Martin Kušej was born in Carinthia (Austria). He initially studied German and sports sciences at the University of Graz, then went on to study theatre directing at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz. In 1987 he made his directing debut at the Schauspielhaus Graz with Karl Schönherr’s Es. In 1990 he founded the group my friend martin with the set designer Martin Zehetgruber and the dramaturg Sylvia Brandl.
From 1993 he was a resident director at the Schauspiel Stuttgart, where he staged plays by Grabbe, Goethe, Horváth and Kane and, in 1996, his first opera, Purcell’s King Arthur. At Vienna’s Burgtheater he directed Grillparzer’s Weh dem, der lügt! in 1999, Schönherr’s Glaube und Heimat in 2001 and Horváth’s Glaube Liebe Hoffnung in 2002. He also staged productions at venues including the Thalia Theater in Hamburg, the Zurich Opera House, the Berlin State Opera and Berlin’s Deutsches Theater, the Residenztheater in Munich and the Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam.
In 2005 and 2006 Martin Kušej was artistic director of the drama section at the Salzburg Festival, where he staged Grillparzer’s König Ottokars Glück und Ende and Nestroy’s Höllenangst in co-productions with the Vienna Burgtheater. Three of his productions have been shown at the Berlin Theatertreffen, and in 2008 he received the Nestroy Theatre Prize for Best Director.
Between 2011 and 2019 Martin Kušej was Intendant at the Residenztheater in Munich. Since the 2019/20 season he has been artistic director of the Vienna Burgtheater. In his first year in this post he directed Kleist’s Die Hermannsschlacht for the main stage and The Interview after the film by Theo van Gogh and Theodor Holman for the Burgtheater’s Akademietheater. Since then, his productions for the Burgtheater have included Calderón’s La vida es sueño, Sartre’s Huis clos, Lucy Prebble’s A Very Expensive Poison and Tena Štivičić’s 3 Winters, as well as Schiller’s Maria Stuart in a co-production with the Salzburg Festival. In 2022 he directed Puccini’s Tosca for the Theater an der Wien.