The hard-edged comedy Professor Bernhardi (1912), by the great Austrian Modernist doctor-writer, Arthur Schnitzler, will be staged in the Anatomy Lecture Theatre on Cambridge University’s Downing site.
An unlikely comedy, Professor Bernhardi tells the story of a Jewish doctor who prevents a Catholic priest from giving the last rites to a patient who is unaware that she is dying. It is a play about doctors talking to doctors, raising questions about the politics and ethics of medical care.
The venue chosen for the performance, the Anatomy Lecture Theatre, has particular meaning for the drama. Anatomical theatres, like dramatic theatres, are places to see and to acquire knowledge. The topography of the anatomy theatre elevates the observer to a position that looks at the open body from above, almost with a birds-eye perspective.
The production will stage Schnitzler’s own archival work. It will shed light on his extensive drafts and notes on Professor Bernhardi, held by Cambridge University Library, and the pathology that shaped the creative process of Schnitzler’s medical drama.
Doors will open at 6pm. A 30-minute pre-show talk by literary scholar Annja Neumann and clinical anatomist Cecilia Brassett will introduce the venue, the current anatomy teaching programme, and the production.
The production is a collaboration between [Foreign Affairs] and academics from the Schnitzler Digital Edition Project, which is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The adaptation was first staged in London’s Barts Pathology Museum in September 2016 (see podcast on performance and a cross-disciplinary symposium on ‘‘Dying Well’. Enacting Medical Ethics’.
Performances in Cambridge are co-organized with the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience.