Leopold Jessner

Leopold Jessner

German theater director.
Date of Birth: 03.03.1878
Country: Germany

Biography of Leopold Jessner

Leopold Jessner was a German theater director who was born on March 3, 1878, in Königsberg, Eastern Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia). Before World War I, he led the Hamburg theater "Talia" for eleven years, during the war he led the "New Drama Theater" in Königsberg, and from 1919 to 1930, he was the director of the "German State Theater" in Berlin. Jessner was an active member of the German Actors' Union, and thanks to this, he became the director of state-subsidized theaters during the Weimar Republic.

During his time in Königsberg, Jessner's productions, characterized by their frantic speed and intensity, anticipated the development of post-war German theater. As a leading expressionist director of the post-war period, he was known for his extreme dynamism, stylization, and rejection of realistic scenography and excessive detail in favor of a "stage space" adorned with platforms, variously high platforms, and steps. Productions such as Richard III (1921) and Napoleon (1922) were performed on a practically empty stage, almost exclusively on the stairs that became known as "Jessner's stairs." He demanded from his actors intense gestures and sharp movements.

Jessner became one of the first victims of the Nazis' "purge" of the theater and was forced to flee Germany. In 1936, he settled in Hollywood, where he spent his last years largely inactive. Jessner passed away in Hollywood on October 3, 1945.