DER HENKER (THE EXECUTIONER)
Premiere December 2019
Rarely does one have the pleasure of rediscovering a playwright. The case of Maria Lazar is precisely such a rare pleasure. Maria Lazar, known to some under her pseudonym Esther Grenen, came from a wealthy Viennese family that was originally Jewish but converted to Catholicism. Her talent for writing was discovered and nurtured at school. Lazar began studying history at the University of Vienna and wrote her first novel, Die Vergiftung (The Poisoning) (published 1920), while temporarily employed as a teacher. The following year saw the premiere of her one-act play The Executioner at the Neue Wiener Bühne. She wrote serial novels for various newspapers and worked as a translator before emigrating. From the summer of 1933 until 1935 she stayed in Karin Michaelis’s house on the Danish island of Thurø together with Helene Weigel and Bertolt Brecht. After living in Copenhagen for four years, she emigrated to Sweden, where she committed suicide in 1948 after an incurable diagnosis.
Mateja Koležnik is directing Maria Lazar’s one-act play The Executioner. In this work the audience witnesses the final hours in the life of a murderer who has been sentenced to death. He wants to get to know his executioner and force him to carry out the execution, not because it is his duty, but rather out of deep personal conviction. All sorts of ethical viewpoints and stances are explored in the death cell. The murderer challenges the executioner in a moral debate that is uncompromisingly – and yet surprisingly – taken all the way to its conclusion.
The Slovenian director Mateja Koležnik, born in 1962, has been directing productions in Germany, Switzerland and Austria for several years now. She met Martin Kušej many years ago, when they were both directing plays at the Slovene National Theatre in Ljubljana. Ever since, their artistic paths and careers have been inextricably linked. Mateja Koležnik’s works are characterised by intricate concepts and stage sets developed with a great sense of joy, and by extremely precise psychological tapestries. In 2018 Koležnik received the Nestroy Prize for her production of Ibsen’s The Wild Duck (at the Theater in der Josefstadt).