Stagecraft

1921–1929

Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau / © Dr. Stephan Consemüller
Bauhaus Stage, Bauhaus Dessau, photo: Erich Consemüller, 1927.

Masters & Teachers

Lothar Schreyer, 1921–1923   
Oskar Schlemmer, 1923–1929

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Walter Gropius saw structural similarities between building and the stage. In order to explore the methods of stage work, he established a stage workshop in which students from all departments were encouraged to participate. Gropius entrusted the development of the workshop to the stage designer and dramaturg Lothar Schreyer, who was the head of the expressionist ‘Sturm-Bühne’ in Berlin from 1918 to 1921.

Schreyer concealed his figures behind geometric full-body masks, mainly in order to explore issues related to the language of form. However, his plays such as ‘Mondspiel’ (Moon Play) or ‘Kreuzigung’ (Crucifixion) were poorly received at the Bauhaus. In 1923, Schreyer left the school. He was succeeded by Oskar Schlemmer, whose ‘Triadic Ballet’, which he created in 1922, was performed at the Bauhaus the same year. Schlemmer developed a stage theory which centred on the relationship of the human being to space. His Bauhaus dances were definitive productions for the Bauhaus stage in Dessau.

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From 1928, Schlemmer, whose workshop had a very modest budget, had less and less time for the stage. He began to teach his course ‘Der Mensch’ (the human being) and also taught life drawing. Schlemmer ultimately saw his stage work as antithesis to the agitprop theatre introduced to the Bauhaus by a group of young Communist students. These were even permitted to participate in the only tour made by the Bauhaus stage with one of their own plays. Schlemmer radically rejected the presence of political agitprop theatre at the Bauhaus.

By 1926, Xanti Schawinsky – a former active member of the Bauhaus Stage – was already engaged for a season at the Stadttheater in Zwickau, where he worked as a set designer. After returning to the Bauhaus in 1927 he gave classes about the practical experiences he had gained on the ground. When Walter Gropius resigned from his post as director of the Bauhaus and was replaced by Hannes Meyer, Schawinsky was appointed there to teach stage design. Schlemmer submitted his resignation in the summer of 1929. In order to reduce costs, Hannes Meyer closed the Bauhaus stage down after Schlemmer’s departure.

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