9 Views of Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus
“Art cannot be learnt! Wether design work is performed simply as a skill or in a creative way, this depends on the artistic talent of the personality of the designer. Art can neither be taught nor learnt, a good skill of the hand and a profound knowledge, however, can and they are basic prerequisites for any creative work, for the performance of a simple worker as well as for that of at brilliant artist.”
Written and directed by: J.U.Lensing
Assistant director+training management: Jacqueline Fischer
Music: Goody and his Goodtimers, Spike Jones, J.U.Lensing, Eric Satie
Moving image inserts: Ernst Merheim
Photographs and logos: J.U.Lensing
Lighting design: Markus Schramma
Lighting operator: Johann Lensing
Artistic operating office: Miriam Pankarz
Ensemble in the order of performance:
Manuel Rittich: Oskar Schlemmer, Johannes Itten, photographer, student, Fritz Hesse
Miriam Gronau: Alma Mahler, photographer, Gunta Stölzl, Ilse Frank – Ise Gropius
Fatima Gomes: secretary, student, model, Lucia Moholy
Andras Sosko: Walter Gropius
Simon Fleischhacker: Max Thedy, student, Lyonel Feininger, Fritz Kuhr, Hannes Meyer
Raoul Migliosi: Richard Engelmann, Gropius assistant, Hans Groß, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy
Performers in the scenic reading 2015
Joeri Burger, Martin Christener, Stella Göke, Helge Gutbrod, Claudia Scarpatetti, Heiko Silk
From all the performers 2015 and 2017/18, we are grateful for the ideas that flowed into the text development and staging.
About the Production
During the preparation of our production “TRIAS – The Triadic Ballet” we studied the era of Bauhaus, its time and impact, which also led us to do research on its founder and long-time director: the architect Walter Gropius.
Walter Gropius´ Bauhaus colleagues nicknamed him “The Silver Prince”. This had to do with his grey hair in early age already and it also described his noblesse in appearance.
Walter Gropius was the founder of the Bauhaus and from 1919 to 1928 its director as well. Those nine years are the frame of this new production by THEATER DER KLÄNGE, the THEATRE OF SOUNDS. Nine years, that were characterized by political squabbles around the foundation of this cultural institution for arts, crafts and architecture, by the struggles implementing its innovative ideas and furthermore developing a curriculum to bring them to life. In Gropius´ private life, these years were also characterized by the end of his first and the beginning of his second marriage.
“The Silver Prince – Nine Views On Walter Gropius And The Bauhaus” is a theatre play with a multi-medial conception. It reflects nine years of work that Walter Gropius invested in the Bauhaus in Weimar and later in Dessau. The play shows Walter Gropius in the different phases of this era, each presented by the reference person, who – in the respective phase – was closest to him. Gropius is therefore presented from varying angles, thus quite differently. The various narrators, embodied by the ensemble of this play, are the historic characters Max Thedy, Hans Groß, Johannes Itten, Alma Mahler, Ise Gropius, Oskar Schlemmer, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Fritz Hesse und Hannes Maier – opponents, loyal staff members, wives, politicians and institutional successors.
Social and/or artistic vision, political squabbles and intrigues, love, enthusiasm for the idea versus burnout and depression, being Avantgarde versus quickly turning into being out-dated – many themes are reflected in these views on the person of Walter Gropius, reason why this play is subtitled “Nine Views On Walter Gropius And The Bauhaus”.
The altogether 30 scenes present nine years of Bauhaus under Walter Gropius.
They were not chronologically arranged, but put together like a mosaic. In flying changes – openly on stage – the six actors of this play slip into altogether ten main and numerous minor roles. Their stage background, a video scenography was produced specifically for this play. It structures the mosaic, suggests rooms and periods of time and provides further background information.
Whoever wants to learn something about Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau during the exciting time of its founder and long-standing director, this play will give a compact insight. It concentrates less on the artistic and architectural myth that Bauhaus represents but wants to be more of a portrait of this era, a portrait of a visionary and controversial institution during the Weimar Republic.
It is surprising how contemporary all this feels like in this almost classical dialogue theatre play!
The text for this production will also be the basis for the creation of a new radio drama / audio book that we will publish in 2018.
“The Silver Prince” is the first theatre production and the first radio drama about this exciting subject of German history. It also looks into the significance and the value of modernity for our time.
SILVER PRINCE in Press
Theater der Klänge about Walter Gropius
…in the style of epic theater. One also remains aesthetically complete in the twenties with projections as a quotation from the Piscator Theater, in principle a Berthold Brecht didactic play with a lot of information, but without such a moral that is always imprinted there. However, the play jumps back and forth between the times like a mosaic. Throughout the evening the question arises that the artists can never be sure whether they are really wanted. They have to fight constantly, also economically, that they can continue their work at all.
It is an evening that is incredibly full of references. It requires a high concentration to enjoy this evening. But then it also offers an unbelievable amount. A beautiful scene, for example, is the meeting of his second wife: Both play only with their glances and the dialogue continues as a sound recording. This is an almost magical moment.
You really get to hear a lot about Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus and the spirit of change of the twenties. A utopian ability of culture and also a self-confident fight for it, so that culture can continue. If there is a current statement of the play, then it is this: We must not be comfortable, we must fight for what we want.
An unconditional recommendation!
WDR3 – Mosaik
Back to square one. It’s 1919. The monarchy in Germany has ended. The Kaiser in exile. The country is on the verge of awakening, recovering from the horrors of war, which at that time nobody suspected would one day have to be called the First World War. Henry van de Veldes, director of the Grand Ducal Saxon Academy of Fine Arts, proposes as his successor a 36-year-old who had broken off his studies in architecture without a diploma, but had gained his first professional experience with Peter Behrens alongside Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. Walter Gropius merged the university and the School of Arts and Crafts in Weimar under the name State Bauhaus. This marked the beginning of an unprecedented era of modern architecture, which formally ended in 1930, but in fact continues to be a myth to this day. Director Lensing, who conducted an intensive study of sources before writing the script at the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin as well as the libraries of the University of Weimar and the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, which can be seen in the play in a positive sense, has created a work from the minutes of the Master Council meetings, speeches and general biographical notes that challenges the viewer, but gives him an unforgettable insight into the life of this very special person Walter Gropius. In nine pictures and 30 scenes, six actors in countless roles present a portrait that is seldom found in such forcefulness. Whether it is the failed marriage with Alma Mahler, the later happy but childless marriage with Ilse Frank, parties or the daily struggle with politics: there is hardly anything that is left out of this prosection.
Of course the stage design is dominated by cubic elements. Next to it there are a few tables, a few decorative objects. In the background there is a projection screen on which Lensing displays valuable background information and photos. The video work alone is prize-worthy. Markus Schramma provides the light with limited means, but always creates great effects. The costumes, which beautifully depict the 1930s, often have to be changed at breakneck speed and typecast to the point, are of outstanding quality.
The six actors have to cast 23 roles, and all of them are formidable. Most impressive is András Soskó as Walter Gropius, who portrays the Silver Prince, as the architect was called because of his early greying hair and “Prussian” appearance, in typical movements, although perhaps a little milder than in real life.
Fantastic in her joy of playing, enchanting in her appearance, sometimes a little frivolous, sometimes bold, then also lovingly and sensitively up to a skilful dramatic pose: Miriam Gronau can show all sides of her abilities here, and she succeeds with overwhelming verve.
Manuel Rittich particularly likes the role of Oskar Schlemmer, whom he gives as an overexcited stage animal, thus bringing comic elements into play with all seriousness. But the other roles, especially the mayor of Dessau, Hesse, are also gladly taken from him. Simon Fleischhacker is also great to watch, ideally embodying types like Max Thedy, Lyonel Feininger or Hannes Meyer, the successor of Gropius. Raoul Migliosi shines above all as László Moholy-Nagy, one of the teachers at the Bauhaus, whom Gropius would have preferred as his successor.
Director Lensing succeeds in showing not only the merits of Bauhaus and Gropius, but above all the war of nerves in the constant struggle for his person and the institution. A comparison with the struggle for survival of several theatres is obvious. It is especially exhausting for the audience because the two and a half hour play is very text-heavy. The mosaic-like composition of the scenes requires the highest concentration. Despite several ramp addresses one is rewarded with emotional moments and background insights. Nevertheless: More of these wonderful music and dance interludes surely wouldn’t have done any harm. All in all, it remains an absolutely recommendable piece of modern, political theater, that gives you something to think about beyond the day and at the same time offers best entertainment.
The audience sees it the same way and applauds with lasting effect – even if they are then happy to be allowed to leave the seating, which is not designed for longer use.
Michael S. Zerban, O-Ton Kulturmagazin
Theater der Klänge shows nine years of Gropius
Max Thedy is beside himself. His hair greasily gelled back, he is sitting in the inn Zum weissen Schwan. Gropius, he claims, is breeding an art proletariat. “Who wants something like that in Weimar” mocks Thedy – his face is distorted in rage, his dark moustache trembles at every word. “The Bauhaus is becoming a madhouse.” At that moment, the stage in the Collenbach Hall is writing the year 1919 – a time when by no means everyone is enthusiastic about the views of the architect Walter Gropius. One of his greatest critics is Max Thedy, artist and professor at the Weimar School of Art.
“The Silver Prince” is the title of the new play that the Theater der Klaenge is now presenting in Düsseldorf. It opens the doors to the Bauhaus art school and gives the audience an insight into what it was like in the workshops and studios under Gropius: how it was celebrated and discussed – but also what power struggles and quarrels there were behind the scenes. The play is called “Silver Prince” because that is what Walter Gropius was called; because of his early greying hair, and because he always made a noble appearance.
The architect Walter Gropius is characterized in the production from the point of view of nine people: his wives have their say as well as artists and colleagues. What happened during the nine years of the Bauhaus under Walter Gropius cannot be seen chronologically in the production – the plot is supplemented by retrospectives. On a screen, the Theater der Klaenge gives its audience orientation, fades in the dates and the location of the events. This is followed, for example, by a flashback to the year 1919, when Gropius (played by András Sosko) once acknowledged the exhibition at the art academy with a scathing verdict: “Finished pictures, filled frames, but for whom actually? It was probably that moment that first aroused the displeasure of the then professor Max Thedy. Gropius’ view that artists are nothing more than a further development of craftsmen is a source of displeasure for many: Gropius became the declared antagonist of conservatives and national socialists.
But the “Silver Prince” is not only convincing with loud rioting: even in wordless dialogues – for example, in the meetings between Gropius and his wives – the actors manage to build up a tension between the characters. It is hard to imagine that there are only six actors who fill the ten leading roles and numerous supporting roles with life. In “The Silver Prince” even mere props become bearers of meaning. When Alma Mahler takes off her make-up in a discussion with Gropius, it is also a moment of unmasking. Thus exposed, the grande dame cries over her separation. Small building blocks, on the other hand, show how the artists relate to Gropius: …but Moholy, the artist, creates from them a new structure. It is that moment in which his potential is recognized. And Gropius proposes him as his successor.
In a charming way, the “Theater der Klaenge” manages to turn the audience into actors in the play. For during speeches, for example when Walter Gropius opens the first Bauhaus exhibition, the performers mingle with the audience and cheer the architect’s speech with applause, laughter or interjections. In this way the audience becomes part of the audience around 1923 – it can also happen that Gropius himself sits next to a theatre guest.
Nathalie Urbig, Rheinische Post
Stage play shows the life of the Bauhaus founder
The Theater der Klänge portrays the architect Walter Gropius with the play “The Silver Prince”. “Der Silberprinz” is the title of a book and play by director and composer Jörg Udo Lensing. Behind the title there is no fictional fairy tale figure, but the very real architect Walter Gropius (1883-1969). Because of his early greying hair and the noblesse of his appearance he was nicknamed “Silver Prince”. Now a musical-scenic production about the founder of the Bauhaus is being created in the Düsseldorf Theater der Klaenge.
The plot focuses on the period between 1919 and 1928, during which Gropius personally directed the “State Bauhaus” art school in Weimar. The time was characterised by political quarrels about the Bauhaus. “Nine Views of Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus” is the subtitle of the play. The private life of the early modern artist will also be examined. “The Bauhaus has become an art, design and architecture myth for the Modernism of the 1920s,” says Jörg Udo Lensing in an interview with WZ. Today, however, one quickly forgets what and which visions led to this and how difficult this upheaval was after the First World War. Even today, the questions still arise: “What were the visions of a new society and a new man, and how did these visions, old traditions and political intentions compete with them? In the person of Walter Gropius all these questions would gather, says Lensing. “It’s not for nothing that he was the founder and long-time director of both Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau in 1928, a burnt-out man.”
There is original dance music from the 1920s to be heard. Six actors are to play the ten leading roles and numerous supporting roles in flying changes. With minimal stage resources, the intention is to hint at those rooms where history was made. The focus is on the “backroom negotiations” and public speeches, says the author. With 30 scenes and two and a half hours playing time, the text-intensive piece offers an intensive reflection on the emergence, the assertion and the implied failure of modernity.
Music plays a major role in the Theater der Klaenge. The performers have to do a lot themselves, self-initiative, which was also common at the historical Bauhaus. In addition, original dance music from the twenties is used, including gramophone records and sound design elements. With this piece, the theatre is initially addressing an audience that is interested in cultural history and especially in the exciting twenties. But the play is intended to appeal to even more people. Lensing: “We are also addressing an audience that wants to take a look behind the scenes of current cultural and political machinations and university policy processes.
Lars Wallerang, Westdeutsche Zeitung (WZ)
Audio: Stefan Keim
Citations from WDR-3-Radio Interview (German)