On 22 November 2022, at the Thoc Theatre New Stage, the Cyprus Theatre Organisation presented Heinz-Uwe Haus and Theatre Making in Cyprus and Greece, a book dedicated to the work of the acclaimed German director, scholar and teacher Heinz-Uwe Haus, published in 2021 by the prestigious Cambridge Scholars Publishing. The book is edited by Haus himself and Daniel Meyer-Dinkgräfe, who were both present at the event.
Haus’s book charts the entire course of his theatrical activity, documenting a considerable amount of material written and published about his directing, mainly of plays by Brecht, but also by other dramatists from ancient Greece, the Elizabethan period, and the modern repertoire, both in Cyprus and in Greece. It also includes primary material written by the director for his actors, press releases from producers, newspaper reviews and academic articles about the productions, conference papers, as well as reflections from actors, set designers, musicians, lighting designers, and more.
Addressing the honoured director as a valuable and steadfast friend and partner not only of Thoc but also of Cypriot theatre, the President of Thoc’s Board of Directors, Antigoni Papafilippou referred in her brief welcoming remarks to Haus’s impressive range of theatrical activity, of which Thoc is an integral part, underlining what an honour and a pleasure it has been for Thoc to work with such an energetic, generous creator who has done so much to shape Cypriot culture.
Through a panoramic overview of the director’s multifaceted oeuvre, the educator and literary scholar and critic Costas Hadjigeorgiou spoke about the content of the book: “The book, which is edited by Uwe Haus himself and Daniel Meyer-Dinkgräfe, includes, in addition to the introduction, eight chapters and an index. These eight chapters form a collection of texts that tell the story of Haus’s theatrical activities in Cyprus and Greece. These texts, which consist of his notes, interviews, lectures and announcements, as well as reviews, analyses and essays by his collaborators, give a complete image of a complex and impressive body of work. We have the fourteen “professional” productions, as he calls them, of plays by Brecht, Shakespeare, Carvajal, Euripides, Sophocles, Schiller, Borchert, and Ibsen, performed in Nicosia and other Cypriot cities, as well as in Athens, Thessaloniki, Agrinio, Kalamata, Patras and Oiniades. Three of these productions, Brecht’s Mother Courage and The Good Person of Szechwan, and Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, took our theatre beyond the borders of our small country: the first two to Athens, in 1976 and 1979 respectively, and the third to the Weimar Festival in 1976, where not only were they acclaimed, but the special identity of our theatre in comparison with notable foreign companies was also confirmed.
The book records another aspect of Haus’s work which is not open to the general public but that is also of particular significance. In addition to being an eminent director, Haus was also an excellent theatre teacher. Since the 1970s, he has taught and directed in the USA and Canada. Whenever he came to Cyprus for a production, he would run a workshop at the same time. One part of this activity was devoted to Brecht and epic theatre. In an atmosphere quite different to that of the rehearsal room, actors were given the opportunity to discover the theory and methods of epic theatre, which were completely new to them.
His work on ancient Greek drama, which he considered the cradle of Western theatre and culture, is also of great importance. His interest in ancient drama, manifested through professional performances and workshop performances both in Greece and Cyprus, has never waned [...].
What shines through all Haus’s writing is his view of the theatre and how it affects his reading of each play he plans to stage. For Haus, theatre is an artistic process, a craft, which functions within society and reflects the contradictions that arise through social and political conditions. Indeed, he himself tells us that a performance must always seek “the dialectic of historical truth and current topicality [...]”.
Daniel Meyer-Dinkgräfe, Artistic Director of piccolo teatro Haventheater Bremerhaven, Germany, spoke about his relationship with his mentor, Heinz-Uwe Haus: “[…] My fellow actors in the production of The Persians, who had graduated from established theatre schools in Germany in the previous ten years, had not encountered directorial approaches like Haus’s, either during their studies, or later, when practising their profession. It seemed to them that Haus was telling stories, sharing anecdotes or political opinions about things that had happened in the past but also in the present, across cultures, across history. How these related to the rehearsal process, or the content of a play was never clear. It wasn’t until weeks later that the cast realised that every word Haus had spoken had a point, and nothing was random or a matter of chance: the content and context helped the actors develop, gradually and almost imperceptibly, a deep sense of the character that they were playing [...]”.
Despoina Bempedeli, who has played the lead in a significant number of Heinz-Uwe Haus’s productions, made a heartfelt personal statement about her work with the German director:
“[…] In the space of five years, from 1975 to 1979, Haus directed four plays: The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Mother Courage and Her Children, Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechuan, and Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. Our newly established state theatre had already raised the bar high. Thoc’s actors benefitted from valuable new experiences. Thanks to Haus, they were able to understand Brecht’s Method in practice. They gained a new way of performing. What a reward! But our audiences also entered a new process of thinking about and relating to the action on stage. […]
Those of us who have worked with you, Uwe, know that you have left a part of your heart here, full of love for Cyprus, its people, its history, its culture, its tradition, the beauty of its nature. Its sun and sea. You walked and met its ordinary people and one day, in a field somewhere, you saw a discarded, useless cart and you took it with Nikos Kourousiis and transformed it into Mother Courage’s legendary canteen wagon.
Visibly moved, the director Heinz-Uwe Haus responded by thanking Thoc for organising the book launch, saying,
“Our collaboration began many years ago, at the end of August 1975, when I came to Cyprus for the first time to direct a play. Through this experience, which is forty-seven years ago now, a lifelong relationship developed, full of feelings of mutual love and admiration. I remember that with us then were many of the pioneers of Cypriot theatre and its cultural awakening. From the first day, we had with us Vladimiros Kaufkaridis, Christakis Georgiou, Giorgos Kotsonis, Nikos Siafkalis, Panagiotis Sergis, Giannis Katsouris, Niki Maragkou, Monika Vasileiou, Nikos Charalampous, Despoina Bempedeli, Lenia Sorokou, Tzeni Gaitanopoulou, Alkisti Pavlidou, Neofytos Neofytou, Antonis Katsari, Nikos Kourousiis, Stelios Kafkaridis, and from the second production onwards, Glyn Hughes, Andreas Christofidis and Evis Gavriilidis also joined the group. Most of them may not be with us anymore, but they have not ceased to be deep in our hearts and memories.
I feel deeply moved that this evening’s event is organised by Thoc. It gives me the opportunity to share with you, this time in the form of a book, the wide and varied experience I have gained from my work in the theatre here in Cyprus and Greece. I must thank Daniel Meyer-Dinkgräfe and Costas Hadjigeorgiou, who edited the book with me. Their contribution was, at every stage of the process, constant and unfailing. Only as a team could we handle such a lot of material. I also owe special thanks to Neofytos Neofytou, who gave his undivided support to the whole project by coordinating the communication between those involved.
The contribution of Despoina Bempedeli, Stelios Kafkaridis, Antis Partzilis, Antri Konstantinou, Kleitos Ioannidis and Elladios Chandriotis, as well as all my other collaborators, whose names it is not possible to mention at this point, demonstrates that our attempt to bring today’s world to the stage led to a new reception not only of Brecht’s drama and aesthetics, but also of theatre in general [...].”
Heinz-Uwe Haus’s essay Two schools, which appears in the book, was also read by the actor Loukia Piki.
The event was coordinated by Thoc theatre scholar Kyriaki Argyrou. During the presentation, photographs from Uwe Haus’s productions at Thoc were shown, as well as a video celebrating Thoc’s fiftieth anniversary, which focussed on the performances of Brecht’s plays after the 1974 invasion and the director’s pivotal contribution to them.