La Ronde (play)

La Ronde (play)

"Reigen" (French: "La Ronde") is an 1897 play by Arthur Schnitzler. Initially circulated among friends, it was performed publicly after two decades, arousing strong reactions. Schnitzler was personally attacked as a Jewish pornographer and the episode came to be known as the "Reigen scandal" [Andrew Barker, Race, Sex and Character in Schnitzler's Fräulein Else, "German Life and Letters". v. 54(1):1-9] .

The play scrutinizes the sexual morals and class ideology of its day, through a series of encounters between pairs of characters (shown before and after the act of sex). By choosing characters across all levels of society, the play is also a social comment on how sexual contact overcomes boundaries of class.

Both the German "Reigen" and the French "Ronde" mean Round dance; like the English nursery rhyme Ring a Ring o' Roses, other European languages also have versions ending in "all fall down". This is taken to relate to one of the controversial themes of the play - the transmission of syphilis across different layers of society.

Publication and Controversy

The text was first published in 1900 for private circulation. The first edition was brought out in Vienna in 1903 and was a success with the sale of 40 thousand copies. Howevered, it was censored there in 1904 but found another publisher in Germany in 1908.

The play was not performed widely for some time, but after a 1921 performance, the audience erupted violently, and the play was shut down. Schnitzler faced personal attacks, which took a virulent anti-semitic turn. Sigmund Freud wrote a famous letter to Schnitzler in 1922, stating: "you have learned through intuition — though actually as a result of sensitive introspection — everything that I have had to unearth by laborious work on other persons".

Despite a Berlin court verdict in 1921-11 dismissing charges that the play was immoral, Schnitzler himself withdrew the play from public production in the German speaking nationscite web
title = Arthur Schnitzler: Why the Scandal?
author = Vinal Binner
url = http://www.virtualvienna.net/columns/vinal/arthur_schnitzler_scandal.html
accessdate = 2008-08-08
] . However, it remained enormously popular Russia, Czechoslovakia, and especially in France, where it was filmed in 1950 and again in 1960. Forty years after Schnitzler's death, the play was released for German performances in 1982 (by his son).

Plot outline

The play takes place in Vienna in the 1890s and consists of ten love scenes between pairs of people. There are ten characters, each playing in two adjacent scenes (counting the last as adjacent to the first). The play starts with The Whore and The Soldier, followed by the Soldier and The Parlor Maid, and so on in this fashion until making full circle with The Whore back in the first scene.

Scenes:
#The Whore and the Soldier
#The Soldier and the Parlor Maid
#The Parlor Maid and the Young Gentleman
#The Young Gentleman and the Young Wife
#The Young Wife and The Husband
#The Husband and the Little Miss
#The Little Miss and the Poet
#The Poet and the Actress
#The Actress and the Count
#The Count and the Whore

Adaptations

Three films have been made that are based on the play: the 1964 film "La Ronde" of the same title, directed by Roger Vadim, "Reigen" (the original title of Schnitzler's play), a 1973 film directed by Otto Schenk, and "La Ronde" by Max Ophüls. A forthcoming German film version, "Unschuld", will feature Luise Berndt, Kai Wiesinger and Nadeshda Brennicke among others.

Many playwrights have produced adaptations of Schnitzler's play. In 1989, Hungarian playwright Mihály Kornis adapted the play to refer to the Hungarian society of the period; in this version, the Young Gentleman and the Husband are communist politicians. Michael John LaChiusa's musical "Hello Again" was produced off-Broadway in 1994. David Hare's "The Blue Room" was first staged at the Donmar Warehouse in 1998. Both Jack Heifner (in his "Seduction" (2004)) and Joe DiPietro (in his "Fucking Men" (2008)) have produced gay versions of the story.


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