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Thauren, Johannes - Theresiana (15/25)
Theater im Keller Theater in der Leopoldstadt

Theater in der Josefstadt

Theater in der Josefstadt, privately owned theatre in the 8th district of Vienna, after the Burgtheater the oldest playhouse in Vienna. Built in 1788 as the smallest of the 3 "Vorstadttheater" for the middle classes (in addition toTheater an der Wien and Leopoldstädter Theater), established by the actor K. Mayer, who was director of the theatre until 1812. In 1791 the theatre was granted a comprehensive imperial sanction to perform all types of musical and dramatic theatre, including ballet and pantomime. In 1814 F. Raimund gave his Vienna debut at this theatre as Franz Moor in Schiller´s "Die Räuber". In 1822 the building was torn down, rebuilt (façade by J. Kornhäusel), and reopened, on which occasion the overture "Zur Weihe des Hauses", composed and conducted by L. v. Beethoven was performed. Under the directors K. F. Hensler, his daughter J. v. Scheidlin, C. Carl, and especially J. A. Stöger, mainly opera was performed. In 1834 F. Raimund's "Der Verschwender" was premièred, with the playwright in the role of Valentin (incidental music by K. Kreutzer, who was conductor of the theatre orchestra from 1833 to 1840). Under the director F. Pokorny (1837-1848) the emphasis of the theatre shifted from opera to plays (in 1839 the first royalties were paid to playwrights). After a period in which the theatre changed hands a number of times, an attempt was made in the last third of the 19th century to run it as a "Volkstheater", performing popular plays and local farces with songs. Under the director J. Jarno (1899-1923) the theatre presented French and Hungarian farces and light comedies, as well as "literary evenings", on which sophisticated contemporary dramas (by playwrights such as A. Strindberg, F. Wedekind, A. Schnitzler, K. Schönherr, G. B. Shaw, A. Chekhov, M. Maeterlinck) were performed, with guest appearances by famous actors such as A. Girardi, L. Konstantin, I. Roland, and R. Tyrolt. In 1924, following extensive renovation, the theatre was reopened under the direction of M. Reinhardt and achieved world renown with leading German-speaking actors (among them P.Hartmann, F. Kortner, W.Krauss, Hugo Thimig, Hermann Thimig, Helene Thimig-Reinhardt, and Hans Thimig). In 1925 the Kammerspiele became a branch theatre of the Josefstadt (and has been so until today, with one interruption); in 1926 Reinhardt made Emil Geyer director of the theatre, and from 1933 O. L. Preminger was in charge; in 1935 E. Lothar took over the theatre, instituting his "Spielplan der Dichtung" ("Programme of Literature"), with the object of reintroducing classical (and also modern) literary masterpieces to the public. From 1938-1945, Reinhardt's former assistant, Heinz Hilpert, provided continuity (classical dramas; engagement of V. Degischer, A. Hörbiger, P. Wessely); from 1945-1953 R. Steinboeck was director (presenting mainly foreign contemporary dramas). From 1946-1950, the Josefstadt ensemble performed studio theatre in the "Kleines Haus" ("small house") in Liliengasse in Vienna´s first district (today "Theater im Zentrum"). From 1949 the Kammerspiele was again incorporated, performing light comedies (from1951-1953 also the Bürgertheater); in the years 1951-1977, the director F. Stoß (1953-1958 and 1972-1977 together with E. Haeusserman, who was committed to Reinhardt´s maxims of a repertory theatre centred on its actors and their individual creative abilities, increased the size of the ensemble (adding, among others, F. Imhoff, S. Nicoletti, and E. Ott), and arranged the programme to focus on internationally recognised works and plays by Nestroy and Schnitzler. In 1952 season tickets were introduced; in 1954 the company "Theater in der Josefstadt Betriebsgesellschaft m. b. H." was founded; in 1955 Austrian banks purchased the theatre; in 1957 the "Kleines Theater im Konzerthaus" was set up as a studio stage for experimental theatre, which was taken over by D. Haspel in 1977; from 1977-1984 E. Haeusserman was the sole director; Haeusserman presented many works by Schnitzler and Horváth and engaged actors such as K. M. Brandauer, C. Jürgens, and B. Wicki); light comedies were performed exclusively at the Kammerspiele. After the death of B. Gobert, Haeusserman's designated successor, Heinrich Kraus, who up to then had been managing director, assumed the position of provisional director until 1988, when the direction was taken over by O. Schenk and R. Jungbluth (classical Austrian literature - J. Nestroy, F. Raimund, A. Schnitzler - as well as contemporary dramas). By 1987, the expansion and renovations of the theatre planned in 1977 had been completed; a new, large rehearsal stage, formerly the "Rabenhof" cinema in the third district of Vienna, was added as a third stage to be used for performances of contemporary critical theatre. In 1997 H. Lohner took over the direction of the theatre from Schenk and in 1999 Alexander Götz succeeded R. Jungbluth as managing director.

Literature: A. Bauer, Das Theater in der Josefstadt zu Wien, 1957; B. R. Schimscha, Das Josefstädtertheater als Opernbühne, doctoral thesis, Vienna 1965; F. Klingenbeck (ed.), Max Reinhardts Theater in der Josefstadt, Eines der schönsten Theater der Welt, 1972; A. Bauer and G. Kropatschek, 200 Jahre Theater in der Josefstadt 1788-1988, 1988.

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