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Translating and Staging Hans Henny Jahnn’s Pastor Ephraim Magnus (1919)

Project Leads: Matthew Tomkinson (Ph.D. Candidate, Theatre Studies) & Dr. Jason Lieblang (Associate Professor, CENES)

Director: Moya O'Connell

The proposed staging of Hans Henny Jahnn’s Pastor Ephraim Magnus is part of a larger project to reclaim the work of German Expressionist writer Hans Henny Jahnn by bringing it to an English-speaking public for the first time. In spite of being considered a direct precursor of Artaud’s theatre of cruelty and being admired by contemporaries including Thomas Mann and Bertolt Brecht, Jahnn remains a peripheral figure in German-language scholarship on Expressionism. Pastor Ephraim Magnus (1919) is Jahnn’s first play, which won him the Kleist Prize, the Weimar Republic’s most prestigious literary prize in 1920.
Our production will be a world premiere of carefully chosen excerpts from this work, described by Ritchie Robertson as “(a work that) can still give the shock of the new that has inevitably worn off in the case of canonized modernists … (through its) uncritical, even affirmative, representation of a polymorphous and transgressive eroticism mixed with violence”. Interested in the untapped responses of contemporary practitioners and audience members, we critically engage with Jahnn’s provocative representation of homosexuality, misogyny, and incest, and intervene in the representational politics of Jahnn’s depictions of gendered violence. Pastor Ephraim Magnus is a prime example of the nihilistic Expressionism of early twentieth-century Germany, and it strongly exemplifies historical traumas (post-war existentialism), sexual traumas (sadomasochistic themes), and dramaturgical traumas (the play was cut down 80% by Brecht for staging). We hope to make this historical context legible for a contemporary audience by exploring innovative paratextual staging practices.

The first element in this project is a theatrical workshop in April 2021: join us!