Devoir de Philosophie


Publié le 22/02/2012

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JESSNER, LEOPOLD (1878–1945), actor, director, and theater* manager; Berlin's* most renowned director in the Republic's early years. Born in Ko¨- nigsberg, he began his stage career in 1897 as an actor with the Cottbus Stadttheater. Soon after 1900 he acted and directed with the Ibsen Theater. He was appointed director of Hamburg's Thaliatheater in 1908; his imaginative summer programming with the city's Volksschauspiele led in 1915 to appointment as intendant of Ko¨nigsberg's Neues Schauspielhaus. His wartime productions, including works by Gerhart Hauptmann* and Arthur Schnitzler, met with such acclaim that in June 1919 Prussia's* new government appointed him intendant of Berlin's* Staatstheater, a position he retained until vo¨lkisch attacks on ‘‘the Jewish element in the Prussian State theaters'' forced his resignation in 1929. While Expressionism* guided his use of light and color in productions of Shakespeare, Schiller, Hauptmann, and Wedekind, Jessner also introduced steps (Jessnertreppe) to reinforce dramatic action at the expense of traditional scenery. Serving as symbols of dominance or repression, or of varying levels of reality, the steps were effective in his December 1919 production of Wilhelm Tell and his November 1920 arrangement of Richard III. But when repeatedly employed, the Jessnertreppe became simplistic and monotonous. Jessner continued directing at the Staatstheater for two seasons after resigning as intendant. Of Jewish ancestry, a socialist, and a republican, he relocated to England in 1933. After two years in Palestine, he emigrated to America in 1937. His work for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was based on prior cinema experience: he directed his first film* in 1919 and was active in 1921 with production of Die Hintertreppe (The backstairs). Yet, like Max Reinhardt,* Erwin Piscator,* Bertolt Brecht,* and Erich Engel,* he is best remembered for his work on behalf of Weimar-era theater. His zeal transformed the Staatstheater into one of Europe's premier stages.

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