Ein Volksbürger

A political tragedy in the House of the Federal Press Conference („Haus der Bundespressekonferenz“)

„Ein Volksbürger“ (‘A People’s Citizen’) sharpens and updates the production based on the essay „Ein Volkskanzler“ (‘A People’s Chancellor’) by Max Steinbeis.

After NICO AND THE NAVIGATORS originally wanted to demonstrate a political attack on the sovereignty of the Federal Constitutional Court and thus the creeping appropriation of the judiciary by a populist chancellor at the Haus der Bundespressekonferenz, a process has now been set in motion that should lead to legal protective measures against this danger in the foreseeable future. However, the shift in the line of conflict now reveals another, no less explosive possibility: A democratically elected state government in which authoritarian-populist forces have the power of interpretation could cancel all agreements at federal level. It could use the supposed weakness of the community and the discrimination of its country and its citizens as an argument in favour of this measure. It is obvious that this strategy would also have repercussions within the European Union.

Federal coercion as the last line of defence

In the end, only ‘federal coercion’ will help: Article 37 of the Basic Law allows drastic measures to be taken against a state that refuses to fulfil its federal obligations, from blocking financial allocations to sending a federal commissioner. This article has never been applied in the history of the Federal Republic … but who knows? What if a newly elected prime minister seeks conflict with the federal government by any means necessary? What if he takes political advantage of this to stylise himself as a hero against the supposedly corrupt and incompetent parties and their apparatus? Whether the following drama tells the story of a cynical demagogue or an upright patriot – or whether these roles cannot be separated at all – will become clear as the conflict develops. In any case, the chancellor is forced onto the defensive by this attack because he has to defend the constitution against the threat of disintegration … a real tragedy in which irreconcilable positions clash and in the end the right of the strongest may prevail.

Real tragedy

The dramaturgical set-up for this scenario remains the same, with a series of press conferences showing the battle on a media level. The Prime Minister and the Federal Chancellor face each other as direct opponents, with alternating support on both sides from the fields of politics and the judiciary … and more or less critical journalists. The drama, which is being developed by Max Steinbeis and his team, is to be staged as a political lesson in cooperation with the Bundespressekonferenz e. V. and the Volksbühne Berlin. A media evaluation is planned by ZDF/arte, and educational formats for a young audience will accompany the production. In order to make the work as realistic as possible and to be able to incorporate current developments, the scenario will be kept open until May 2024. The premiere will take place in September 2024.

Text and staging

The polished rhetoric, which masks legal finesse with popular slogans, is provided by Verfassungsblog founder Max Steinbeis. Director Nicola Hümpel will engage well-known actors for the leading roles alongside the established protagonists of her productions and, at the climax of the fiction, will provide a surprising, tragic twist that goes beyond the self-imposed framework. Until this revealing and redemptive moment, ‘A People’s Citizen’ will live above all from the intellectual precision and emotional pull of the story – as a seemingly abstract correction of the prevailing conditions, which nevertheless has very concrete effects on the lives of all citizens. It goes without saying that the journalistic elite also comes into focus alongside the political establishment, given the location of the performance.

The performances will be framed by an introduction and a panel discussion afterwards by representatives of the BPK board.

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