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May 03, 1925 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 1925-05-03

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PAGE TWELVE

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

SUNDAY, MAY 3, 1925

THE

THEATRE

IN

F ERMENT

---GERMANY

Prof. F

'rederick Wahr Disusses GenS cnd At
DrmaissI Seod Ari

I

I

By Prof. Frederick Wahr
(Editor's Note: This is the secondI
of a series of six articles by mem-
bers of the faculty on the adapta-
tions and reactions of the various
continental countries to the present{
progressive tendencies in the the-
atre.)
* * *
The year 1889 stands out memor-
ably in the annals of the modern
German stage, for it was then that
the German drama took on new and
vital import as an art force and the
theatre in Germany began to assume
the important position which it has
since held on the continent. In 1889
the united efforts of several en-
thusiasts led by Otto Brahm succeed-
ed in founding the "Freie Buehne" in
Berlin in imitation of the "Theatrej
Libre" of Antoine in Paris, and in
presenting Ibsen's "Ghosts," Tolstoi's
"Powers' of Darkness," and Zola's
"Therese Raquin." More than this,
however, they introduced to the pub-
lic Gerhart Ilauptmann's first drama,
"Before Dawn," and tlereby inau-
gurated the naturalistic drama in'
Germany.
Hauptmann's early naturalistic
dramas-tragedy and comedy-fol-
lowed at the rate of one a year, cul-
minating in the "Weavers" (1892)
and in "Florian Geyer" (1896). Many;
plays written under the influence of
Hauptmann's early successes and al-1
so under the influence of Ibsen, Tol-'
stoi, and Zola, flooded the theatres.
Of special interest-chiefly so because
it is the work of the formulators of
the doctrines of consistent natural-
ism in Germany, Arno Holz and Jo-
hannes Schlaf, to whom Hauptmann
dedicated his first play and from
whom. he learned the naturalistic1
technique-is the play "Family Se-
licke," almost a perfect example of
the naturalist's art. Max Halbe in
"Youth" (1893) and "Mother Earth",
(1898), and Georg Hirschfeld in "The
Mothers" (1896) and "Agnes Jordan"
(1898)--both written under the influ-
ence of Hauptmann - produced
dramas that were stage successes
and stand out as noteworthy exam-
ples of naturalism. Nor must we for-
get to mention the plays of the folk
by Karl Schonherr, the "Earth"
(1907) which reminds one of O'Neill'sj
"Deshre under the Elms" and the
"Faith and Fireside" of 1910.
In 1889 also appeared Sudermann's
first great stage success, "Honor."
Sudermann has written many plays;
some of these, "Magda" (1893) for

X
Seirhait I auptm nin
The dean of German dramaitists,
who is discussed at length by Pro-}
fessor Wahr in his article on the mod-I
ern German theatre as the basic
founder of the entire expressionistic
movement.
example, have become international
successes. But in Germany Suder-
mann's name and fame have itumiibled
sadly. He is still a clever playwright
and knows the tricks of his trade,
of forced theatrical effects, climaxes,
repartee; but his plays lack the touch
of genuineness and sincerity; they;
bid for sensational success and popUi-
larity and make use of all the time-
worn artifices of the "well-made"
play of Dumas and Sardou. They
seem old to us now, their problems
superficially thought out, their tech-
nique, clever, stagey, but not. genuine.
Yet Sudermann deserves credit for.
having pictured in his plays a cer-
tain element in the social life of pre-
war Berlin and also for his ability to
write "well-made" and successful
stage plays.
The naturalistic movement in the
drama with its emphasis upon a true
and phonographic reproduction of
reality lasted through the nineties of
the nineteenth century and the first
few years of the twentieth. But at
the same time other forces were
operative in German drama. In I891
'Wedekind wrote "Spring's Awaken-
ing", Hofmannsthal began his series
of romantic and poetic one-act play

Ipieces, the "Anatol" series, thec
rm any s "Green Cockatoo," "Light-o'-Love"u
and his novelettes. lie has given ust
the best picture of pre-war Vienua,S
(JC QThe.* the lightheartedness, the gentle ironyI
Series, and sweet sad mincan choly the spoil-
ed, elegant dandy, the "suesses Mal - h
and Schnitzler brought out "The Af- del," the ever present consciousness
fairs of Anatol". Hauptmann's "Nan- of the transitiveness of all things and i
nele" with its use of verse and "The of the beauty of the fleeting moment.1
Sunken Bell" appeared in 1893 and His characters are wearied, boredr
1896 respectively. and play with their emotions. are oldy
So through the nineties two cur- before their time, do too little and
rents ran parallel, one realistic, the chatter too much and take life tool'
other ramanrtic. Just as the natur-lightly. These plays have a. simple
alists aimed to reproduce external charm and grace of style, a light deli-
reality in its mutsdta-hecate touch, a love of beauty and the
"truth" they called it-so the neo- beautiful thing, an art that belongs aso
romanticists led by Hofmnansthal much to a Vienna that is gone as thed
fled from the dull monotony of every l music of Mozart, or the waltz melo-F
day life to a land of beauty some- dies of Johann Strauss.
where in the past, the glory color Other neo-romanticists-minor onesd
of the Italian Renaissance or of Ger- are Edward Stucken, who dramatizedf
man fairy and folk lore. They sought the Round Table stories, Vollmoeler,
now to reproduce their moods, im- author of the "Miracle" which Rein-
pressions, fancies, dreams in beauti- i hardt produced in New York and r
ful verse, in a language that in its Cleveland last year; Ernst Iardtt
careful arrangement and use of vowel who won several drama prizes witht
and consonant sounds was as tuneful his "Trantris the Fool," a play whichc
as music. The neo-romanticists loved ; enjoyed a phenomenal run in Berlin.
to work over old dramas and legend-I Two other forces were working,
ary themes. Hofmannsthal wrote through the nineties and the early
his "Elektra"-by no means a classi- nineteen hundreds, the one an at-c
cal interpretation, his "Oedipus,' tempt to bring back to the drama a
'"Venice Saved" (modelled afer Ot- vigorous form-cure, a neo-classic in-
way). "Everyman" (after the old me- terpretation, led by several theorists,
dieval play); Richard Beer-Hofmann the other in ,the person of a unique
wrote a drama, "The Count of Charo- individual Frank Wedekind, (1864-1
lais" modelled after the "Fatal Dow- 11918) striking out its own pat's in ut-!
ry" of Massanger and Field, in almost ter indifference to contemporary
matchless verse, a work that has been theory and practice. Wedekind was
reproduced many times in Germany, aroused against the morals and con-
even this last winter with great success ventions of the bourgeoisie. lie aim-
Hauptmann in 1896 began with "The ed to reveal truths, not to mirror life
Sunken Bell" the series of dramas like the naturalists whom he scorned
Ibased on folk lore and legend, which and he became a merciless and cuni-
contains some of his best work, now cal critic of the life about him. lie
and then stopping to produce a mas- produced and acted in his own plays
terpiece in the naturaxistic style, as j and did more than any other single
for example "Drayman lienschell" individual to free the German drama
(1898) or "Rose Bernd" (1902). from naturalism. His scenes are gro-
Schnitzler, master of subtile dialogue tesque, ecstatic, lyric., Iis people are j
anrd a delivery of touch, typical of part of the great, menager.e of life,
the Viennese, started like Hlauptmann as he called it; in them nature's tires
under the influence of Ibsen and are slumbering, ready at any provo-
wrote "problem' plays during the cation to burst forth into annihilat-
early nineties and then followed lof- ing flame. They are like elemental
mannsthal into the romantic past of forces, super-men and women, born
the Renaissance in the "Veil of Bea- out. of their 'lace and time, like their
trice" (1899) and the "Young Med- creator, and doomed to be nisunder.-
afdus" (1909). Doubtless he will be stood and scorned by their contem-
remembered best by his shorter poraries. Wedekind is as he has been

called, "a tragic moralist in an im-
moral world." There is in him some-
thing of Shaw and something of
Stringberg. By him and by String-
berg-particularly the "To Damascus"
---the younger expressionistic groupj
has been most directly influenced.
The dialogue of "Spring's Awaken-
ing" (1891) and the "Earth Spirit"
(1897) withs its almost staccato-like
rapidity was eagerly imitated by the
younger element. Moreover, Wede-
kind's grotesque and unreal scenes,
his symbolism, and use of such char-
acters as the masked stranger in the
churchyard scene of "Springs Awak-
ening," his hostility to the establishedt
order, his moments of cestacy, his'
dynamic and demonic power, all ap-
pealed to them.
In 1912 appeared Reinhard Sorge's
drama "The Beggar.". This was the
first German expressionistic play.
Strindberg and Wedekind were Sol-
ge's masters. The expressionistc
movement in the German drama runs
through the second decade of the
twentieth century. The war-and the
downfall of the established social re-
gime in Germany-first brought it to'
the attention of the public; although
many of the plays which yere pro-
duced for the first time during the
war were written before 1914. The
magazines "Die Aktion", 1911, and
"Der Sturm", 1910, gave impetus to
the movement. Expressionism in the
drama-which is but another phase
of expressionism in painting, sculp-
ture, architecture, nhusic, the novel,?

the lyric,-was in its origin the out-I
come of revolt against the literary
and dramatic tendencies of the time.
It marks the turning back of the time,
from naturalistic and neo-romantic
art and in theory it aims to directly
express the inner spirit of things and
not to represent or mirror their outer
manifestation or so-called reality. TheI
naturalist as well as the neo-romanti-

cist - observed every detail of an ob- stagecraft, new lighting effects and
ject, sought to catch anl reproduce I new uses of the spotlight, of colors,
every varying shade of color or drops, etc. Sorge's "Beggar" is typi-
sound, brought to the study of the cal in this regard. It is called a "dra-
outer world or the inner self the umatic Mission." The characters are
painstaking care for detail and ut- simply named, as the poet the father,
mosphere that has distinguished sci- the imother, sister, girl, older friend,
entific research. The poet went to three critics. There is not attempt at
nature with notebook in hand so t at individualization. The dialogue s
his work might be "true" to the "ori rapid and strikes one as a fitting-to-
inal" as possible. The characters in gether of interrupted monologues.
Hauptmann's naturalistic plays speak The expressionist places much em-
a language that is really "heard" by the phasis upon elemental cries-elemen-
author. He has listened for and de- tal attempts of speech, though in this
tected the faintest distinctions in Hauptmann had anticipated thieni.
sound and rhythm. But, the expres- The expressionist E also aims to give
sionistic said, what is the sense of all new force to the German language
this? The photograph, the phono- by dropping inflected articles, noun
graph, the cinema can do as much and adjective endings. In the "Beg-
and better. Art is not the exact re- gar" the chief character, the poet,
production of the externalities of does most of the talking and the
things; art is a thing of the inner , action centers entirely about him and
world, an expression of the spirit, of his inner experiences, so much so
ideas. One must seek to express not that most of the scenes are simply
the outer physical reality of things, the symbolical presentation of his
but their .inner spiritual reality. Lot own imaginings. In the production
me close my eyes to the physical of the play, as with so many lof the
reality of things and paint or portray other expressionistic dramas, the
things as they come to me in the 'Hero poses continually in the spot-
chaos of my own mind. Let mep or- (Continued from Page Twelve)

tray my emotion through pictorial
means, dramatic means, the stage,
however you will, independent of the
physical reality of the object which
has impressed me.
And so the expressionistic drama
has departed from the old well-worn
ways of the traditional theatre, and
in so doing it has been aided by all
the new and technical accessories of

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