Theater legend celebrates his big birthday: Spirit of the Century – Culture

Still crowned on the top floor of her beautiful yellow castle house in Berlin-Dahlem, which is also the home of her theatrical and media publishing company. The amazing and adorable Maria Sommer will turn 100 years old there on May 4th and still far from retirement. Discovered by Jean Anouilh, Arthur Miller, George Tabori, and Slawmir Mrozek on the German stage, she brought Graham Greene and Peter Ustinov to the stage and, as confidants of Günter Grass, took an interest in his plays and film rights in novels until his journey. death. She helped start Volker Schlöndorff’s Academy Award-winning film “The Tin Drum,” one of whose current authors is Ferdinand von Scherach with corresponding clips that draw audiences.

I brought Tabori, Grace and Arthur Miller to the stage

To describe Maria Sommer as just a great lady in the publishing scene would be too small. She, who until recently did not miss a significant premiere, has never sought the spotlight herself and also keeps a low profile on her big wedding anniversary. But in Germany, the queen of publishing houses.

Great spirit and strong man. In addition, as a lawyer for its authors, it is a leader in modern copyright protection. For many years, Maria Sommer also chaired the board of directors of VG Wort, of which she was the honorary chairman for life.

As a hundred-year-old man, endowed with a bright mind and a beautiful face, you can perhaps compare her today only in Berlin with Margot Friedlander. This is persecuted as a young Jewish girl who survived the Holocaust. Maria Sommer, on the other hand, who grew up in a family far from the Nazis, once said in a very thoughtful conversation: “I will ask myself until the end of my life, how can someone be present and there is then: What is conscience based on? Is there a conscience? a priori?”

Reading is her life. Maria Sommer on her desk.Photo: Photo: Ruth Walz

Her early interest in George Tabori also came from this experience. The Hungarian-English author and theater maker, who was still living in the United States at the time, was brought to Germany in 1969 with his play Cannibal, to the Schiller Theater Workshop. This was the first stage of the drama that took place at Auschwitz, where Tabori’s father was murdered: Requiem combined tragedy and comedy in a way that was at first scandalously strange to local eyes and ears.

Next to Grass and Christa Wolff, Tabori was the closest artist to the theater publisher. What was special about him for you? The answer came without hesitation: “He is a human being.” Only five words said it all. Also about the Berlin native, who has a lot of acronyms, to some extent, paired with a cosmopolitan spirit.

Not yet 23, she had received her doctorate before the end of the war, on “Censorship in the Berlin Theaters of the Nineteenth Century”. During the Nazi era, this seemed to her to be “reasonably harmless” due to the historical distance and also the point where theater artists in former Prussia felt they were more protected by official censorship regulations than if they were at the mercy of the spontaneous arbitrariness of the individual. Police officers. Sommer: “To get my doctorate, I crawled from Schöneberg through the bombed-out city center to the University of Unter den Linden on April 20, 1945, Hitler’s last birthday, one kilometer from his bunker.”

Live and work in Dahlem

Courage and prudence. When Gustav Kiepenheuer reestablished his book publishing company in Weimar in 1945, a young “Miss Doctor” took over the theater department of a temporary office in Berlin as a one-woman department, which had lost many of Brecht and Ernst Toller’s play rights. Or Georg Kaiser which was profitable until 1933. When Kiepenheuer then moved to Cologne with his new partner Caspar Witsch and since then ran the Kiepenheuer & Witsch publishing house, Maria Sommer resided in Berlin, sold one of her father’s gold watches, took out a loan and got ” Gustav Kiepenheuer Stage Sales”. This is the name of the company, which is Maria Sommers Verlag, to this day.

In Villa Dahlem, surrounded by purple, its sitting room on the mezzanine floor is a publishing and reception room. In the dining room overlooking the garden, half a dozen staff members meet with their boss to dine and plan together. On the first floor are the offices, also the residence of the long-serving Caliph Bernd Schmidt, above which a steep staircase leads into the personal realm of the gibblar – recently depicted by Ruth Walz, herself a legendary companion of the theatre, a Schaubuhnny special.

Unfortunately, she never wrote her diary

It is full of books and mountains of manuscripts, and on the desk there is a computer with a magnifying glass, especially because of poor eyesight. More than 700 printed pages of her PhD thesis also found its way to the top. It was recently reprinted and checked by Dr. Sommer examined word for word and footnote to footnote with the exact eye that owes the full German version of Luigi Pirandello’s work. Work now online.

This early work is the only one published in her name alone. What a pity she, the great humble, woman of the century, never wrote her memoirs. You will be my love. Because it is the same. Congratulations and: Viva Maria!

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