Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Carl Lautenschlager, Technical Director.

The earliest mention of a “Technical Director” within the New York Times is in an article titled “Conried Tells his Plans” published on May 14, 1903. Within the article Conreid (a producer) announces that Carl Lautenschlager will REMAIN with him as TD for work at the Metropolitan Opera House. The article also describes that a new lighting system, counterweight system, stage floor, and costumes will be purchased and installed, and a revolving stage is to be added a year later. These improvements are probably for “Parsifal”.

In a December 20, 1903 article in the New York Times, called “”Parsival,” The Music Drama” outlines the story. It announces the upcoming opening of the show. The article lists Lautenschlager as “Technical Director (in charge of all mechanical and electrical effects)” as part of the cast list. Further, the article indicates that Lautenschlager has rebuilt the stage and “devised” lighting, and claims that he “has no rival in his own field in Europe.” It is also interesting to note that “including the electricians, property men, stage hands, supernumeraries, and choruses, nearly 300 persons” are involved. While we cannot be certain how many of these people filled a technical role versus being on the stage, it does suggest a vastness of scale to the production.

Several days later, the New York Times, on December 25, 1903, claims “”Parsifal” A Triumph”. This article indicates that “The chief masters of stage craft and of scenic manipulation had been summoned from Germany to superintend and co-ordinate the material factors.” The article also lists Lautenschlager as part of the cast list.

Henry Edward Krehbiel offers information to the end of Carl’s tenure in the USA. In Chapters of Opera, published in 1911, Carl is mentioned as “stage mechanican, or technical director” and it is claimed that despite doing notable work in “Parsifal” he was “hampered by the prevailing conditions” and returned after a year to Germany.

Carl Lautenschlage also is mentioned within The Election, Volume 34, on March 29, 1895. Here he is described as a “great Bavarian stage machinist”, and is working on London on a new ballet. He is also credited as being “well known in theatrical circles as electrician to the Court Theatre of Bavaria, and his efforts to introduce the use of electricity in connection with the machinery of the stage have been crowned with considerable success.” It would seem as though this would indicate that he is the father of theatre automation as well as perhaps America’s for Technical Director. It is clear from what I am reading about Lautenschlage, Hagen, and others that they were generally machinists, involved in lighting, as well as involved with installing large scale stage mechanics for the stage, not just for an individual production.

Revolving Architecture: A History of Buildings that Rotate, Swivel, and Pivot by Chad Randi, states that the first patent for a rotating stage was in 1883 by Charles Needham, but was not built. The Fifth Avenue Theatre evidently had a master machinest that also proposed a turntable. In Germany, Karl Lautensschlager was working at the Mucich Court and Residence Theatre and installed, in 1896, the first permanent rotating stage in the Western part of the globe. He was also looking at lifts and traps, similar to what Claude Hagen would later install in the New Theatre in NY. Further, Carl is also credited with installing 4 of these in major cities throughout Europe. This author claims that the first rotating stage in America was at Ye Liberty Playhouse in Oakland, Ca in 1903. Harry Bishop is listed as the “manager”, who may have been influenced by Japanese Kabuki stages. It is clear from the description that this was manually operated by stagehands. That Lautenschlager was first is also supported by The Japanese Theatre: From Shamanistic Ritual to Contemporary Pluralism by Benito Ortolani.

He is also mentioned in Theatre Technology by George Izenour. Izenour is about to produce quite a bit about his background. Carl was born Arpil 11, 1843. After he father died, he mother remarried to a man that was a stage inspector. As he started working he originally studied under Carl Brandt, eventually moving to Munich and working there for 22 years. While there, he was sent to Paris to study an electrical exhibition there. Upon his return to Munich he installed electric lighting. Working with Jocza Savits they reinvented the way Shakespear was performed. He is also listed as working with Ernst Possart for the development of the rotating stage. Izenour states that he retired in 1902 (though we know that he came to the US), and that he died on June 30, 1906. It seems as though once he went back to Germany after his American tenure, he did not return to the stage.

He is also mentioned in Wagner Nights: An American History by Joseph Horowitz, Richard Struss: A Chronical of the Early Years, 1864-1898 by Will Schuh (credited with installing a revolving stage in 1896 in the Residenztheatre), Richard Wagner and His World by Thomas S. Grey (a photo is available of Carl here), The Dramatic Touch of Difference: Theatre, Own and Foreign edited by Erika Fischer-Lichte, Josephine Riley, Michael Gissensehrer (though this is a fleeting reference), The Development of methods for Flying Scenery on the English Stage, 1800-1960 by Susan Stockbridge, a supplement written by Lautenschlager in Scientific American Supplement, no 1541 (July 15, 1905), Early Uses of Electricity for the Theatre:1880-1900 by Walter Kenneth Waters Jr.

Wikipedia also offers the following bibliography:
The American Architect and Building News. Volume 53. Boston: American. Architect and Building News Co, 1896.
Ackermann, Friedrich Adolf. The Oberammergau Passion Play, 1890. Fifth Edition. Munich: Friedrich Adolf Ackermann, 1890.
Fuerst, Walter René and Hume, Samuel J. Twentieth-Century Stage Decoration. Volume 1. New York: Dover Publications, 1967.
Hoffer, Charles. Music Listening Today. Fourth Edition. Boston: Schirmer Cengage Learning, 2009.
Izenour, George C. Theater Technology. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.
MacGowan, Kenneth. The Theatre of Tomorrow. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1921. Print.
Ortolano, Benito. The Japanese theatre: from shamanistic ritual to contemporary pluralism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990.
Randl, Chad. Revolving architecture. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008. Print.
Sachs, Edwin. Modern Theatre Stages. New York: Engineering, 1897. Print.
Vermette, Margaret. The Musical World of Boublil and Schönberg: The Creators of Les Misérables, Miss Saigon, Martin *Guerre, and The Pirate Queen. New York: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, 2006.
Williams, Simon. Shakespeare on the German stage: 1586–1914. Volume 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
WPG, . The Revolving Stage at the Munich Royal Residential and Court Theatre. New York: American Architect and Architecture, 1896. Print.

It also seems that more would be available if I was able to do additional research in German.

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