The Theatre of the Weimar Republic

The Theatre of the Weimar Republic

The Theatre of the Weimar Republic

The Theatre of the Weimar Republic

Synopsis

The most definitive, comprehensive study of the origins, development, achievements and ultimate destruction of the performing arts in Germany from World War I through the rise of Hitler, "The Theatre of the Weimar Republic" is an invaluable record of creativity born out of conflict. John Willett focuses on the intellec-tual and sociocultural factors that brought Weimar theatre to its peak and analyses the theatrical theories and movements of the era. In addition, he includes a unique section of appen-dices, spanning 1916 to 1945, supple-menting the text and providing detailed information on theatres, actors, perfor-mances, films, and radio and gramo-phone recordings. The theatre during this period was marked by bold, innovative playwright-ing and directing as well as by impor-tant advances in theatrical architecture, lighting, and stage design. Renowned talents such as Brecht, Piscator, Toller, and Weill were nurtured, and influen-tial movements and credos -- including Expressionism, agitprop, and Bauhaus theatre projects -- developed. A rigorous, fascinating assessment of the world-wide influences of Weimar theatre during its lifetime and in later years, the book will appeal to all readers interested in the art and politics of this turbulent period.

Excerpt

I first came across the German-language theatre just fifty years ago, when Adolf Hitler's National Socialist regime had already driven men like Max Reinhardt, Ernst Toller, Bertolt Brecht, and Erwin Piscator into exile. Hitler's own country, Austria, was still relatively free, though far from being a democracy; and Reinhardt still dominated the Salzburg Festival which he had founded with Hofmannsthal and Richard Strauss in 1921, even though his creative interests now lay mainly in the United States. Visiting that festival as a schoolboy, I had no inkling of the cultural achievements of the Weimar Republic other than perhaps in architecture, but it was still possible to see Reinhardt's two perennial festival productions: Hofmannsthal Everyman on the cathedral square--a quasi-religious experience of considerable power-- and the first part of Goethe Faust in the Felsenreitschule or rock arcades behind the festival theatre, which by comparison with Shakespeare seemed noisy and uneventful. My German in those days was not yet up to much-- certainly not up to Goethe--but I did get strong impressions from two Nazi productions which I saw while driving through southern Germany: a provincial Parsifal where the Heldentenor (or heroic tenor, a term one no longer hears much) stood silent and motionless during the grail scene for what I recall as being forty minutes, and a Tartuffe in--I think--Stuttgart which had been made into an anti-Semitic piece.

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