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Rochus Gliese – Director, Stage actor, Stage designer: Tribute 30 years after Gliese’s death

19. December 2008 – 16. March 2009

Even the most genial stage designers are subject to the fate, that although their designs contribute a lot to performances, they are being put away by the critics, with sidelines like “a lovely stage design by Rochus Gliese”. Stage designers belong to the soon forgotten, their fame withers soon. Today Rochus Gliese is only known by theatre- or filmhistorians.

Rochus Gliese is one of the pioneers of cinematography. Already in the 1910’s he worked with Paul Wegener, who lead the fantastic cinema to artistic heights. He was responsible for the decorating and optical tricks, he also performed as a stage actor and overtook directing for the star Paul Wegener.

In the early twenties he changed to Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, and in 1927 he went with him to the USA, where they produced the film  Sunrise – A Song of Two Humans. In Hollywood they had all kinds of freedom and they used these extensively. At a remote and difficult to access reservoir, Gliese established an entire German village, including a church.

Trees were relocated and provided with artifical leaves. All this was done so the arrival of holiday makers could be filmed from the lake. For this Gliese was nominated for the first Oscar for stage decorating. A model of the market square that von Gliese reconstructed in the 1950’s, is the centre piece of the exhibition. Here you can experience different camera perspectives. Stills from the film and an “audio station” from which you can hear Gliese himself, complete the presentation.

Not much is known about Gliese’s private life. From letters and other documents one can guess his gay tendency. Two homo-erotic works of art, with which Gliese admired his mentor Paul Wegener, can be seen at the exhibition.

In the 1930’s he mainly worked as a stage designer for the theatre. The exhibition shows his long term cooperation with Gustaf Gründgens, showing photographs, costumes and concepts for stage- and costume designs. You also can see two stage models from Gründgens’ screenplay Der blaue Boll by Ernst Barlach, which Gliese reconstructed in the 1950’s for a theatre exhibition in Stuttgart

The models stem from the theatre collection of the Stadtmuseum Berlin. With loans from the Akademie der Künste, the Deutsches Historisches Museum, the Theaterinstitut of the Freie Universität, with letters from Gründgens’ legacy of the Staatsbibliothek, and through many objects of the Deutsche Kinemathek Glieses work can be recovered.

Curator: Wolfgang Theis