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[Image:Moving Theatre logo]Theaterg’schichten durch Liebe, Intrige, Geld und Dummheit
Theatrical Tales of Love, Intrigue, Money and Stupidity

A Farce with songs in 2 Acts
By Johann Nestroy
Premiere: 1st February 1854

Funded by

Arts council of England

Austrian Cultural Forum

Sebastian Stössl, apothecary and chairman of the council in a small provincial town
Conrad, his son
Philippine, his daughter
Mathias Damisch, his ward, and Philippine’s fiance (originally played by Nestroy)
Schofel, theatre director
Rosaura, his niece, an actress,
Maxner, stage manager and carpenter
Katharine, his wife,
Mali, their daughters, actresses
Krammer, a director
Spindl, prompter,
Fink, assistant director
Spornhofer, a leading man (all employed by Schofel’s company)
Clair, chambermaid to Rosaura
James Inslbull, an English gentleman of private means
Felber, a craftsman
Guard, doctor, clerk, actors and actresses, ladies and gentlemen

Scene: The action of Act 1 takes place in a small provincial town, and of Act 2 in a larger town a week later.

Act 1. Stössl the apothecary has pledged his daughter Philippine and his chemist's shop to his nephew and ward Mathias Damisch. But to the disgust of his future father-in-law, Damisch has ambitions to be an actor. His mind is more on stage than in the shop, with the result that he frequently dispenses the wrong medicines to his customers. Stössl's son Conrad, whose entry into the acting profession three years before had infected Damisch with "the bug", now comes home to his father, repentant, disillusioned about the theatre world, and working as a portrait painter. - [Song, Conrad: "The errors of youth can be forgiven"] - With the aid of his sister Philippine he now sets about dissuading Damisch from going on the stage. But the arrival of a travelling theatre company, whose performance in the town Stössl as chairman of the local council has reluctantly had to approve, ensures that Damisch is more obsessed than ever. When the company's leading man leaves them in the lurch for a more lucrative engagement, Damisch is invited, without his family's knowledge, to take on the vacant role of Phaon in "Sappho", in which the title role is being played by the much admired Rosaura. When the performance is abruptly halted by a downpour, Damisch is recognised and held to account for hastily signing an actor's contract and neglecting his duties to his proper profession and his future wife.

Act 2. Damisch and the theatre company are now in another town, but the theatre director Schofel has been unable to find a venue and is in serious financial trouble. The theatre carpenter Maxner and his rather untalented actress daughters Mali and Lisi hope to take advantage of Schofel's difficulties and take over the company themselves. Damisch has fallen in love with Schofel's niece Rosaura. Conrad hatches a plot with the Maxners to cure him of this unrequited passion and get him to come home. - [Song, Conrad: "Imagine what the apprentices will say"] - Frau Maxner and her daughters lure Damisch to a supposed rendezvous with Rosaura. Conrad disguises himself as Rosaura and shocks Damisch with the romantic suggestion that they commit suicide together. Inslbull, an English gentleman and admirer of Rosaura, arrives to offer her a Shakespearean role with another company. Conrad just manages to slip away in his disguise as the real Rosaura arrives, shows herself to be thoroughly self-centred and ambitious, and accepts the Englishman's offer without a thought for the lovesick Damisch.
Damisch seems to be cured of his infatuation and promises Conrad he will return to his bride and his chemist's shop.
To escape his obligations to his actors, Schofel has himself committed to an asylum. Soon after he is joined there by Damisch, who has been unable to curb his passion for Rosaura after all and has been committed for stalking her all the way to her new theatre. Stössl, Conrad and the Maxners arrive to secure his release, but Damisch, remembering that he will come into his father's inheritance when he marries, decides to wed Rosaura. Schofel, as Rosaura's uncle, suddenly sees an opportunity to restore his finances and his sanity. At the same time Maxner puts in a claim for Damisch's board and lodging. A horrified Stössl blames this turn of events on his son, but Conrad promises to find a cunning way out. The actors tell Maxner that if he pays their outstanding wages they will offer him direction of the company, but Schofel is confident of forestalling them, since Rosaura, who is already disillusioned with her ironic English admirer, agrees to marry Damisch for his inheritance. But she reveals that Schofel is not really her uncle and thus has no claim on the money.
Damisch refuses to listen to the pleas of his guardian, so Conrad keeps his promise. When Rosaura leaves he follows, and when everyone hears a scream they immediately think he has murdered her. But it turns out he is her husband, having married her when they were acting together. Depressed by her lack of feeling, he had left her with the intention of drowning himself. Rosaura withdraws in embarrassment, but not without agreeing with Conrad to divorce. Damisch is enlightened about the true nature of his beloved and cured of his passion for the stage, and resolves to rush home to his Philippine.


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