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  • Einar wie Eva: Towards an Economy of the Feminine in Schleef’s Puntila1
  • Günther Heeg (bio)
    Translated by Marta Ulvaeus (bio)

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Figure 1.

Central to Einar Schleef’s 1996 Puntila production at the Berliner Ensemble is an inordinately large round disc suspended in pale light—the table of the Grail Society—around which Puntila (played by Schleef) and his people assemble in anticipation of salvation during the first part of the play. (Photo by Ute Eichel)

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Figure 2.

The empty stage, literally a chorus space for the ora et labora: the chorus of Puntila’s servants kneels in silent devotion. Eva (Jutta Hofmann), dressed in white as a bride, opens the scene of seduction, “A Conversation about Crabs” (“Ein Gespräch über Krebse”). (Photo by Ute Eichel)

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Figure 3.

“Midsummer Night’s Dionysium” in Puntila: Having dissolved the engagement of his daughter with the Attaché, Puntila conducts Eva to the feast of the maids and servants. Berliner Ensemble, 1996. (Photo by Ute Eichel)

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Figure 4.

The staging of rehearsal work: Schleef as Puntila in the middle of the scene leads the others forward, sends them downstage, and gives the commands. Downstage, the chorus of the brides of Puntila are accompanied by the chorus of “Mattis.” (Photo by Ute Eichel)

After the Zürich premiere of Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti [Mr. Puntila and His Man Matti] (1948), Brecht felt it imperative to warn that “[t]he actor playing Puntila must be careful not to let his vitality or charm [...] so win over the audience that they are no longer free to look at him critically” (Brecht 1997:114). At the same time, he called for a distinct revaluation of Matti by future directors and actors: “Matti must be so cast as to bring about a true balance, i.e., so as to give him intellectually the upper hand” (114). The compliance with Brecht’s suggestions didn’t work well for the piece because the expanded revaluation of the figure of Matti as a sovereign director and exponent of a superior consciousness defers the dialectic of master and slave (Hegel) that the text seeks to exhibit. When the phantasmic grandiosity (Größenselbst) of the servant prepares to assert itself as the orchestrator of the fabel, the “parable,” or of the “model” for instructing the spectator at the theatre, it kills the movement that inheres in the text of the drama as well as in the text of the production. This movement is the text’s “labor.” Its center and inner drive is, as with Hegel, fear.

Einar Schleef’s Puntila production at the Berliner Ensemble in 1996 sets the stalled dialectic of master and servant in motion again by making its inner center, the fear of death, the driving force in the staging. To do this, Schleef allied himself with Brecht’s text in opposition to Brecht the author and theatre maker, who thought he knew it better. But all—even the discarded versions of Puntila—are to be understood in their interplay as Brecht’s texts. The first unpublished script from December 1940 (BBA 178:25–90), in particular, is a treasure trove of stories and anecdotes, which in later tellings were dropped and painted over. Schleef’s archaeological dramaturgy doesn’t, for its part, make the mistake of hypostatizing the first script, but lays the versions like layers over one another so that they form reciprocal “inscriptions.” In them the movement of the text’s labor, suppressed in the finished work, can be experienced as a struggle. The following becomes visible: the opposition of master and servant is overlaid by the attraction and repulsion of the two men, who can’t let go of each other because each is the alter ego of the other; and, the dramaturgy of the sovereign directing of the servant underlies an ambivalent [End Page 86] “dramaturgy of Besprechung [discussion].” On the one hand, besprechen [to discuss] leads to the seduction of one’s own point of view into the talk of another...

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pp. 86-94
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