All About Jewish Theatre - June 01, 2004

Theater in Spotlight

Name of Theatre:
Jewish Theater of Austria / Jüdisches Theater Austria

Warren Rosenzweig

Theatre Mission:
As a “Theatre of Responsibility,” the Jewish Theater of Austria makes a unique contribution to cultural diversity, understanding and acceptance in Austria. It counts among the first professional, continuous Jewish theatre undertakings in Western Europe in over sixty years, and strives to achieve the following aims: To reinvent a vital aspect of Austrian art and to enable the reintegration of Jewish culture as part of Austrian culture. To produce quality contemporary theatre on themes of cultural identity for a diverse and extensive public. To develop new works for a 21st Century European Jewish repertoire. To cultivate a permanent international artistic ensemble. To establish a physical home in Vienna, where its own traveling productions may be performed year-round, alongside the work of invited guests from around the globe.

Theatre History:
Founded in summer 1999, the Jewish Theater of Austria produces professional not-for-profit theatre and performance events that explore themes of Jewish identity, experience, and cultural diversity. Previous productions and performance events have included works by George Tabori, Fritz Hochwälder, Grace Paley, Arthur Miller, David Mamet, Huda Al-Hilali, Dagmar Schwarz, and others. Productions currently in development include new works by Ari Roth, Warren Rosenzweig, and Harald Havas. The company has performed at numerous locations in Vienna, Graz, Innsbruck and elsewhere in Austria, and will soon tour abroad with its current production, “Pessach_Ramadan”. Since November 2000, international guests have also been presented in Vienna, Graz, and other cities. The Jewish Theater of Austria has been working since 2001 to restore and reestablish the old Jewish Theatre in the Nestroyhof in Vienna’s famous 2nd District, the Leopoldstadt. Since April 2004, the company has been developing a permanent ensemble called “International Jewish Theater Ensemble” (IJTE).

National and International Cooperation:
City of Graz, Province of Styria, Province of Tirol, Jewish Community of Vienna, US Embassy, French Institute of Vienna, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany

Prizes and awards:
European Association for Jewish Culture (2004)

Behind the scenes story:
You can download a tame version of this online at The text (which is mainly in English) is from a 2002 interview with Susanne Schwinghammer and Brigitte Dalinger in “Theater. Begegnung. Integration?”

Repertoire 2004:
Pessach_Ramadan, shtick! (workshop and event series), Die Judenstadt (staged reading), Peter und der Wolf (staged reading), Totem und Tabori, International Jewish Theater Ensemble (ensemble development workshop)

10 Questions to the Director

Q: What makes a good Theatre Director?

Warren Rosenzweig: A good director is a sharp observer, communicator, and conjurer. Someone with multiple skills - visual, poetic, social, and psychological - a protean, creative, analytic mind. The good director has enormous energy, integrity, self-confidence and authority, and yet is self-critical and strives to perfection, always learning. A responsible, reliable leader, and a great coordinator, with an eye and ear for exceptional talent and beauty. Above all, the good director has an insatiable will to understand the experience of others and the world we live in, loves people, is a mensch.

Q: From your perspective, what is the future of Jewish Theatre?

WR: In some places, where it’s matter-of-course, the future naturally evolves from the past. In Israel, Jewish theatre is barely separable from culture, while in New York, theatre culture is barely separable from its Jews. But in central Europe, where Jewish theatre largely originates and was obliterated, it is currently in a state of rebirth, and its future - like European Jewish culture in general - is a real question. Here, where the old enemy - Judeophobia - is also in a state of rebirth, or reawakening, Jewish culture is certainly no matter-of-course, rather a delicate experiment - an effort. There are signs of positive momentum. This gives cause for hope.

Q: Your career highlights?

WR: Every successful performance, every good rehearsal, every new play - in short, every creative moment – is, for me, a career highlight.

Q: Your career disappointments?

WR: Disappointment fades with the distance of time and experience, and with success. At the moment, I’m greatly disappointed, not with my career, but with the careers of select government officials of the City of Vienna and the Federal Republic of Austria who have not been able to recognize and act on the obvious. Jewish Theatre is exceptionally important in Austria and these select officials, who control the fully centralized theatre arts budget of the Viennese taxpayer, have a responsibility to support it. Yet they do not. This appalling degree of negligence, discrimination, and amnesia does not stop my work with the Jewish Theater of Austria, but it does dampen the feeling of satisfaction.

Moti Sandak

© All About Jewish Theatre