3 - Schrei ecstatic performance  pp. 94-138

Schrei ecstatic performance

By David F. Kuhns

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The term “Schrei” has a rather narrow semantic range including: “cry, shout, yell, howl, wail, scream, shriek.” As applied to Expressionist performance specifically, the significance of the Schrei varied according to the type of script and production it served, but all types appear to have found a use for it. In the première of Ernst Toller's Die Wandlung, for example, it occurred thematically as a scripted expression of the horror of war. In Leopold Jessner's staging of Richard III, it was a means of summarizing Jessner's demonic idea of Richard's character. In Lothar Schreyer's Kampfbühne productions, it seems to have served primarily a tonal function – as one element in a complex orchestration of sounds. More than any other performance feature, consequently, the Schrei became the hallmark of that breadth of vocal and physical performance capability – and endurance – which was the first standard of excellence in Expressionist acting. However, it seems to have assumed its most comprehensive meaning in certain of the earliest Expressionist dramas, where emotional expression itself was both the subject, and the chief agency, of dramatic action.

Hasenclever's Der Sohn, along with Kornfeld's Die Verführung (The Seduction), and Sorge's Der Bettler (The Beggar), were all written during 1912–13 and first produced in 1916–17. They were the initial “Expressionist” performance vehicles. Hence, as it initially appears in the present study, the phrase “Schrei Expressionism” is meant to signify early stage Expressionism, the development of which occurs first not in Berlin or Vienna but in various progressive provincial theatres, chiefly located in the south-German cities of the Rhein–Main area, as well as Dresden, and Munich.