Laube, Heinrich

(Heinrich Rudolf Constanz, 1806-1884)
   Playwright, director. Laube was the dominant figure in Vienna's theater life from about 1850 to 1880, though he arrived at that exalted status by a circuitous route. Laube was a prime mover in the Junges Deutschland literary movement, which had a radical political outlook advocating democracy and universal suffrage. He spent time in prison for his literary and journalistic activities in the 1830s, but by the 1840s his political ardor had cooled to the point where he became a moderately successful playwright. His Karlschüler, about Friedrich Schiller's travails as a student in Stuttgart, was his most popular effort in the late 1840s, and his 1848 play Prinz Friedrich, about the young Frederick the Great and his homosexual love for Lieutenant Katte, likewise became popular. Based on the success of those plays, Laube was elected to the first democratic German Parliament in Frankfurt, but he resigned in 1849 to become director of Vienna's Burgtheater.
   Though his selection as the Burg's director was astonishing in view of his revolutionary past, Laube remained in that position until 1867. In the view of many observers, he reestablished that institution as the German language's premiere theater. He staged his own popular CountEssex there in 1856 and championed the work of Franz Grillparzer, whose work the Burg had hitherto neglected. Laube had substantial literary gifts as a director; he recognized, with one notable exception, what was both stageworthy and effective as literature in a theater's repertoire. The exception was Friedrich Hebbel, the worth of whose plays Laube failed to recognize. In most cases, however, Laube staged new plays as if he had written them himself; never before had the Burg presented so many new plays. His advocacy of Charlotte Birch-Pfeiffer and his attachment to William Shakespeare are good examples of his devotion to what he considered the best that German-language theater had to offer.
   Laube left the Burg in 1869 for Leipzig, remaining there until 1871. He then returned to Vienna and founded the City Theater, where he staged operettas and imitations of French plays about "women with a past" by Paul Lindau and Hugo Bürger. Laube staged the premiere of Lindau's Marion Delorme, perhaps Germany's first successful imitation of French Unsittendrama about women desirous of breaking into "good society." Laube also premiered Burger's Der Frauenadvocat (The Women's Lawyer), a play with tendencies similar to Lindau's.

Historical dictionary of German Theatre. . 2006.

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