Marie Zimmerman

We first met Marie Zimmerman in Manchester, 1999. The dramaturge David Tushingham had brought her to see It’s Your Film. She sat and watched and then, over coffee, she talked. She spoke with a lucid steely passion about theatre, what she had seen and what she imagined.

As the director of Theater Formen 2000 in Hanover, Marie plucked us from international obscurity to place us in a programme alongside the stellar names of Peter Brook, Pina Bausch and Jan Fabre. These were It’s Your Film’s first international performances. When tickets for the show were not selling as well as everyone had hoped, her response was not that the show had failed, but that she had not booked enough performances for it. She asked us to stay another week, if this were possible she would guarantee a sell-out success. Marie had an extraordinarily powerful sense of how a relationship should be built between a City and its Festival. She seemed to take a personal pride in It’s Your Film and its subsequent success. We in turn were proud of this pride.

From this time on Marie kept tabs on us. David would see the shows and occasionally, when Marie was in London, we would meet. Marie would talk and listen with a deep seriousness that made her dry wit all the more rewarding, she drank coffee black and smoked endless cigarettes. It seemed the whole of world theatre had her mobile number and were unafraid to call her. Discussions were always interrupted as Marie leapt from the table to answer the latest call, leaving David to explain what her current thinking was. Eventually our patience, and hers, paid off.

In 2004 Marie commissioned the first international performance and only world version of Of All The People In All The World. Once Marie believed in you she made it clear she trusted you and valued you, I drew a great strength and power from that trust. Marie put huge resources and personal credibility into Of All The People In All The World without ever having seen it. She took an enormous leap of faith but never appeared to blink. Marie believed in the power and importance of art, she believed in artists and there was never a whiff of compromise about her. She was a woman of extraordinary vision. We owe her an enormous debt.

The last time I saw Marie was in Vienna. She had commissioned The Cleansing Of Constance Brown. I was in the city on a site visit and had been told that she would be away. Marie sustained a fearsome work-rate for years, living on planes, seeing an extraordinary amount of theatre all around the world. I was delighted to find Marie’s mercurial diary had shifted again. She was in her office, in a cloud of smoke, tired it seemed. We exchanged pleasantries and our pipe-cleaner hug. That night when Mathias left the street restaurant table to be with his family I realised that, for the first time, I was alone with Marie. Her conversation was, as ever, an education and an inspiration. We talked about the show that was about to be made and what we might make together in the future. I knew at the time that was a special moment.

Yesterday I met up with Wouter for the first time in nearly two years. Marie had introduced us in Stuttgart. Wouter had worked closely with Marie and her husband Freidrich for years, a mind melting apprenticeship. On the 11th floor of a decaying former Post Office building in Amsterdam, looking out over the city, Wouter spoke of how he had left Marie for a new job. He had seen the toll her life was taking on her and didn’t want that life to become his life. We didn’t say what an amazing woman she was; it wasn’t necessary.

Yesterday Marie Zimmerman died.

Today Wouter called and said Marie would have liked the fact that yesterday we had met up to talk about theatre.

Our deepest sympathy goes out Friedrich, David, Mathias, Wouter and all who worked with and loved Marie as we did, I did and we all still do.


One thought on “Marie Zimmerman

  1. I couldn’t agree more, James. The Theater Der Welt 2005 site has gone, replaced by a preview for the 2008 festival. It’s a shame because Marie had written a brilliant essay on there about theatre and why it must always be changing.

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