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Der Zettelträger Papp

[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Der Zettelträger Papp
Papp the Playbill Distributor

A curtain raiser
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: 15th December 1827 in Graz
[Based on Die Heirat durch die Pferdkomödie (1822) by Hermann Herzenskron, adapted by Ferdinand Raimund]

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

A rich lady’s butler
Andres, a servant
Nicodemus Papp, factotum to a touring company of actors (played originally by Nestroy himself)

The action takes place in the house of a wealthy lady, a lover of the theatre.The lady of the house is impatient for the arrival of the "Zettelträger" with the new play bills, so the servant Andres and the butler are looking out for his approach. The butler is excited at the prospect of a new theatre company with a new play, irrespective of whether it is good or bad. Andres on the other hand prefers the tried and trusted repertoire, and is not remotely interested in anything new. Finally Papp arrives, and Andres takes a playbill away to show his mistress. Papp, who claims to be something of a dramatist himself, gets into conversation with the butler about theatre. The most important thing for a theatre company, he explains, is to be new to the area, as the sheer novelty will more or less ensure a play’s success. Companies who have been resident in a place for any length of time have little chance of success in his view, as audiences are always looking for something new.

Version A: The butler informs Papp that whenever his mistress goes to the theatre, it annoys her that only the men are portrayed as heroic. Any heroines that do feature are always drawn either from the Middle Ages or Ancient Greece, never from the present day. For that reason his mistress is intrigued at the prospect of seeing “The 12 Girls in Uniform”. Papp, however, believes the lady will find the piece disappointing. Instead he recommends his own modern adaptation of Schiller’s “Maid of Orleans”. Schiller, he says, couldn’t write a good ending. All of his plays have poorly written endings. Hence the need for Papp’s adaptations.

Version B: The butler tells Papp that whenever his mistress goes to the theatre, it annoys her that so many new plays overdo the sentimental and philosophical content, at the expense of riding and swordplay. Papp begs to differ: there are too many actors who can ride a horse in a rather jaded manner but have a “swashbuckling”, not to say ”butchering” approach to their lines. That is the kind of “swordplay” he, as an author, can do without. He recommends to her ladyship’s attention his own adaptations of Schiller, especially “Don Carlos”, and tells the amused butler that he was personally acquainted with Goethe, Schiller and Lessing, and would have been a friend of Shakespeare’s too if the Bard hadn’t unfortunately died before Papp went on the stage. He then recites “To Be or Not to Be” with excessive pathos and finally borrows the butler’s pocket-book for use as a theatrical prop before disappearing, never to return.


The Plays of Johann Nestroy. A directory of synopses prepared by Julian Forsyth & Zoe Svenson.
Funded by the Austrian Cultural Forum and Arts Council England. © Moving Theatre 2004