Cuban Theater Digital Archive

Ludwig Schajowicz

Director, adapter

Philosopher and theater director Ludwig Schajowicz was born in what was the capital of Bucovina which belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire but moved to Vienna when he was two years old. His parents, Dr. Salomon Schajowicz and Dora Berger, instilled in him a passion for theater since he attended his first performance at the Burgtheater of Franz Grillparzer's Libussa. Although we can only conjecture the impact the play must have had on young Ludwig, the play's themes of separation and search for fusion of the sacred and secular are an uncanny prefiguration of schajowicz's own biography and they are themes to which he would return in his philosophical work. 

He attended the prestigious Volksschule first and then the Akademisches Gymnasium before entering the University of Viena's School of Philosophy. While at the University he founded a theater group called Théâtre Bleu and soon after entered Max Reinhard's Seminar (Adademy for Performing Arts) to study stage direction. At the seminar he was introduced to Europe's most innovative theatrical techniques including Stanislawski's method. He also directed several plays at the Schönbrunn Theater which had been assigned to Reinhard's Seminar in 1929. At the University, he continued to study philosophy as well as Psychology, Aesthetics, Art History, Ethnology, Characterization, and Dramaturgy for the Opera. He was an avid reader and was introduced to Wittgenstein and Freud. Clearly, his formal and informal education reflected Vienna's cultural and intellectual scene during this period, and he was an active participant of it. 

In 1933, he attended a series of courses on the science of theater taught by theater historian and librettist Joseph Gregor at the National Library; Gregor had founded the library's Theater Collection in 1922. He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy in 1934 with a dissertation Mimik als Kuntswissenschaft (Mimic as a Science of Art) supervised by Karl Bühler (linguist and philosopher who also trained Wittgenstein, Popper, and Gombrich), and Moritz Schlick, founding father of the Vienna Circle. 

Two events are going to alter Schajowicz life for ever: the assassination of Schlick in 1934 and the Nazi occupation of Austria in 1938. He was forced to flee to Switzerland in June of the same year and in October he received an immigrant visa from the Consulate of Cuba. The International Committee for the Placing of Refugee Intellectuals paid for his trip from Bordeaux to Santiago de Cuba, where he arrived December 31st, 1938. He immediately continued his trip to Havana where he would start a new life, study the language, and share the knowledge and worldview of the Vienna Circle.

His life in Havana began as librarian for a North American Quaker organization. During those early years, he was a frequent collaborator of various German speaking exile organizations in Havana such as Rundschau, a magazine written in German, and the Austrian League where he was a cultural delegate along with composer Paul Czonka who years later would become director of the Civic Opera of the Palm Beaches.  He then became instructor of technical and literary German at the Escuela Libre de La Habana, a school founded originally for the Spanish fleeing the Civil War. In 1939 he gave his first presentation in Spanish titled "Nuevas tendencias del teatro contemporaneo" and eventually started to offer theater classes at the Escuela Libre first and then at the important Academia de Artes Dramáticas (ADAD) where he also stages with his students Schnitzler, Chekhov, and O'Neill, among others.

In 1941, the University of Havana invited him to stage Sophocles' Antigone which would become a historical production: it inaugurated the famous University Theater Festivals and was the precursor of Teatro Universitario de La Habana, which he would founded immediately after. He fell in love with Luisa Caballero, the actress who played the leading role, married her the following year, and she became his life-long companion. He soon started offering classes at the University of Havana's Seminario de Artes Dramáticas, also created by him in order to prepare students for the university theater group. Between 1941 and 1947, the years that mark his residency at the University of Havana, he taught Psychology and Techniques of Drama, History of Theater and Dramatic Literature, and Modern Performing Arts.

Between 1943 and 1946, he meet several times with Spanish philosopher María Zambrano during her frequent trips to Havana from Puerto Rico. Zambrano shared her impressions of him with Dr. Jaime Benitez, the rector of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), who invited him in 1947 to give a series of lectures titled "El teatro como fiesta y ritual." He was Visiting Professor at the UPR until 1950 when he was appointed professor in Fine Arts and director of Puerto Rico's University Theater. He followed in San Juan the path he had begun in Havana; he staged the first Greek tragedies on the island - Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis (1949) and Hecuba (1950) and trains Puerto Rico's leading actors and directors.

While in Puerto Rico, he had the opportunity to return to Europe for the first time in 1952 during his sabbatical year. He participated in several international congresses and stayed in Paris for most of the year to renew his philosophical vocation and studies. While in Paris, he attended Gaston Bachelard's Philosophy classes and Etienne Souriau's courses in Aesthetics at La Sorbonne, Merleau Ponty's courses at the Collège de France, and Art and Ethnology courses by Pierre Francastel and Maurice Leenhardt at the École des Hautes Études.

Upon his return to Puerto Rico, he was appointed Interim Chair of Fine Art in 1954 and then Chair of Philosophy in 1956. in 1963, while in Europe, he suffered a stroke and was convalescent until 1964 when he returned to Puerto Rico to continue his teaching and writing career. He founded that same year the Philosophy journal Diálogos, which would become a leading journal in Latin America. He retired in 1977, was appointed Emeritus Professor in 1979, and he continued lecturing nationally and internationally, and writing his most important philosophical work until his death.



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Author: Lillian Manzor (May 2012)

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