Frank Wedekind

Definition

Theater

  • (Benjamin Franklin Wedekind; 1864 - 1918) German playwrightand actor, whose sexual, violent, and grotesque themes shocked hisaudiences. His dramas mark a transition between realism andexpressionism in the theater. Wedekind was a major influenceon Bertolt Brecht who said, "Like Tolstoy and Strindberg, Wedekindwas one of the great educators of modern Europe. His greatest workwas his own personality."

    Wedekind worked as a journalist, advertising manager, andsecretary to a circus before becoming a cabaret singer and actor inLeipzig. Excited by the new drama of Strindberg and Hauptmann, heturned to playwriting in 1889, provoking a sensation with his portrayalof adolescent sexuality in The Young World (1890) and SpringAwakening (1891). The latter, featuring adolescent deaths resultingfrom abortion and suicide, did not receive an unexpurgated Britishproduction until 1974.

    Themes of sex and death were also explored in Wedekind's playsabout the amoral Lulu, Earth Spirit (1898) and Pandora'sBox (1903). The part of Lulu was created by Wedekind's wife,Tilly Newes (Mathilde Newes; 1886 - 1970), who appeared in manyof his plays.

    After Wedekind's death the director Leopold Jessner enjoyeda great success at the National Theatre in Berlin with his 1920 productionof Wedekind's play about sophisticated crooks, Der Marquis vonKeith (1900).

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