement in terms of the visibility of women over 50 in society, art and culture. “They often don’t feel noticed anymore. That’s not the case with men,” Hinkel told the German Press Agency on Monday. On the contrary, men are perceived as more mature and interesting as they get older, according to the director.

The renowned Swiss theater and film actress Charlotte Schwab would also like more visibility for women over 50. The 70-year-old takes on the leading role of King Lear in the opening play of the same name at this summer’s festival (June 30 to August 27). The actress, who is currently engaged at the Burgtheater in Vienna and is known to German television audiences through numerous television appearances in crime series such as “Das Duo” and “Alarm für Cobra 11”, is appearing at the theater festival for the first time.

More gender equality and diversity

With her, in the monastery ruins, a woman embodies the patriarch in the Shakespeare classic for the first time, which is being staged by director Tina Lanik. The play has already been performed four times in Bad Hersfeld – in 1967, 1981, 1995 and 2012. Most recently, the actor Volker Lechtenbrink, who died in 2021, was on stage as King Lear.

From the age of 60 there are hardly any roles for women in the theater, Schwab complained. “It’s a reflection of our society.” She wishes for a stronger perception as a human being and not as a man or woman. Schwab hopes to be able to give an impetus to more gender equality and diversity with the embodiment of King Lear. “Perhaps that’s a small contribution to the perception that women can do it too. That’s why I’m really happy that I’m playing Lear,” says Schwab.

The role, the play and the backdrop of the monastery ruins are overwhelming. “This is a space that you have to fill first,” Schwab described the challenge. The role of King Lear covers the whole range of feelings, behaviors and male dominance structures. It’s about love, power, age, letting go, madness, about everything that makes up the human being.

Of course, the role is also well filled with a man. “But I think it’s just as right and even more rewarding if she’s played by a woman,” explained the actress. With the distance she has as a woman from the role of King Lear, she wants to give viewers a different view of the patriarch.

King Lear could also be a Netflix series

For Hinkel, the focus of the play, in which King Lear fails to transfer power, is on the motifs of generational conflict and the turning point in time. The proud regent eventually dies from the conflict with his daughters. “It’s about elementary things that are as relevant today as they were in Shakespeare’s time.” The director appealed to the young audience not to be afraid of the classics. “It’s an elemental, stirring and emotional story that could just as easily be a Netflix series.”

Hinkel was satisfied with the public response so far. “Advance sales have got off to a good start. It’s not yet at the level it was before the Corona pandemic, but it’s better than last year.” Especially in times of crisis, art and culture could give people comfort and hope, said Schwab and Hinkel against the background of the Ukraine war and the associated insecurities and concerns of the people.