Kafka's Amerika in Seattle

Submitted by Michael Neininger on
Kafka's Amerika: Bekim Latifi, Thalia Theater

Have you been missing the boundary-pushing theater scene of Germany? Fortunately, Thalia Theater Hamburg recently visited the great Nature Theatre of Cascadia! Their production of Franz Kafka's Amerika came to the stage in Seattle on November 16.

Our esteemed colleague, Ellwood Wiggins, likes the preeminent theater of Hamburg so much that one of his daughters shares its name: Thalia. On the night of the show, Ellwood booked a babysitter to watch one Thalia while he watched the other one!

You might not like Kafka, but even so, you may want to give his novel, Amerika, a second read. Today, it might be more relevant than ever before. In his novel, Kafka writes about displacement, social decline in the foreign country, and the longing for Heimat (home).
As the sixteen-year-old Karl Rossmann, sent to America by his poor parents because a maid had seduced him and had had a child by him, was sailing into New York Harbour on board the gradually slowing ship, he caught sight again of the Statue of the Goddess of Liberty, which appeared to be lit up by a burst of sunshine.
Kafka’s Amerika is not a specific country, rather it is a multi-layered portrait, created from myths, projections, facts and fantasies. The journey of emigrant Karl Rossmann takes place in his head; from the arrival into New York harbor to his final train journey to the great Nature Theatre of Oklahoma, it is the odyssey of a man seeking a connection, who does not despair of his own isolation to the last, and at the end perhaps even finds the very home he is constantly searching for at the Oklahoma theatre.
Kafka’s epochal work vividly depicts the figure of the ‘outcast’ at the turn of the 20th century – cast out by parents, cast out of Europe. The story of a homeless man, who unlike hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic immigrants, does not see America as a land of opportunity, rather a country of social decline – the antithesis of the likes of the Irish Kennedys or German merchant families, who built a new life for themselves there. Through his depiction of the world of modernity, its gigantic flow of traffic and its hectic world of work, Kafka enables us to be astonished that everything we deem ‘normal’ has, up until very recently, not been so. This production is Kafka’s novel, presented as the phantasm and experience of one solitary actor.
With Bekim Latifi. Directed by Bastian Kraft. Staging by Peter Baur.
90 minutes without intermission.

Produced by the Thalia Theater, Hamburg; this event was made possible through the generous support of the German Embassy's Wunderbar Together program and Goethe Pop Up Seattle.
The production was free to attend. If you missed the show in Seattle, you can still catch it next year in Beijing.