Founded in 1957 as part of Rowohlt publishing house, Rowohlt Theater Verlag quickly became one of Germany’s leading agencies. From the outset, Rowohlt focused on contemporary and political drama. Among the first plays was Wolfgang Borchert’s The Man Outside, which has long since become a modern classic. Rowohlt represents German-language stage rights of Albert Camus’ and Jean-Paul Sartre’s complete dramatic work, which have become and remain an inherent component of Rowohlt’s repertoire. In 1963, Rolf Hochhuth’s The Deputy had its world premiere and provoked an on-going debate about the role of the Catholic Church during the Third Reich.
British contemporary drama has figured prominently in the Rowohlt programme since its inception. Today, Rowohlt Theater Verlag represents the majority of Britain’s most significant contemporary playwrights, most with their complete works. These include Harold Pinter, Alan Ayckbourn, Joe Orton, David Hare, Caryl Churchill, to name but a few. This tradition has held fast with the more recent generation of dramatists such as Sarah Kane, Mark Ravenhill, Martin Crimp, Simon Stephens, Dennis Kelly, Lucy Kirkwood etc. as well as two of the most remarkable American dramatists, Wallace Shawn and Neil LaBute. The two most important and widely performed Scandinavian contemporary dramatists can be added to these in the Rowohlt programme, the Swede Lars Norén and the Norwegian Jon Fosse.
Since the early 1990s, Rowohlt Theater Verlag has expanded especially in the direction of numerous German-speaking playwrights and is now representing the works of renowned writers such as Elfriede Jelinek, Botho Strauß, Sibylle Berg, Moritz Rinke, Juli Zeh and René Pollesch, many of whose plays have been internationally acclaimed.
In recent years, many of the authors represented by Rowohlt Theater Verlag have been awarded prizes for their dramatic work. To name but the most important ones: The Muelheim Dramatists’ Award, the most prestigious prize for German playwrights, has gone twice to René Pollesch (2001 & 2006) and four times to Elfriede Jelinek (2002, 2004, 2009 and 2011). Six writers represented by Rowohlt Theater Verlag have been awarded with the Nobel Prize for Literature: Albert Camus (1957), Jean-Paul Sartre (1964), Heinrich Böll (1972), Elfriede Jelinek (2004), Harold Pinter (2005) and Jon Fosse (2023).