“Die Sünde des Andersartigen zu riskieren”: A Play about a Woman Declared Incompetent

What is “crazy”? This question is at the center of a play based on the story of Hedwig D., who was declared incompetent in 1908. The History Department and the Center for Performance Studies/Theater of Assemblage have developed a play based on her story.

Her story is sensational: Hedwig D. repeatedly stayed in a psychiatric institution between 1908 and 1912: at first voluntarily, in order to have her mental health certified, then forcibly. The diagnosis was "moral idiocy." The young woman fought for her release and escaped several times.

The "KulturAmbulanz" of the Bremen-Ost Clinic (the site of the former insane asylum) made the extensive patient file available to students at the University of Bremen. This is how the file became the basis of a performance text.
"Researching the patient file across disciplines and making it accessible to the public in an unusual, namely performative, form was an exciting undertaking for everyone involved," says Professor Cordula Nolte from the History Department. "With Hedwig Debbe, we got to know a woman whose norm-defying, non-conformist behavior was to be stopped and sanctioned in a patriarchal society determined by convention."

Theater through the Life of Hedwig D.

For one year, students of history and performance studies have brought their different perspectives on the case of Hedwig D. together. Under the direction of the Berlin guest director Tobias Winter, a proven expert in the dramatization of texts that are far removed from theater, a theater piece focusing on various stages of the life of Hedwig D. was created. Anna Suchard from the Center for Performance Studies at the University of Bremen (ZPS) stated: "The production makes the wavering of self-evident things tangible when it offers different ways of acting to get closer to Hedwig D."

Staging Using Montage Techniques

That is why the production consists of experimental dramaturgies with different montage techniques. For example, letters were transformed into dialogical scenes.

The four stays of Hedwig D. serve as a basic staging structure in four acts, the gaps between the stays mark interludes. Moreover, the four acts take place in different locations and in different theatrical modes. Thus, several coherent variations of the patient's time at the St. Jürgen Asylum emerged.
"...risking the sin of being different” (“…die Sünde des Andersartigen zu riskieren”) – the title goes back to Antonin Artaud, an important theater reformer with psychiatric experience. For him, psychiatry was also an instrument of social oppression of the different.

"By staging attitudes and practices typical of the time around 1900, the performance project aims to encourage people to understand diversity and otherness as components of our society today," says Professor Cordula Nolte.


May 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, and 15, 2022, at 7 p.m.
Pay what you can system: 20 Euro / 10 Euro / 5 Euro

Tickets available at:

Further Information:


Prof. Dr. Cordula Nolte
History Department
University of Bremen
Email: cnolteprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de
Phone: +49 421 218-67230

Dr. Anna Suchard (Dramaturgy)
Center for Performance Studies at the University of Bremen (ZPS)
Theater of Assemblage (TdV)
Faculty of Cultural Studies
University of Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-69050
Email: suchardprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de

[Translate to English:] Junge Fau auf einer Treppe
What is “crazy”? This question is at the center of a play based on the story of Hedwig D., who was declared incompetent in 1908.