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A story of an ape that became human

Kafka play "A Report for An Academy" performed at the DPZ
Götz Lautenbach, performer of the monkey Rotpeter in the play "A Report for an Academy". Photo: Karin Tilch
Der "Affe im Käfig". Foto: Karin Tilch
The "monkey in the cage". Photo: Karin Tilch
Gäste bei der Podiumsdiskussion (von links nach rechts): Götz Lautenbach (Schauspieler), Jörg Beckmann (stellvertretender Direktor des Zoos Nürnberg), Katharina Peters (administrative Leiterin am DPZ), Christian Vilmar (leitender Dramaturg des Jungen Theaters) und die Prof. Julia Fischer (Leiterin der Abteilung Kognitive Ethologie am DPZ. Foto: Karin Tilch
Guests at the panel discussion (from left to right): Götz Lautenbach (actor), Jörg Beckmann (deputy director of Nuremberg Zoo), Katharina Peters (administrative director at the DPZ), Christian Vilmar (head dramaturge of the Junges Theater) and Julia Fischer (head of the Department of Cognitive Ethology at the DPZ). Photo: Karin Tilch

Loud growls, moans and grunts can be heard from outside. Shoes, trousers and a shirt fly through the open auditorium door, one after the other. Then ... the monkey appears, or is it just the monkey in man? Götz Lautenbach, guest actor at the Junge Theater Göttingen, plays the role of Rotpeter the monkey, who, captured by the zoo Tierpark Hagenbeck, is brought to Germany by ship in a wooden crate and finally ends up in a show. In the play by Franz Kafka, written over 100 years ago, the monkey describes his quest to find a way out of his life as a prisoner and decides to become a human being. He learns and practices tirelessly. He can eventually - quite humanly - shake hands, muffle pipes and even drink the alcohol that he despises so much. Does denying his ape nature make him happier as a human being, though, and is he really free?

The play, which was performed for the first and last time at the DPZ together with the Junges Theater Göttingen as part of the exhibition "Im Urwald", masterfully plays with the imagery and ideas of the time about our closest relatives. Monkeys were considered simple-minded. Their close resemblance to humans already fascinated people, but monkeys also represented the very thing that humans did not want to be. Today we admire their intelligence and they play a major role in behavioural and cognitive research.

After the play, the actor Götz Lautenbach, the head of dramaturgy at the Junges Theater, Christian Vilmar, the deputy director of Nuremberg Zoo, Jörg Beckmann, and the primatologist Julia Fischer discussed the changing views on animals in our society. The audience also participated lively in the discussion. "How has the keeping of animals in zoos changed?", "Do animals have different personalities?", "Do great apes need human rights?", were just some of the many questions that were asked.

The experts on the panel shared their opinions and expertise with the audience and thus made for a stimulating and interesting discussion. At the end of the event, the DPZ Förderkreis e.V. invited around 100 guests to a reception in the foyer. The audience continued the discussion over a glass of wine or took a tour of the exhibition.