The French writer, editor, and drama critic Jacques Copeau (1879–1949) opened his Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier in Paris in 1913. Copeau was well on his way to exerting a major influence in the theater in the year that saw the end of the career of the dominant innovator of an earlier generation, André Antoine, whose Théâtre Libre (Free Stage) had featured an uncompromising realism.
In marked contrast to Antoine, Copeau returned the poetry and freshness to Shakespeare and Moliére. By May 1914, Paris and Europe had recognized his genius and his special gift to the theater. Yet like Antoine, Copeau wanted to sweep "staginess" from the stage, to banish overacting, overdressing, and flashy house trappings. To cleanse the stage of its artificiality, he created a fixed, architectural acting space where dramatic literature and theater technique could live in harmony and thrive in freedom of thought and movement. A major part of his program was teaching actors and actresses their craft.
Maurice Kurtz points out that the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier incarnates the "ideal of Copeau's stubborn struggle to remain strong in the face of indifference, independent in the face of success, proud in the face of defeat. It is the story of group spirit in its purest, most eloquent form, the spirit of personal sacrifice of all for the dignity of their art."
Kurtz here re-creates the vitality Copeau imbued in theater artists throughout the world. He conveys Copeau's enthusiasm, the crusading spirit that enabled Copeau and his Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier to transform experimentation into tradition, into the heritage of civilization. He has written a biography of a theater that was tremendously influential in Europe and America.
These eight comedies comprise the most extensive collection of Ludvig Holberg plays ever offered in the English language.
The translators’ general introductions establish a cultural context for the comedies and break new ground in understanding the importance of Holberg’s comic aesthetic. Argetsinger’s extensive experience in theatre and Rossel’s preeminence as a Scandinavian Studies scholar assure that the translations are not only accurate but stage-worthy.
The collection opens with The Political Tinker, the first Danish play to be produced in the new Danish Theatre, and ends with The Burial of Danish Comedy, literally the funeral service for the bankrupt theatre. Three more of Holberg’s renowned character comedies follow, Jean de France, Jeppe of the Hill, and Erasmus Montanus, along with his literary satire Ulysses von Ithacia. The final two plays demonstrate his ability to write shorter comic works, The Christmas Party, a scathing comedy of manners, and Pernille’s Brief Experience as a Lady, a situation comedy that satirizes the practice of baby-switching.
New laws enacted in the wake of Hitler’s ascent to power removed all Jews from their professional workplaces and banned Jewish artists from any collaboration with their fellow citizens. In the summer of 1933, Goebbels’s Prussian Theatre Commission approved an all-Jewish theatre as part of the Kulturbund Deutscher Juden, the Cultural Association of German Jewry. This network of Jewish cultural leagues and theatre ensembles across Germany coexisted with Nazi policies against Jews until the Gestapo dissolved the theatre in 1941. Revealing the complex interplay between history and human lives under conditions of duress, Rebecca Rovit focuses on the eight-year odyssey of the Berlin Kulturbund and its theatre.
Rovit draws upon a wealth of primary documents—correspondence between the theatre and the Reich Ministry of Propaganda and Enlightenment, actual playscripts and rolebooks, production reviews and photographs, letters and memoirs, and interviews with artists who survived the war—to show how the increasingly restrictive German reality forced Jewish artists to define and redefine their identity and culture under wrenching conditions of censorship, compromise, danger, and deception. Integrating play analysis with cultural history, she considers first the playscript itself, then the playscript adapted by the Kulturbund, then the best reconstruction possible of the actual performance against its backdrop of the Third Reich. Proceeding chronologically through the playing seasons, she focuses on the actual repertoire performed (and forbidden) over the life of the Berlin Kulturbund theatre, covering the theatre’s beginnings and its first two playing seasons, then on the playing seasons that led to the Reichskristallnacht, and finally on the ways that emigration and increased censorship affected the wartime theatre’s final days.
The Kulturbund’s directors were repeatedly caught between escalating demands from their Nazi overseers and from their own Jewish constituents. By examining why and how an all-Jewish repertory theatre could coexist with the Nazi regime, Rovit raises broader questions about the nature of art in an environment of coercion and isolation, artistic integrity and adaptability, and community and identity.
While it is common knowledge that Jews were prominent in literature, music, cinema, and science in pre-1933 Germany, the fascinating story of Jewish co-creation of modern German theatre is less often discussed. Yet for a brief time, during the Second Reich and the Weimar Republic, Jewish artists and intellectuals moved away from a segregated Jewish theatre to work within canonic German theatre and performance venues, claiming the right to be part of the very fabric of German culture. Their involvement, especially in the theatre capital of Berlin, was of a major magnitude both numerically and in terms of power and influence. The essays in this stimulating collection etch onto the conventional view of modern German theatre the history and conflicts of its Jewish participants in the last third of the nineteenth and first third of the twentieth centuries and illuminate the influence of Jewish ethnicity in the creation of the modernist German theatre.
The nontraditional forms and themes known as modernism date roughly from German unification in 1871 to the end of the Weimar Republic in 1933. This is also the period when Jews acquired full legal and trade equality, which enabled their ownership and directorship of theatre and performance venues. The extraordinary artistic innovations that Germans and Jews co-created during the relatively short period of this era of creativity reached across the old assumptions, traditions, and prejudices that had separated people as the modern arts sought to reformulate human relations from the foundations to the pinnacles of society.
The essayists, writing from a variety of perspectives, carve out historical overviews of the role of theatre in the constitution of Jewish identity in Germany, the position of Jewish theatre artists in the cultural vortex of imperial Berlin, the role played by theatre in German Jewish cultural education, and the impact of Yiddish theatre on German and Austrian Jews and on German theatre. They view German Jewish theatre activity through Jewish philosophical and critical perspectives and examine two important genres within which Jewish artists were particularly prominent: the Cabaret and Expressionist theatre. Finally, they provide close-ups of the Jewish artists Alexander Granach, Shimon Finkel, Max Reinhardt, and Leopold Jessner. By probing the interplay between “Jewish” and “German” cultural and cognitive identities based in the field of theatre and performance and querying the effect of theatre on Jewish self-understanding, they add to the richness of intercultural understanding as well as to the complex history of theatre and performance in Germany.
Until his death in 1944, Holloway attended almost every performance of the Abbey Theatre and daily recorded in his journal his reactions to plays and players and his comments about and conversations with literary and theatrical people. From the journal’s 221 bulky volumes, housed in the National Library of Ireland, Mr. Hogan and Mr. O’Neill have compiled this book of extracts from the approximately 25,000,000 words written by the Irishman. The years from 1899 to 1926 were chosen because they are generally considered to be the significant ones for the Abbey Theatre: the year of its founding to the production of Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars, which caused a riot in the theatre. Mr. Holloway attended every play during these years, as well as many rehearsals, and talked with nearly everybody who had anything to do with the theatre. This journal reflects the tensions, feuds, and anguish that produced one of the great theatres of modern times.
The meticulous display of minute detail makes Joseph Holloway’s Abbey Theatre imperative reading for the student of modern theatre, particularly since its character as a daily account permits ready checking of dates listed in previous works about the Irish National Theatre.
In this, the first thoroughly researched scholarly biography of British actor Junius Brutus Booth, Stephen M. Archer reveals Booth to have been an artist of considerable range and a man of sensitivity and intellect. Archer provides a clear account of Booth’s professional and personal life and places him in relationship to his contemporaries, particularly Edmund Kean and William Charles Macready.
From 1817 to 1852 Junius Brutus Booth toured throughout North America, enjoying a reputation as the most distinguished Shakespearean tragedian on the American continent. Still, he yearned for success on the British stage, a goal he never attained. His public image as a drunken, dangerous lunatic obscured a private life filled with the richness of a close and loyal family.
The worldwide fame assured for the Booth family of actors by John Wilkes Booth’s bone-shattering leap from the President’s box had eluded Junius Brutus Booth throughout his lifelong exile in America. But from that event until today, no American family of actors has stimulated such scrutiny as the Booths.
Eight years of research, pursuing Booth from Amsterdam to San Francisco, has resulted in an accurate, fascinating narrative that both records and illuminates the actor’s life.
Female-to-male crossdressing became all the rage in the variety shows of nineteenth century America, and began as the domain of mature actresses who desired to extend their careers. These women engaged in the kinds of raucous comedy acts usually reserved for men. Over time, as younger women entered the specialty, the comedy became less pointed, and came to center on the celebration of male leisure and fashion. Gillian M. Rodger uses the development of male impersonation from 1820 to 1920 to illuminate the history of the variety show. Exploding notions of high- and lowbrow entertainment, Rodger looks at how both performers and forms consistently expanded upward toward respectable ”and richer ”audiences. At the same time, she illuminates a lost theatrical world where women made fun of middle class restrictions even as they bumped up against rules imposed in part by audiences. Onstage, the actresses' changing performance styles reflected gender construction in the working class and shifts in class affiliation by parts of the audiences. Rodger observes how restrictive standards of femininity increasingly bound male impersonators as new gender constructions allowed women greater access to public space while tolerating less independent behavior from them.