An important focus of the programming of the Schauspielhaus Graz is the questioning of the classical canon of drama: Who’s voices are heard? Who is silenced? And which literary voices have been purposefully excluded in the past and in the present?
The new artistic team of the Schauspielhaus is ambitious to expand narrative perspectives of the classical canon. Thus the team under Andrea Vilter has unearthed Christiane Karoline Schlegel's play "Düval und Charmille, ein bürgerliches Trauerspiel in fünf Aufzügen. Von einem Frauenzimmer" from 1778, which is based on a true crime story.
Schlegel was a contemporary of Goethe and Schiller and wrote a classic bourgeois tragedy, which stands out from the work of her male peers, due to its relentless female perspective. It is because of that female perspective and authorship (regarded as “too tragic and immoral for a woman” at the time) that this text, which could be seen as a precursor of today’s popular genre “true crime”, has never seen the light of day. Now it will open the season 23/24 of the Schauspielhaus Graz, directed by Anne Lenk.
Heinrich Düval, married to Mariane and father of twelve-year-old Franz, maintains a passionate love affair with Amalie, a friend of the family. The relationship is made the subject of scandal by the princely court, putting the adulterer under increasing pressure. In consequence the situation for the two women becomes increasingly unbearable. Not even their solidarity amongst one another offers protection against Düval's narcissistic and violent outbursts of emotion.
A man caught between two women, love, jealousy, spiralling emotions - Christiane Karoline Schlegel's bourgeois tragedy ticks all boxes of the genre and the era. In places, the parallels to her male contemporaries are striking, and yet her female perspective on the events and characters is fundamentally different. In outcalling the femicide as a consequence of patriarchal violence and oppression instead of framing the murder of the young mistress as a tragic love story, Schlegel’s drama seems unique for the era.
The patriarchal dramaturgy of a femicide which has been shaped over centuries, is subtly but significantly expanded - making it a crucial text for the present. Austria is one of the countries with the highest rates in femicides in Europe. Three women per month are murdered by male relations, mostly (ex-)partners. With staging “Von einem Frauenzimmer” the artistic team explores the power of theatre and tackles questions of reproducing patriarchal violence on stage.
Anne Lenk is one of the most significant directors in German theatre and has been invited to the Berlin Theatertreffen several times with her innovative and wise explorations of classical plays. Her artistic team includes Judith Oswald and Sibylle Wallum, who were recently awarded stage and costume designer of the year in Germany. Like Anne Lenk, they are working at the Schauspielhaus Graz for the first time.
'Von einem Frauenzimmer'
A bourgeois tragedy by Christiane Karoline Schlegel
Director: Anne Lenk
Stage: Judith Oswald
Costumes: Sibylle Wallum
Lighting: Thomas Bernhardt
Dramaturgy: Andrea Vilter
With: Annette Holzmann, Anna Klimovitskaya, Marielle Layher, Sarah Sophia Meyer, Simon Kirsch, Željko Marovic
Premiere: 22 September 2023
Photo: Johanna Lamprecht