Theater in Wien
"The stage represents the most powerful and direct form of art"
"..The history of European theatre may have been carried out as a history of identity [...] The fundamental theatrical situtation, therefore, always symbolizes the conditio humana, regardless of its different culturally-historically determined forms."
What does the term 'theater' mean? Does it encompass only those productions that go up onto the stage, with actors and characters with a grand tradition behind them? Or does it also include those avant-garde off-stage burlesques and variety shows?
'Theater' in Vienna at the turn of the century meant all these things. The stage in 1900 could serve as a study of contrasts, encompassing everything from cabarets to the Austrian dramatic canon.
There is no better way to see this than by looking at the period's playwrights and their works. From Hugo von Hofmannsthal, bred in the bourgeois tradition, to Arthur Schnitzler, who criticized that very tradition while being part of it, to Oskar Kokoschka, who sailed straight off into symbolism and abstraction, theater took on many forms. The playwright's works differ so dramatically from one another, yet still discuss similar themes and concepts - indicative of the issues that dominated Vienna's intellectual climate at this critical time period.
Jessica Bawgus, Faith Westdorp
"In Arthur Schnitzler, the two strands of Austrian fin-de-siecle culture, the moralistic-scientific and the aesthetic, were present in almost equal proportions."
-Carl Schorske, Fin-de-Siecle Vienna
"[Hofmannsthal] wrote not to give pleasure, not to instruct, but that he, and with him his audience, might taste to the last, aye, to the very dregs, the bitter cup that had been forced to the lips of a suffering humanity."
"Yesterday evening in a coffee house Salten gave little Kraus (who had also attacked him) a slap in the face, which was greeted joyfully on all sides."
-Arthur Schnitzler on two fellow members of the Jung Wien movement, Felix Salten and Karl Kraus
"Cabaret - the theater of the art of Small Forms, the art of doing small things in the theater in the way really big things are done. . . . One can write a 200-page novel and have it turn out superb. But one can also say the same thing in just three pages and have that turn out equally superb. It's all a matter of saving time. . . . The cabaret spares the paying public this effort! It delivers the "pearls" and lets all the mud and other worthless things run off."
-Peter Altenberg, writer and frequent patron of the cabaret Fledermaus
It would be unwise and incorrect to talk about turn-of-the-century Austrian theater as though it existed solely in a vaccum; as with any form of art, the outside influences upon it cannot be ignored.