Jessner, Leopold

(1878-1945)
   Director. Jessner was best known for his work during the Weimar Republic, when he was appointed intendant of the Prussian State Theater, the tradition-bound, Karl Friedrich Schinkel-designed Royal Theater on Gendarme Square near the Royal Palace. Having begun his career in the private theaters of Hamburg and his native Königsberg, Jessner ushered in a new era of state-subsidized, modernist theater practice in Berlin by staging classics with elevated tempo, fragmented acting, largely abstract settings, symbolic colors, streamlined diction, and an unwonted emphasis on the fractured and discordant. His credo was "thinking a thought through to its conclusion," employing drum rolls, rhythmic shouts, and the exploitation of light to break up the stage space. His stagings often outraged his numerous adversaries and delighted his supporters in the ruling Social Democratic Party. Jessner had long been a member of that organization, which had assumed control of the Prussian Cultural Ministry in the aftermath of the kaiser's abdication. Producers dependent upon the box office, meanwhile, relied on production and dramatic styles that had a wider audience appeal— an appeal that in most cases was traditional.
   There is some debate about who originated the "Jessner steps," though Jessner became identified with them in many productions; they served his directorial goals for symbolism as much as for practical stage platforming. In a 1920 production of William Shakespeare's Richard III, the steps served as metaphors for the vaulting ambition of Gloucester (played by Fritz Kortner). Jessner's own ambition was to transform the State Theater from a former imperial plaything to a "showplace of the people." His production of Friedrich Schiller's Wilhelm Tell (William Tell) set off a riot outside the theater, and in most other plays dear to the heart of traditionalists, Jessner demanded that actors no longer speak their lines in the familiar declamatory style. In his production of Macbeth, for example, actors alternatively shouted and whispered to each other. Costumes usually had no direct connection to the historical period and settings likewise evinced no specific architectural characteristics. Jessner most often sought compaction, reducing everything in a production to basic elements. His selection of contemporary plays at the State Theater also reflected his desire to break new ground. Frank Wedekind's Der Marquis von Keith (The Marquis of Keith), Duell am Lido (Duel on the Lido)by Hans-José Rehfisch (featuring the State Theater debut of Marlene Dietrich), and world premieres of Ernst Barlach, Carl Zuckmayer, and Georg Kaiser flaunted trends in functional lighting and abstract scene design no less than did Jessner's productions of classics. The acting at times revealed more Freudian self-preoccupation than character motivation.
   As the 1920s progressed, Jessner came under increasing fire from the National Socialists, who assailed him for "absolutely un-German" productions that betrayed his Jewishness and his "hyper-modern, bolshevistic, mollusk-like and neurasthenic aesthetics." Jessner held forth at the State Theater until 1930, despite attempts in the Prussian state legislature to remove him. He remained in Berlin and worked actively as a director in several theaters before he was forced to emigrate in 1933. He later staged Schiller's William Tell in Palestine and subsequently in Los Angeles.

Historical dictionary of German Theatre. . 2006.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • JESSNER, LEOPOLD — (1878–1945), German theatrical director and manager. Starting as an actor, Jessner was director at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg (1904–15). He later directed the Neues Schauspielhaus in his birthplace Koenigsberg (1915–19). From 1919 to 1930 he… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Jessner, Leopold — ▪ German director and producer born March 3, 1878, Königsberg, Germany [now Kaliningrad, Russia] died October 30, 1945, Los Angeles, California, U.S.       theatrical producer and director associated with the German Expressionist (Expressionism)… …   Universalium

  • Jessner, Leopold — (1878 1945), actor, director, and theater* manager; Berlin s* most renowned director in the Republic s early years. Born in Kö nigsberg, he began his stage career in 1897 as an actor with the Cottbus Stadt theater. Soon after 1900 he acted and… …   Historical dictionary of Weimar Republik

  • Jessner, Leopold —    см. Йеснер, Леопольд …   Энциклопедический словарь экспрессионизма

  • Jessner — Leopold Jessner (* 3. März 1878 in Königsberg; † 13. Dezember 1945 in Hollywood) war ein deutscher Theater und Filmregisseur. Er gilt als wichtiger Vertreter des Bühnenexpressionismus und des politischen Theaters der zwanziger Jahre. Bekannt… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Leopold Jeßner — Leopold Jessner (* 3. März 1878 in Königsberg; † 13. Dezember 1945 in Hollywood) war ein deutscher Theater und Filmregisseur. Er gilt als wichtiger Vertreter des Bühnenexpressionismus und des politischen Theaters der zwanziger Jahre. Bekannt… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Leopold Jessner — (* 3. März 1878 in Königsberg; † 13. Dezember 1945 in Hollywood) war ein deutscher Theater und Filmregisseur. Er gilt als wichtiger Vertreter des Bühnenexpressionismus und des politischen Theaters der 1920er Jahre. Bekannt wurde er zudem als… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Leopold Jessner — est un metteur en scène allemand, directeur de théâtre et réalisateur, né le 3 mars 1878 à Königsberg (Prusse Orientale (aujourd hui Kaliningrad, Russie), mort le 13 décembre 1945 à Los Angeles (Californie). Il a participé… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Leopold Jessner — (March 3, 1878 ndash;December 13, 1945) was a noted producer and director of German Expressionist theater and cinema. His first film, Hintertreppe (1921), is considered a major turning point which paved the way for the later German Expressionist… …   Wikipedia

  • Fritz Jessner — (* 19. August 1889 in Stolp in Hinterpommern; † 9. Juli 1946 in Boston, USA) war ein deutsch amerikanischer Theaterdirektor und Regisseur. Jessners Vater war Samuel Jeßner, ein Dermatologe in Königsberg. Fritz Jessner studierte an der Universität …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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