Leon Epp

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Leon Epp (born May 29, 1905 in Vienna , † December 21, 1968 in Eisenstadt ) was an Austrian director , theater director and actor .

The theater "The Island"

After working as an actor in Teplitz-Schönau and on German theaters, Epp founded the theater " Die Insel " at Parkring 6 in Vienna in 1937, in a hall of the Palais Eugen, which opened on September 20, 1937 with Paul Claudel's Der Bürge . Epp played writers like Aristophanes ( Plutos , The Peace ), Goldoni and even Pergolesi ( The Music Master ). On March 12, 1938, the theater was occupied by the SS and finally closed in June 1938.

After that, Epp occasionally directed at the Deutsches Volkstheater (director: Walter Bruno Iltz ), where he also appeared in 1938 as Christopherl in Johann Nestroy's " He wants to make a joke ". 1939-41 Epp was together with Rudolf Haybach director of the "Komödie" in Johannesgasse 4 (the later Metro-Kino). The ensemble included Elisabeth Epp, Helmut Janatsch , Hans Brand and the young Josef Meinrad . By March 1940, “ Die Komödie ” brought out ten world premieres, played a total of 241 performances and ten guest performances. "Die Komödie" brought "one of the most interesting and impressive theater evenings of the season" (Weltbild) in February 1940 with the first performance of Heinrich Zerkaulen's "The Rider" in Epp's direction, who also played the role of Rudolf II the young Oskar Werner in Franz Grillparzer's " Das goldene Vlies ". In 1941, after financial problems, "Die Komödie" was attached to the German Volkstheater as the second KdF theater, owned by the German Labor Front . Until 1944, Epp was also senior director in Bochum and Graz .

After the end of the war, Epp wanted to revive his earlier concept from the "Insel" in the "Komödie" in Johannesgasse. City councilor Viktor Matejka granted Epp the concession, the theater, renamed by Epp " The Island in Comedy ", opened on October 18, 1945 with " Uncle Vanya " by Anton Chekhov . The capacity was 453 places. Epp's wife Elisabeth Epp wrote:

"The theater 'Die Insel' in the comedy is to be run as a stage tailored to the needs of a cosmopolitan city, which is clearly at the service of poetry and performs every drama in world literature that is not available on other Viennese theaters for budget reasons And to which the cultivation of modern psychological and problem drama is particularly close. As an experimental stage for works of modern dramatic literature. "

In order to finance the demanding program, Epp leased the Renaissance Theater Vienna in Neubaugasse in 1948 as an additional venue for light fare. However, the expected income did not materialize and Epp had to hand over the Renaissance Theater to Paul Löwinger in 1949 .

Epp then staged as a freelance director at the Burgtheater , which after the war used the former Ronacher variety theater as an alternative accommodation ("Traube in der Kelter" by Richard Billinger , 1951) and in the Theater in der Josefstadt ("Christina's homeward journey" by Hugo von Hofmannsthal . 1951 ).

Director of the Vienna Volkstheater 1952–1968

1952–1968 Epp was director of the Vienna Volkstheater . Its direction was characterized by plays by contemporary dramatists such as Albert Camus , Friedrich Dürrenmatt , Sean O'Casey , Jean Cocteau , Thornton Wilder , Tennessee Williams , William Faulkner , Jean Anouilh , John Osborne , Heinar Kipphardt and great classic productions as well as the cultivation of Austrian literature. Since the motto "It has to be dared"

Some of the Austrian premieres caused a sensation, such as the production of Jean-Paul Sartre's The Dirty Hands (1954/55), which the author himself tried to prevent with a trip to Vienna because, in his opinion, it was overtaken by the passage of time . In the 1962/63 season, the Volkstheater dared to play a play by Bertolt Brecht with Mother Courage and her children , after the internationally acclaimed playwright had spent many years in Austria against the backdrop of the Cold War under the direction of Hans Weigel and Friedrich Torberg in the so-called " Brecht boycott " had been boycotted . The press spoke of the "Blockadebrecher" premiere on February 23, 1963 with Dorothea Neff and directed by Gustav Manker , who subsequently also directed The Caucasian Chalk Circle .

In the next season, The Deputy of Rolf Hochhuth even caused fights on the floor in the Austrian premiere. The theater director Epp interrupted the premiere in order to step on the stage himself and proclaim: "Everyone who is attending this performance should ask himself whether he was in any way complicit in the things described here." 1961 there was for Jean Genets The Balcony won first prize at the Theater des Nations Festival in Paris, in 1963 Genets The Walls was played for the first time , both times in the decor of the painter Hubert Aratym . A Wedekind cycle was part of the program as well as classics from Shakespeare to Goethe and Schiller .

Epp gave special care to the Austrian folk piece by Ludwig Anzengruber , Johann Nestroy and Ferdinand Raimund , for whom he had a first-class ensemble with Karl Skraup , Hans Putz , Hugo Gottschlich , Fritz Muliar , Walter Kohut , Kurt Sowinetz and Hilde Sochor and all of them from Gustav Manker, who, alongside Epp, was the decisive director of the house, chief set designer and the ideal complement to Epp. Schiller's Die Räuber (1959) in particular were groundbreaking on a two-part simultaneous stage directed and set by Manker. Austrian Modernism from Arthur Schnitzler to Ödön von Horváth , Ferdinand Bruckner and Ferenc Molnár and the world premiere of Helmut Qualtinger's The Execution (1965) were also in Manker's hands.

Young discoveries were Nicole Heesters as Gigi (1953), Elisabeth Orth and (1958) Elfriede Irrall , the 1961 Lulu triumphed. Käthe Dorsch as Elisabeth von England , Marianne Hoppe in Strindbergs Traumspiel and Hilde Krahl as Lady Macbeth and Libussa offered rare guest appearances .

In 1954, together with the Chamber for Workers and Employees, Epp founded the series of plays “Volkstheater in der Außenbezirken”, during which productions of the Volkstheater toured through the districts of Vienna in order to bring “culture to the people”. After Leon Epp's accidental death in 1968, Gustav Manker took over his business and became his successor.

Leon Epp was married to the actress Elisabeth Epp since 1936 . He had three sons with her. Epp is buried at the Vienna Central Cemetery in an honorary grave (group 40, number 21) at the side of his wife.




  • Karin Breitenecker: It has to be dared. the direction of Leon Epp at the Volkstheater 1952–1968. Vienna 1991 (Vienna, university, diploma thesis, 1991).
  • Angela Eder: Between avant-garde theater and paper rose. The Island in Comedy, 1945–1951. Vienna 2005 (Vienna, university, dissertation, 2005).
  • Elisabeth Epp : happiness on an island. Leon Epp, life and work. Braumüller, Vienna et al. 1974, ISBN 3-7003-0083-2 .
  • Historical Museum of the City of Vienna (Ed.): Theater Die Insel in der Komödie (= Historical Museum. Special exhibition. 236). Museums of the City of Vienna, Vienna 1998, ISBN 3-9500740-1-5 (exhibition catalog).
  • Dietrich Hübsch: Uncompromising theater against inertia and lethargy of affluence. Interview with Leon Epp. In: Dietrich Hübsch (Red.): The Vienna “Volkstheater” 1889–1966 (= Mask and Kothurn. Vol. 13, Issue 4, ISSN  0025-4606 ). Böhlau, Wien et al. 1967, pp. 299-317, doi : 10.7767 / muk.1967.13.4.299 .
  • Paulus Manker : Searching for Traces. The theater man Gustav Manker . Amalthea Signum, Vienna 2010, ISBN 978-3-85002-738-0 .
  • Evelyn Schreiner (Ed.): 100 years of popular theater. Theatre. Time. History. Jugend und Volk, Vienna et al. 1989, ISBN 3-224-10713-8 .
  • Wiener Volkstheater (Ed.): It must be daring. Leon Epp, 1905-1968. Volkstheater director 1952–1968. Wiener Volkstheater, Vienna 1999.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Joseph Gregor : History of the Austrian Theater from its Origins to the End of the First Republic. Donau-Verlag, Vienna 1948.
  2. Paulus Manker : Search for traces. The theater man Gustav Manker . 2010.
  3. ^ Elisabeth Epp : Happiness on an island. Leon Epp, life and work. 1974.