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Pia Kleber named to Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of Germany

Photo of: Pia Kleber

Pia Kleber was recognized for her continued contributions to cultural exchange and cooperation between Germany and Canada.

Pia Kleber, of the Centre for Drama, Theatre & Performance Studies and the Centre for Comparative Literature, has been awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany — that country’s highest civic honour.

Kleber was recognized for her continued contributions to cultural exchange and cooperation between Germany and Canada.

“My goal has always been to bring Canada and Europe —especially Germany — closer together and I have always been especially interested in introducing my students to European culture,” said Kleber. “This award was completely unexpected and surprising and I must confess a bit overwhelming. The warm wishes I’ve received from so many different people has been very touching and humbling.”

Over her almost 30 years at the University of Toronto, Kleber — who was named the first chair holder of the Helen and Paul Phelan Chair in Drama in 1999 — has spearheaded many significant international theatre festivals and conferences.

In 2010, Kleber organized events around the theme of “human security” in Toronto and Berlin, exploring how artists — beyond reflecting or responding to contemporary anxieties — can contribute solutions to global problems.

She was also the driving force behind “Canada Week” in Berlin where scholars, artists, politicians and students from six Canadian and German universities gathered in 2003 to discuss their respective cultural policies. The week culminated in a theatrical performance — entitled Canadian Theatre in 51/2 Time Zones — where artists from across Canada gave a German audience a glimpse of our nation’s cultural achievements.

Her numerous publications include books on Bertolt Brecht: Exceptions and Rules: Brecht, Planchon and “The Good Person of Szechwan and Re-Interpreting Brecht: His Influence on Contemporary Drama and Film.

Her articles — which have been published in English, French, German, Italian and Chinese — include “Theatrical Continuities in Giorgio Strehler’s The Tempest,” “The Directing Methodologies of Giorgio Strehler” and “Die Courage der Mütter. Am Beispiel von Bertolt Brecht.”

Kleber also organizes highly successful biannual study tours of Germany for graduate and undergraduate students, offering them an intensive introduction to German history, politics and culture.

The Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany was instituted in 1951 by Federal President Theodor Heuss. It is the only honour that may be awarded in all fields of endeavour and is the highest tribute the Federal Republic of Germany can pay to individuals for services to the nation. This is the second time Kleber has been recognized by Germany; in 2001 she received the Cross of the Order of Merit.

The Order of Merit may be awarded to Germans as well as foreigners for achievements in the political, economic, social or intellectual realm and for all kinds of outstanding services to the nation in the fields of social, charitable or philanthropic work.