Shakespeare Productions of Max Reinhardt

Author: Tollini, Frederick
Year:2005
Pages:316
ISBN:0-7734-6231-7
978-0-7734-6231-1
Price:219.95
This study's intellectual center of gravity is Reinhardt's experimental early work in Wilhelm and Berlin, culminating in the 1913/14 Deutsches' Theater Shakespeare Cycle, but touching as well on large-scale postwar productions at the Grossess Schauspielhaus. More than a half-century after his death, Max Reinhardt (1873-1943) and the once vibrant theater associated with his name remain only a vague and distant memory. In America he is remembered chiefly for large-scale spectacular productions, for Everyman because of its continued association with the Salzburg Festival, and for the memorable 1935 Midsummer Night's Dream film, one of Hollywood's costliest productions up to that time. Other significant aspects of Reinhardt's distinguished career, such as his fascination and lifelong experimentation with all manner of theatrical styles, emerging stage technologies, acting techniques, and theatrical venues have by now mostly been forgouen. In Europe, where memory runs deeper, Reinhardt's genius and achievements are still periodically celebrated.

Reviews

"In this methodically researched, respectful, and discerning survey of Reinhardt's noteworthy interactions with Shakespeare, Tollini ... provides readers with a detailed appreciation of Reinhardt's aesthetic principles, artistic experiments, scenographic practices, humanistic ideals, professional techniques, and personal tribulations; in Reinhardt's life and artistic expressions one can see a reflection of the early-20th-century world." - CHOICE

“More than a half-century after his death, Max Reinhardt (1873-1943) and the once vibrant theater associated with his name remain only a vague and distant memory. In America he is remembered chiefly for large-scale spectacular productions, for Everyman because of its continued association with the Salzburg Festival, and for the memorable 1935 Midsummer Night's Dream film, one of Hollywood's costliest productions up to that time. Other significant aspects of Reinhardt's distinguished career, such as his fascination and lifelong experimentation with all manner of theatrical styles, emerging stage technologies, acting techniques, and theatrical venues have by now mostly been forgotten. In Europe, where memory runs deeper, Reinhardt's genius and achievements are still periodically celebrated. Generally speaking, however, the work of this trend-setting director has largely been relegated to a footnote of theater history. This is due, in no small measure, to the fact that his once novel conceptions have been assimilated into standard theatrical practice or superseded by more contemporary ideas and techniques. Moreover, not being a theorist in the formal sense that Appia, Craig and Stanislavsky were, Reinhardt's conceptions were not enshrined in paper pronouncements-we have only select promptbooks, occasional working notes, and a limited correspondence-as much as forged in the laboratory of actual performance, whose once numerous practitioners are now practically all deceased.

It is therefore fortuitous, for American audiences especially, that Frederick Tollini has produced this exemplary work on Reinhardt's Shakespeare productions, bounded roughly by the epochal 1905 Midsummer Night's Dream production that won the young actor the directorship of Berlin's Deutsches Theater and the similarly memorable 1935 Warner Brothers' Midsummer Night's Dream film … What Tollini has been able to accomplish so admirably is to reconstitute some of the original vitality of these Shakespeare productions by drawing variously on Reinhardt's own promptbook conceptions, scene design descriptions as integral to the production, commentaries and recollections by actors and close associates (e.g., Ernst Stem, Arthur Kahane, and Heinz Herald), and the best contemporaneous critical literature, with particularly reference to Siegfried Jacobsohn, that barometer of the prewar Berlin theater scene. The author allows his discussion to proceed integrally from the inside out, blending the craftsman-like assurance of the practitioner (Tollini is himself an actor) with the considered reflection of the scholar and teacher. By successfully integrating the diverse components and subtleties that make up a Reinhardt staging into a coherent whole-for example, reconciling Reinhardt's promptbook sketch with Karl Walser's design drawing for the opening scene of the 1907 Romeo and Juliet - Tollini's reading takes on considerable conviction and explanatory force.

This study's intellectual center of gravity is Reinhardt's experimental early work in Wilhelm and Berlin, culminating in the 1913/14 Deutsches Theater Shakespeare Cycle, but touching as well on large-scale postwar productions at the Grosses Schauspielhaus

Shakespeare was increasingly performed not at home but in guest productions abroad, at the Boboli Gardens in Florence, in Venice's Campo di San Trovaso, at Headington Heath near Oxford, in the Hollywood Bowl and Berkeley's Greek Theater-all incidentally outdoor venues-before being transformed into film. Shakespeare seems to have survived these many twists and turns in tact, thus amply validating Frederick Tollini's choice in making Reinhardt's Shakespeare productions the centerpiece for this engaging study of Reinhardt's theatrical universe.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Herbert Poetzl, Professor of German History, Binghamton University and Curator of Max Reinhardt Archives

“Dr. Frederick Tollini's comprehensive study of Max Reinhardt's life-long commitment to the staging of Shakespeare's plays is a remarkable and much needed contribution to the historiography of early 20th century theatre. Beyond this, the book offers fascinating insights into the cultural and social climate of Germany and Austria during the first half of-the century and the way the theatre reflected as well as influenced that climate. While being a thoroughly researched work of scholarship, the book's clear and lively style should make it also an enjoyable read for anyone interested in European theatre and culture.” – Dr. Carl Weber, Stanford University

“Max Reinhardt is one of the seminal figures of twentieth century theatre, and his productions of Shakespeare comprise the heart of his work, spanning his entire career and providing key examples of the astonishing variety of production approaches he utilized. Dr. Frederick Tollini has provided a lively and authoritative study of these productions which will be of great value to anyone interested in the history of Shakespearian production, or indeed of the development of modern staging practices.” – Dr. Marvin Carlson, Sidney E. Cohn Professor of Theatre and Comparative Literature

Table of Contents

Preface
List of Illustrations
Introduction
1. Reinhardt's Viennese Perspective: Ich bin ein Jude
2. Between Dream and Reality: A Midsummer Night's Dream
3. Sehnsucht Nach Italien: The Merchant of Venice and Romeo and Juliet
4. Experiments in Scene Design; The Winter's Tale and King Lear
5. Finding the Tragic Hero; Hamlet
6. The Comic Vision The Comedy of Errors and Much Ado About Nothing
7. A History Lesson: Henry IV; Parts One and Two.
8. From Prompt Book to Stage: MacBeth.
9. Theater for the Massess: Das Grosses Schauspielhas
10. Theater as Festival: Vienna and Salzburg
11. The International Regisseur: Der Alte Grenzgiinger
Epilogue.
Appendix A: Chronology
Appendix B: List of Reinhardt Shakespeare Productions
Bibliography
Index