Fräulein Else

Fräulein Else

Fräulein Else

Adapted by Francesca Faridany from the novella by Arthur Schnitzler
Directed by Stephen Wadsworth
Parallel Season · Thrust Stage
February 28–March 28, 2003
World Premiere

Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission

“If the waiter serves that black coffee to the old gentleman, everything’s fine; if he takes it to the young bridal couple in the corner, everything’s lost.”

Fräulein Else, a young bourgeois woman of delightful beauty and bittersweet wit, runs headlong into a horrible trap while vacationing at an Italian spa. Propelled by her family’s desperate attempts to garner financial security, Fräulein Else is encouraged to betray intuition and embrace the unthinkable. Adapted and performed by well-known Berkeley Rep actress Francesca Faridany (An Ideal Husband, The Oresteia, Much Ado about Nothing) and directed by Stephen Wadsworth (Triumph of Love, An Ideal Husband, Changes of Heart, The Oresteia), Fräulein Else illuminates the entrapment of a young woman’s mind and soul by the regulations and strictures of a society overcome by decadence and patriarchal conventionality.

Creative team

Francesca Faridany · Translator / Adaptor
Stephen Wadsworth · Director
Thomas Lynch · Scenic Design
Anna Oliver · Costume Design
Joan Arhelger · Lighting Design
Bill Williams · Sound Design
Michael Suenkel · Stage Manager
Amy Potozkin · Casting
Josh Costello · Assistant Director

Cast

Omid Abtahi · Porter
Mary Baird · Mother
Francesca Faridany · Fräulein Else
Julian López-Morillas · Herr Von Dorsday
Lauren Lovett · Cissy
Michael Tisdale · Paul

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Prologue: from the Artistic Director

Welcome to the world premiere of Fräulein Else, a dramatic adaptation of a novella written in 1924 by Arthur Schnitzler. A delicate investigation of the workings of a young woman’s inner life, Fräulein Else has been the obsession of author and actor Francesca Faridany and director Stephen Wadsworth. Two of our favorite artists, Faridany and Wadsworth have spent a significant portion of time over the last few years exploring Schnitzler’s world, his discovery of Freud and his subsequent desire to create a compelling character study that would probe the mysteries of human motivation.

The opening of any new play is always a cause for celebration as a manifestation of our intention to introduce vibrant new material into the culture. Moreover, it directly connects us all—producers, artists and audience members alike—to the artistic process itself. We ask ourselves different questions while watching a new play. We are not only measuring performance in relation to material, but we are constantly determining how the body of ideas being presented resonates with our own experience.

Astonishingly, Fräulein Else marks the 44th world premiere in the history of Berkeley Rep. No other fact offers stronger proof that we continue to pursue the goals that have always made Berkeley Rep unique: a theatre which produces plays that offer the greatest pleasure while continuing to explore a wide range of challenging ideas. Thanks for being a part of the process. Enjoy the show.

Tony Taccone

The life and works of Arthur Schnitzler

By Enrique E. Urueta II

Arthur Schnitzler was born in Vienna, Austria on May 15, 1862 and was the son of a distinguished Jewish physician. Although he showed an interest in writing at a young age, he chose to follow in his father’s footsteps and went to the University of Vienna to study medicine. There he not only developed a keen interest in psychiatry but also an admiration of Sigmund Freud. After a brief military service, he practiced medicine until he garnered critical acclaim in 1893 with his play Anatol, a cycle of scenes concerning a philanderer. From then on he focused on his creative pursuits as a writer and kept only a few private patients. A prolific author, Schnitzler wrote more than twenty stories, novellas and novels in addition to over twenty-five plays. From his immediate success with Anatol until 1925, Schnitzler was the most produced playwright on German and Austrian stages and is often credited with introducing the psychological play into modern drama. Schnitzler’s works generally concern the theme of individual happiness, often dramatized specifically around issues of love and sexual fidelity. His sharp clinical observations of the unconscious and subconscious mind, pathological behavior and sexuality have led many to view him as the literary doppelgänger of Sigmund Freud. Even Freud himself viewed Schnitzler as his artistic counterpart. In a letter written to Schnitzler in 1922, in honor of his sixtieth birthday, Freud encouraged any future comparisons of their theories:

“Whenever I am absorbed in one of your beautiful creations I invariably seem to find beneath their poetic surface the very suppositions, interests, and conclusions that are also mine…I have formed the impression that you know through intuition…everything that I have discovered by laborious work on other people.”

Although Schnitzler achieved fame and literary success in his life, his work was not without controversy, as his dramatic exploration of sexuality proved to be quite radical at the time. Of particular notoriety was his play La Ronde, which was first performed in Hungary in 1920. The play, skillfully constructed as ten dialogues, focuses on the sexual desires of five different men and women who, despite their different class backgrounds, become interconnected through their sexual relationships. The play incited one of the greatest scandals in the history of European theatre, leading to anti-Semitic riots in Berlin as well as a six day obscenity trial. Although he was acquitted, there would not be another performance of the play in Europe until after his death. In addition to his controversial subject matter, his status as a Jew and his vocal criticism of the Austrian monarchy contributed to the censorship of his work in his lifetime and the banning of his writings by the Nazis after his death.

Schnitzler spent most of his later years in his villa overlooking Vienna and devoted his time to writing. However, the shocking suicide of his daughter in 1930 proved too much for him to bear, and he passed away in Vienna on October 21, 1931. His artistic impression lives on, not only in his writing, but in the works of those whom Schnitzler inspired, such as David Hare, whose Blue Room is an adaptation of La Ronde, Stanley Kubrick, whose Eyes Wide Shut is based on Traumnovelle, and now Francesca Faridany, to name only a few of the most recent.

Stand by Else, Else go!

Francesca Faridany and Stephen Wadsworth discuss how Fräulein Else came to be

Francesca: It all began when an old friend from England gave me a biography of Peggy Ashcroft (December 1998). I was playing Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Boston. It was Christmas, and very cold, and every day I read this book riding back and forth to the theatre. There was a passage in which Alec Guiness described watching Peggy in Fräulein Else, a play that had been written for her by her then husband, Theodor Komisarjevsky, adapted from Schnitzler’s novella of the same name. This was 1932—the novella had been published in 1924. Guiness said the audience had been audibly shocked and captivated by a glimpse of Peggy’s naked back. The Lord Chamberlain, having anticipated this, had censored the piece, and the Old Vic company had to perform it under the auspices of a private club. I was intrigued—I’d never heard of the piece—and became even more so when I had trouble finding the novella in translation. I finally located it at the Austrian Cultural Institute in New York, and I was hooked. The writing fascinated and disturbed me, and I wanted to play this role.

Stephen: Francesca gave me an English version of the novella to read, and I lay on a sofa with it while Hurricane Floyd howled and banged at Manhattan for days (September 1999). I remember going in and out of sleep and sort of dreaming the book as much as reading it. It was as thrilling to become acquainted with this alarming stream-of-consciousness text as it was to picture Francesca zooming through it. It was written in 1924, the year of Mrs. Dalloway, another day-in-the-life river of private thought. I was put in mind also of Joyce, whom I later learned had considered Schnitzler’s earlier stream-of-consciousness novella, Lieutenant Gustl, a catalyst as he sought a form for Ulysses. And I thought of Freud, particularly his case study Dora, and wondered who had influenced whom—those two Viennese students of women’s private minds living through the turn of the century, and later the fall of the Habsburg Empire, while presumably mere city blocks from each other. I loved the story, it was pure Francesca, and I told her she had to figure out a way to do it.

Francesca: All this time it burned a hole in my brain. I’d take it out and reread it, without any idea of how to get it out of the little book in my lap and into some shape for the stage. Would I do it myself? On my own? And what did I mean “do it?” Was I going to write it? How? I had no idea what I was doing. I think I started to scratch notes in the margin of the book. Stephen proposed a week of work at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, where he was artist in residence—to get a script on paper and to read it aloud. I had no choice but to get on with it, and I started by cutting the novella down, breaking up the text of the mother’s letter, figuring out which characters really had to be there, and deciding whether I would somehow play them or talk to them without their being there. Was it going to be a solo piece, or a full-scale play like Komisarjevsky’s? He had a cast of 28-plus, not often an affordable luxury in the American regional theatre these days. My gut feeling was that a solo turn would focus on the actress and not enough on Schnitzler’s story, but that a big, “well-made” play wouldn’t serve Schnitzler’s idea, or his literary achievement, which was about a seamless flow of thought in Else’s own mind.

Stephen: We spent most of that Seattle week (December 2000) in the board room, Francesca sitting like a gazelle on the edge of a table, dictating the script, from her margin scratchings, to a stage manager bent over a laptop. I took about ten pages at a time and edited freely, suggesting changes and additions based not on the novella but on the script I was reading. We repositioned events, trimmed and sharpened the text thinking of how it would sound in Francesca’s mouth, settled on a small dramatis personae, and realized that this emerging Faridany Fräulein Else was very much a new property, starkly different from the Komisarjevsky.

Francesca: A month later we were in Berkeley working on The Oresteia with Tony [Taccone] (January 2001), and he read the Seattle draft. Then one day, very casually over lunch, he said Berkeley Rep would do Else. By this time I’d decided to translate the novella myself, for several reasons. A German-speaking friend of mine to whom I’d sent the script had noticed details too racy for the 1925 translation we’d been working from—a reference to Else’s monthly period, and the omission, from Else’s fantasy of lying on marble steps, of the fact that she was lying there naked and in the company of an unspecified number of men. I suspected there were more such discrepancies. I also wanted to get the Austrian-ness of Else, through the German language, to explore the various meanings of the German words and have a broader palette from which to make a new text.

Stephen: She did find more untranslated censored details, and the script got juicier and truer to Schnitzler’s original. It also seemed more Schnitzlerian, ironically, when she took more liberties with the dramaturgy of the script. I’d noticed while translating Marivaux, and at that time Molière’s Don Juan, that speeches sometimes have to be reordered, fleshed out, trimmed, in order to sound and move more as they do in the original language. When Francesca was back in Berkeley for Much Ado About Nothing (December 2001) we took two days to rehearse and read the script for Tony and local friends. The feedback session was very specific, and because of something Tony said we imagined the ending as it now stands. He also said that maybe I should write a companion piece, since Else was a fairly short evening by itself. I started thinking about somehow adapting one of Freud’s case studies, possibly Dora. We now knew that Schnitzler and Freud were very aware of each other, first as doctors (Freud cites a medical paper of Schnitzler’s in a footnote of Dora) and then as writers (Schnitzler’s Else shares very key story details with Freud’s earlier telling of Dora’s case).

Francesca: Before the Berkeley workshop Stephen and I, celebrating our engagement, went to Italy (September 2001), drove through the Dolomites and spent the night in San Martino di Castrozza, where Else takes place. We first saw the Cimone mountain about fifty kilometers before we arrived in San Martino, and as we drove into town at dusk we circled down around it, and it loomed above us very much as Else describes it: it was vast and black and scary, and it really did look as if it were going to fall on top of the car. We stayed in the Hotel Fratazza, a modest tourist hotel full of hordes of children on church-sponsored holidays from Bologna and other points south. This clearly wasn’t the Fratazza of Fräulein Else. That hotel had been badly bombed in World War I, but the walls of our hotel were covered with photographs of the wreckage, and we had another look at the Cimone from the site, now an overgrown terraced field. Viennese society had flocked here to San Martino in the summers—including the Freuds.

Stephen: We got married not too far from there (June 2002) and decided to go north into Austria for the honeymoon. We stayed on the Wörthersee, a lake resort in the south mentioned by Else, and then made our way to the source, Vienna. We saw a diffuse post-modern production of Schnitzler’s Anatol at the Akademietheater, walked the Ringstrasse, spent hours in the Freud museum, set up in his consulting rooms. We even got a script of a Fräulein Else adaptation done at the Burgtheater in the ‘70s—another sprawling version with a large cast. Vienna has changed in the last fifteen years, it’s hugely more cosmopolitan and young. But the weight of the Habsburg dynasty and its ponderous collapse, now 85 years past, remains somehow vividly alive. Ditto Freud. Ditto Hitler. Schnitzler’s anarchic, quicksilver neurotics would still find it oppressive.

Francesca: Our honeymoon then basically continued in Utah: Berkeley Rep had put us forward for the Sundance Theatre Lab, and we were invited to go and work on the Else script [again with actors] (July 2002). Stephen was to develop a script for a companion piece (we hoped to decide finally if this was necessary). Sundance is like a big old summer camp for theatre folk, with heaps of really inspiring people whose brains and talent could be picked and mined for three weeks. For the first time I could put my actor hat on and start to put this fast-paced piece on my body. Stephen was directing, and we had a group of dramaturgs studying the script and critiquing us regularly, so I could let go of the writing reins a bit. The morning after the reading we met with the dramaturgs and lab mentors, and it was unanimously agreed upon that even at an hour and a quarter, Fräulein Else didn’t need a companion piece. Lots of discussion about the placement of the mother’s letter, the veronal issue, the lives of the other characters and how to control the tone of the piece. Des McAnuff was there and mentioned bringing Fräulein Else to La Jolla Playhouse.

Stephen: On alternate days at Sundance I directed Else and worked on the Freud piece. First I read a hundred things about Freud and the patient he named Dora, envisioning a two-hander based on their final session when she got up and quit the treatment. I wrote something quite different, but when I’d done about three quarters of it, it became clear that we wouldn’t be playing it with Fräulein Else. Fantastic, though, to have the actors read it and the great minds comment on it before we left Sundance. The exercise was not in vain—I did finish a draft, and the work on it felt like the best preparation I could possibly do for Fräulein Else. Unquestionably Freud’s Dora was the template for Schnitzler’s Else. As I walked the streets of Vienna with Dora, wending her ambivalent way towards her session with Freud, she told me all about the deepening turn-of-the-century ravine between the dying Habsburg Empire—unmoving symbol of an archaic order—and the thrillingly progressive voices of Freud, Mahler, Klimt, Schnitzler and others—shouting, each in his own style, for radical change.

Francesca: So here we are in rehearsal (February 2003), the beginning of a four-month stint that will end in La Jolla in July. One of the dramaturgs at Sundance asked me how it felt to be bringing a great new female role to the classical theatre repertoire. I hadn’t thought of it that way until that moment. It feels good.

Art, culture and politics in fin-de-siècle Vienna

By Enrique E. Urueta II

Vienna, then capital of the Habsburg empire, experienced a major population growth after 1848 as it became the empire’s railway junction for Prague, Budapest, Cracow and Trieste. The revolutions of 1848 also contributed to the city’s growth as the cessation of serfdom in Austrian lands enabled large-scale migration from the provinces into the city. Many of these migrants were Jewish and their presence in Vienna would shift the city’s demographics by growing from nearly nil at mid-century to ten percent of the population by 1900. Although the 1860s had ushered in a period of political liberalism in Vienna, it would prove to be short-lived and was effectively dead by the turn of the century. As the Jewish population continued to grow in Vienna, a wave of populist anti-Semitism swept the nation. It would eventually infect the young Hitler who moved there in 1907.

As Vienna was forced to expand, it did so around the existing medieval walls that had originally surrounded the city. When the walls were demolished in 1855, impressive buildings of various historical styles—imperial classical, gothic, art nouveau, etc.—were built on the newly cleared land. As the city grew it became an important artistic and intellectual center. People of all classes enjoyed the many artistic offerings of the city, particularly its theatre and opera. The many cafés in Vienna would serve collectively as the center of intellectual life, resulting in the hybridization of artistic expression and scientific inquiry. Vienna—where doctors debated Wagner and art scholars discussed the finer points of Newtonian mechanics—was a city of immense cultural vitality, even as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, of which it was the focal point, neared collapse.

According to theatre scholar Martin Esslin, “It is the juxtaposition of an intellectual elite, universally educated, closely knit, with all the stimulus to lively debate on the one hand, and the feeling of impending doom on the other, which seems to provide the explanation why so much of the seminal thought of our century originated in Vienna…and if the city’s sensuality provided Freud with a backdrop to his thought about the roots of the sexual impulse, the tensions inherent in a political system about to break up also pointed to the wellsprings of aggression.” Arthur Schnitzler, himself an active member of the thriving coffeehouse community, exhibiting in his writings a preoccupation with the nature of the individual within a disintegrating society.