Prelude at the Theatre

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von Goethe, Johann Wolfgang
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Department of German, University College Cork
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In this rubric we present various perspectives on theatre – historical and contemporary, intercultural and culture-specific, unexpectedly weird, unusually suspenseful, disturbedly gripping, fascinatingly enigmatic … The following extract is taken from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s tragedy FAUST (first published in 1808). A conversation between a theatre director, a writer (and a “merry person“) revolves around a fundamental question: to what extent should the audience’s desire for entertainment be the deciding factor when staging plays? Goethe worked on Faust nearly two centuries ago, but the text is still of high topicality nowadays, particularly in the face of increasing pressure on educational and cultural institutions. Indeed, the justification of performances is often intricately tied to measurable success (i.e. audience size). Apart from this we are looking at a downright pedagogical question: what plays should be staged, by which means, and to what end? MANAGER — DRAMATIC POET — MERRY-ANDREW MANAGER You two, who oft a helping hand Have lent, in need and tribulation. Come, let me know your expectation Of this, our enterprise, in German land! I wish the crowd to feel itself well treated, Especially since it lives and lets me live; The posts are set, the booth of boards completed.
FAUST by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, f. (2011) 'Prelude at the Theatre', Scenario: A Journal of Performative Teaching, Learning, Research, V(2), pp. 1-12.