Thursday, March 4, 2010

Frank Wedekind dominates contemporary stage

Frank Wedekind, the once little regarded German playwright, now seems to be everywhere! Wedekind (1864-1916) was an early 20th century writer whose sometimes controversial plays, poems, journalism, and fiction include two dramatic works which simply won't fade from the contemporary stage. 

Those two works are Frühlings Erwachen (or Spring Awakening, 1891) and Die Büchse der Pandora (or Pandora's Box, 1904). The latter, of course, was the basis for the classic 1929 silent film by G.W. Pabst which stars Louise Brooks as Lulu.

Recently, Wedekind's Spring Awakening was the
basis for the very popular musical adaption by Duncan Sheik which dominated Broadway (it won a remarkable 8 Tony Awards) and now can be seen in touring productions around the world. Among them is a forthcoming production in Dallas, Texas and a current production in Sydney, Australia.

Wedekind's original plays are also being staged at two American Universities. As the Daily Collegian newspaper reports, "The University of Massachusetts theater department’s production of Spring Awakening: A Sin of Omission is a pleasing new adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play." I'm not sure that "pleasing" is a word that Wedekind would have found . . . pleasing. But this student production, which runs through March 6, does have appeal and does seem to embody the earthy spirit of the original. Here is a slide show of images from the production.

As this production comes to a close, just opening at Brown University in  nearby Providence, Rhode Island is a new production of Wedekind's Pandora's Box. This staging is being called Lulu, and its being directed by Spencer Golub. Lulu runs March 4-7 and March 11-14 at the local Stuart Theatre.

According to the University's Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, "Lulu follows the rise and fall of one dangerous and doomed creature: the sexually educated but passive woman who will go by any name her lovers wish to call her. From presiding over high society Parisian balls to selling herself in London basement rooms, Lulu ruins those around her, and is ruined, for love. Donald Lyons called Lulu a 'symphony – or rather a cacophony – of deotic sexual rhetorics….among the supreme masterpieces of nineteenth-century theatre.' Director Spencer Golub calls Lulu 'very nasty.'"

"An Eyes Wide Shut for an earlier century’s turn, Lulu is a sex tragedy - or comedy - about how basic need and desire are made base by social convention, bourgeois morality and the fantasy life of the mind. Smart, dark, beautiful, twisted, tragic, haunting – you will not forget Lulu, or Lulu." Amen.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who attends this roduction of Lulu. And I would be interested to know more about the actress who plays Lulu. She has some small shoes to fill.

[Not surprisingly, Frank Wedekind is an interest of mine.  I have a small archive of information on various productions of Wedekind's famous play, and the various films and musical works, including Alban Berg's opera, which were based on it. Also, this article on has some curious information about the little known American origins of Frank Wedekind. Check it out.]


  1. More Frank Wedekind in the news:

    A local review of the Brown University production - "Fatal attraction: danger and desire in "Lulu" at


    "Christ Deliver Us" - A new play at the Abbey Theatre in Ireland written by Thomas Kilroy and inspired by Wedekind’s 1891 masterpiece Spring Awakening. More at


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