Flachsmann als Erzieher

(Flachsmann as Educator) by Otto Ernst.
   Premiered 1900. Ernst's parody of the German school system was among the most frequently performed comedies in the German theater for three decades after its premiere. It concentrated on school headmaster Flachsmann and his self-designated nemesis Flemming, though several types of school denizens people the play, from teachers to students and their parents to janitors and school board officials. Most of the teachers seem willing to put up with Flachsmann's idiosyncrasies as long as they can drink tea and play cards in peace. Parents remain content as long as there is discipline in the classrooms.
   Flachsmann's efforts toward ridding himself of Herr Flemming, a young and unprepossessing teacher in the school, comprise the play's first two acts. What makes the play funny is the characterization of Flachsmann, a stereotypical martinet whose principal goal is keeping his job. Equally important to Flachsmann is keeping the knowledge of his forged teaching certificates hidden from the teachers he supervises. Flachsmann finds several allies, implying that they too have credentials somewhat less than impressive. Flachsmann's ability to manipulate his underlings comprises a series of humorous episodes, which makes Flemming stand out in contrast to his colleagues by virtue of his refusal to capitulate to Flachsmann's demands.
   The unexpected arrival of school inspector Prell complicates matters, for at a hearing Flachsmann accuses Flemming of insubordination, incompetence, and general inadequacy. The accusations cause a change in Flemming, and he suddenly finds the courage to make public counteraccusations against his boss. Prell investigates all the accusations and discovers Flachsmann's forgery; he turns the school over to Flemming's leadership, but the inference is that Flemming will not succeed as a school principal because he lacks the proper authoritarian frame of mind.
   The play belongs to a series of thinly veiled attacks on the German school system during the Wilhelmine era, including Frank Wedekind 's Frühlings Erwachen (Spring's Awakening) and the Heinrich Mann novel Professor Unrat, on which Josef von Sternberg's 1931 film Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel) was based.

Historical dictionary of German Theatre. . 2006.

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