Fräulein Else by Arthur Schnitzler, adapted by Amy de Lucia

Edinburgh Festival, 2003 and off-off-Broadway, 2006


Amy de Lucia first approached me with a copy of Arthur Schnitzler’s novella Fräulein Else in 1999, while we were working on How I Learned to Drive in Bangor, ME. Amy said she felt sure that there was a play in there, if only she could figure out how to unearth it. After I read it, I felt that the $64,000 question was: was it a one-woman play or an eight character play? Amy started with the eight character idea and slowly revised, rewrote and whittled her way to a one-woman show.

By the time she had arrived at a workable draft, I was in graduate school in the UK. She worked, on and off, with her acting coach, Eve Collyer, while I was away. I helped her, though I didn’t direct her, prepare to take the show to the Edinburgh International Theatre Festival in 2003, where it received great critical acclaim.

Helping the playwright

We workshopped the production in early 2004 at Manhattan Ensemble Theatre, refining her script and distilling her performance. After an eighteen-month search for a producer or investors yielded no results, Amy and I decided to produce the play here in New York on our own. On a smaller scale than we had originally envisioned, we strove to create an off-Broadway quality production on an off-off-Broadway budget. I insisted that we find the money to hire a professional design team: David Zyla designed the costumes; Robert F. Wolin designed the set and Karen Spahn designed the lighting.

Helping the actress

At this point in the evolution of the work, I felt that my task was to help Amy rediscover the story. She has been working on it for several years and while she is very close to it, the spontaneity, the life of the piece, was missing. I worked very hard in rehearsal to challenge her, to reinvigorate the journey for her through improvisations and exercises designed to give her that sense of the unexpected, to make visceral for her the twists and turns which Else experiences in the play.

About the author and the play

Arthur Schnitzler, the Austrian author and playwright, is best known for such plays as La Ronde and The Game of Love, as well as for adaptations of his work such as David Hare’s The Blue Room, and Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.

Schnitzler has deservedly been the topic of much recent discussion and intrigue in both the artistic and academic worlds. He is much known for delving into the human subconscious through exploring dreams, forbidden desires and fantasies. His short stories exhibit equal mastery and intuitiveness through their examination of the human mind of 20th century Vienna.

In his novella Fräulein Else, Schnitzler brings the reader deep inside the psyche of an seventeen-year-old girl and studies the tragedy of young life lost. He holds the reader suspended between the beauty and exuberance of sexual naiveté and heartbreaking tragedy. Schnitzler wrote this novella in stream of consciousness, which lends itself to an exquisitely dramatized, hauntingly revealing, cathartic new piece of theatre.

Fräulein Else is a remarkable story about a young woman, brimming with life, curious about what it holds for her, innately vital and full of love that she wants to share. But Else is caught in a world that keeps reminding her that she is not free to feel and express as she would like, at least not without startling consequences.

Ivanna Cullinan wrote “In a demanding show which requires all things to be communicated through the one character and her stream-of-consciousness thoughts, de Lucia does not shirk from the difficulties. Urgency and high emotions surge through her Else, and the tormented flailing, arrogance, and awkwardness of a teenager is clearly evoked . . . The fullness of Else’s experience, and the tragedy of her inability to find a way out of it, are in place. Crucially, de Lucia navigates the play’s ending assuredly and clearly, finding a powerful honesty in her own voice and communicating the palpable relief of giving up when all is truly lost. Fräulein Else overall is a graceful production of a turbulent time in any life, and all too pertinent within our own political scene.”

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