In preperation for our performance of Klecksography by H.R. Zurich at the Kennedy Center's Page to Stage this Sunday, we thought we would tell you a little more about the playwright who made this all possible. Below is some terrific research and dramaturgy by Allyson Currin.
Don't miss the performance of H.R. Zurich's forgotten gem on Sunday, September 5 at 230pm at the Millenium Stage in the Kennedy Center. The play is newly adapted and researched by a team of Rorschach Playwrights, Directors and Actors:
Katie Atkinson, Randy Baker, David Bobb, Vanessa Bradchulis, Allyson Currin, Misty Demory, Jenny McConnell Frederick, Laura C. Harris, James Hesla, Lee Liebeskind, Emily Levin, Anne McCaw, Aviva Pressman, Debra K. Sivigny, Hunter Styles, Catherine Tripp, Yasmin Tuazon and Stacy Wilson.
Heinrich Reinhold Zurich, one of the most influential and prolific German playwrights and poets of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is ironically rarely produced today in America. He was born in Freibourg in 1867 to a distinguished jurist father and concert-pianist mother.
After taking degrees in law and linguistics at the University at Heidelberg, he was just settling into a distinguished but unremarkable career as a barrister when he saw a performance of "Der Fleidermeister" by the experimental theatre troupe, The Rhineland Three. The power of that single performance, no record of which survives, caused him to abandon his career and make a profound and irreversible turn to the theatre, in which he enjoyed near instant critical acclaim (although his audiences claimed that his more experimental efforts well-nigh incomprehensible).
An early acolyte of Freud, Zurich's plays examined the complexities of human psychological attachment in such works as "Symmetry Skewed", "The Tyrant of Stuttgard" and "The Bastard and the Bumblebee". His works premiered principally at the extravagantly expressionistic Berliner Stage, the principal rival of what was soon to become Bertolt Brecht's Berliner Ensemble. Zurich, largely underwritten by his parents' generous bequests to him, also held salons in his Berlin home that were attended by virtually every shining intellect in Germany: his guests included Strindberg, Max Reinhardt, Fritz Lang and Isadora Duncan.
He was not without his critics. The French symbolist Jacques Dernaux led a protest against Zurich's politically-charged play "Not Without Fear" in 1915, and the pamphlet that Zurich published in response to these protests was Tristan Tzara's inspiration (or so he claimed) for the first efforts of the Dada movement after the war.
The Weimar years were not kind to Zurich and he went into a spiritual and creative decline. All of his writing for the stage ceased, replaced by poetry that was not particularly well-received. With his growing obsession with German nationalism and his increasing attachment to the philosophies of Martin Heidegger, he undoubtedly would have applauded the Nazi rise to power had he not died in 1931 in an apparent suicide. His wife, the famed German actress Freida Gottshched, was largely responsible for preserving his works and his reputation subsequent to his demise.
It is our great honor to bring his unique voice and compelling perspective back to an American audience.