The fact that Nobel prize laureate Elfriede Jelinek has from the beginning of her career not just written texts for the theatre but also theoretical essays about the theatre makes her especially interesting for Theatre Studies, and many of her earlier essays have been widely discussed and have strongly influenced the reception and staging of her works. This chapter is devoted especially to her more recent essays since 2003 which have thus far been neglected in Jelinek scholarship. With close reference to five essays and touching on others, I observe a general shift in tone in her recent essays compared to the earlier essays which were hostile to theatre as a medium. As a result of her plays being more frequently staged by major German and Austrian directors who have found their own creative key to her different texts, Jelinek has over time discovered the theatre as a special medium and extraordinary place with paradoxical forms of artistic communication that have much to offer her as a writer in the struggle against dominant power relations and especially the power of the public media. I argue that her recent essays are important not just for an understanding of Jelinek’s theatre texts and their realization in the theatre but that they also contain many insights that are transferrable to the dynamic between text and staging in contemporary postdramatic theatre generally.
After a contextualizing introduction, individual sections of the chapter offer detailed theoretical analyses of: Jelinek’s essay “In Mediengewittern” (=In Media Storms) arguing for theatre’s special potential in critically reflecting on other media; the essay “Das nicht anschaubare Bild” (=The not-viewable image) about the paradoxical relationship between text and stage; the essay “Keine Frage” (=No Question) about the ‘non-existent author, the public and the paradoxical speaking of the actors’; and about the essays “Theatergraben” (=Orchestra Pit) and “Die Leere öffnen” (=Opening the emptiness), which deal with the productive tensions and ‘contra-laborations’ between playwright and director.