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August 17, 2009 | by  | in Theatre |
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German Play ‘09: Schiller! or The Sorrows of Old Goethe

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This year marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Friedrich Schiller, the great German poet and dramatist. In celebration of this occasion, the VUW German Club will be performing a selection of scenes from his greatest plays as part of their annual German Club Play.

Schiller is considered by many to be Germany’s most important and influential classical playwright. He has been praised widely by critics not only for his use of inventive dramatic devices, but for inventing new dramatic forms such as the melodrama and bourgeois tragedy. Schiller’s plays made him an acclaimed dramatist at a very young age, and his works only improved with his age and experience.

In a letter his friend, fellow German playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Schiller wrote:

“I am becoming increasingly convinced of the genuinely tragic quality of my subject; one special characteristic of it is that one sees the catastrophe from the very first scenes and that one is led ever more closely towards it while the action of the play seems to be moving away from it.” (18 June 1799)

Schiller died just six years later, at the age of 45, from tuberculosis. He finished just a few more “genuinely tragic” plays.

This year’s German Club Play is not an event to be missed, even if you don’t speak German! As with all of our plays, we are making this one to be accessible to an English-speaking audience. Although the scenes from the plays will be in the original German, the play will be narrated by Goethe in English, beginning with his return from Schiller’s funeral.

Beleaguered by a nosy reporter about his dead friend, Goethe begins telling the story of his life and his plays. As he talks, Schiller’s plays come to life. Some of the plays we will be performing include:

Die Räuber (The Robbers)—Schiller’s first play, about a conflict between aristocratic brothers Karl and Franz Moor. In an attempt to secure his dying father’s inheritance, Franz turns his brother Karl into a criminal. Karl, in turn, attempts a revolutionary anarchy in the Bohemian Forest, but must make a horrible decision upon his return home.

Don Karlos (Don Carlos)—King Philipp II of Spain is a lonely tyrant. He tries to find a friend with whom he can discuss his life and his problems, and offers a position at court to the Marquis of Posa. Posa, a friend of Philipp’s son Carlos, and an idealist, is brave enough to refuse this offer and to tell the king the truth: a courtier is not free to act for good, the king is too powerful. With burning passion, Posa appeals to the king: give up your absolute power! Give freedom to your subjects! The king is moved but does not understand Posa’s idealism.

Maria Stuart (Mary Stuart)—an historical drama in which Queen Mary I of Scots is imprisoned by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth of England. The two queens clash in a power struggle over Mary’s life and the throne of England, a conflict that puts everyone’s allegiances in question.

Die Jungfrau von Orléans (The Maid of Orleans)—Schiller’s version of the Joan of Arc story, with a twist.

Wilhelm Tell
(William Tell)—Schiller’s drama about the famous Swiss marksman who must shoot an apple off his son’s head. The tyrannous Austrian bailiff Gessler has set his hat on a pole in the village square and demanded that everybody bow to the hat. Two soldiers are to arrest anybody who doesn’t obey. Tell, who is not aware of the edict, walks past with his son Walther.

From Goethe’s reminiscences we get to see a composite picture of the real Schiller—an outstanding playwright and ardent advocate of liberty and human rights. Friedrich von Schiller will be greatly missed but he lives on through his plays.

The play will be showing at the Memorial Theatre in the Student Union Building from 16–18 September, starting 7pm each night. $15/$10 Waged/Unwaged. Bookings on 04 463 5318

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Mikey learned everything he knows about English Grammar in an MSN chat room when he was 13. Believing that people don't say "LOL" enough in everyday conversation, he has made it his mission to teach the world about grammerz one person at a time.

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