Vienna’s first and now only English theater is celebrating its 60th anniversary. It looks back at a long history with many famous people. Tennessee Williams’ “Glass Menagerie” kicks off its anniversary season in September.
Rehearsals for the “Glass Menagerie” began at the English Theatre. The Vienna English Theatre, which is claimed to be the oldest foreign language theater in Europe, was founded 60 years ago by Franz Schafranek. The theater was also formed by his wife, Ruth Brinkman. Over the years she has appeared in countless of her husband’s productions. For nearly 30 years, their daughter, Julia Schafrank, has taken over management.
Originally a summer theater for English-speaking tourists, the project quickly evolved into a full-time operation. After several moves in the early years, the house is now located on Josefsgasse in Josefstadt.
Notable contributors and visitors
“Dare they do it, despite all the prophecies of doom,” says the owner. “It was my parents’ great adventure. Those things have long been silent, and now we can look back on an eventful history with a number of world stars.
Anthony Quinn and the villain in “Dallas” Larry Hagman, Leslie Nielsen and Judi Dench can be admired at the English Theater in Vienna, as well as the world premieres of Tennessee Williams’ play “The Red Devil Battery Sign” (1976) or Edward Albee’s “Three Tall Women “, which The American author also won a Pulitzer Prize for her.The house itself was awarded a special Nestroy Prize in 2004.
60 years of “Vienna’s English Theater”
The English Theater Vienna in Josefstadt will celebrate its 60th birthday in 2023. Ahead of the new season, Vienna Today visited the theatre.
Much has changed since the beginning, Shafrank says. There is much more available in English now than it was 60 years ago. “There are a lot of films in English, young people almost only watch films in the original and we’re obviously benefiting from that,” Šafranik said. Several productions are released each year.
But since Brexit, things have become more complicated. “Now we need three months longer for actors to get a work permit,” says Schafrank.
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