Reinhardt, Max

born Max Goldmann (1873-1943)
   stage director; his revolutionary theatrical techniques made him Germany's premier director during 1905-1920. Born to a minor Jewish businessman in the village of Baden, near Vienna, he was raised in Vienna and began acting in 1890 under the name Max Reinhardt. His first big contract came in 1893 with Salzburg's Stadttheater.In September 1894 he was engaged by Otto Brahm, director of Berlin's* Deutsches Theater, and soon made his name portraying elderly men. But Brahm was com-mitted to Naturalist drama, especially plays by Gerhart Hauptmann* and Henrik Ibsen, and Reinhardt tired of the harsh realism.
   Reinhardt directed his first production in 1900. To escape the tiresome content of Naturalism, he launched the cabaret* troupe Schall und Rauch (Sound and Smoke) in 1901. Performing at various locations, the troupe eventually estab-lished itself at Berlin's Hotel Arnim, where Reinhardt commissioned Peter Behrens* to redesign a small theater* suited to cabaret. He focused initially on the works of Frank Wedekind and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, enjoyed rapid suc-cess, and was able to leave Brahm in January 1903 (he had to pay for breach of contract). Not content with one theater, he also assumed direction of the Neues Theater am Schiffbauerdamm (Bertolt Brecht's* theater in the 1950s). After an acclaimed 1905 production of Midsummer Night's Dream, he left Schall und Rauch (renamed the Kleines Theater) and became director of the Deutsches Theater; he purchased the theater in 1906 and then opened the Kam-merspiele next door. Upon founding an acting school, he became the unchal-lenged master of the German stage.
   Reinhardt's roots were in cabaret. While he engaged the best actors and took spectacles on the road (including Paris, Moscow, London, and New York), he is esteemed for his experimentation—for example, theater-in-the-round produc-tions of classical works, the staging of open-air drama, and his production in 1910 of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex at Berlin's Circus Schumann. For his panto-mime-pageant The Miracle (1924), he remodeled the interior of Vienna's The-ater in der Josefstadt to resemble a cathedral (he also produced the play in New York). He remained at the Deutsches Theater until 1920, but reactivated Schall und Rauch in 1919 upon acquiring Circus Schumann, which he renamed the Grosses Schauspielhaus. He had the circus ring recast for serious drama, while the underground cellar, once home to the animals, was used for cabaret. But Berlin's critics were no longer so generous; by 1920 several younger directors— for example, Leopold Jessner,* Erwin Piscator,* and Jürgen Fehling*—were challenging his position with their politicized theater (Reinhardt argued that "art is neutral territory"). After founding the Salzburg Festival with Hofmannsthal and Richard Strauss,* he released the Deutsches Theater in 1920 to Friedrich Hollander and returned to Vienna; but following his acclaimed 1924 production of Carl Vollmoeller's The Miracle, he was back in Berlin.
   Although the depression* was a severe blow, Reinhardt retained ownership of the Deutsches Theater until March 1933, when the NSDAP compelled him to release his theaters to "the German people." He emigrated to Austria* and then left for the United States in 1937.
   REFERENCES:Lotte Eisner, Haunted Screen; Jelavich, Berlin Cabaret; Reinhardt, Ge-nius; Styan, Max Reinhardt.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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