Erwin Piscator and Maria Ley-Piscator

Political Theater in Exile

May 2019 – June 2020

Expanding the exhibition

„Piscator is the greatest theater man of all time. He will leave a legacy that we should use.”

Bertolt Brecht

The Exilarte Center expands its exhibition “When I Compose, I’m Back in Vienna” with a portrayal of the life and work of Erwin Piscator and Maria Ley-Piscator. This extension is part of the Lahr von Leitis Archive, which was adopted by the Exilarte Center.

Piscators influence

The exhibition displays Piscator’s significant influence on the development of the theater on both sides of the Atlantic. Piscator firmly believed that “art only serves its purpose if it contributes to human improvement.”

Maria Ley-Piscator

Erwin Piscator

Dramatic Workshop

Erwin Piscator, a pioneer of political and experimental theater, was born on 17th December, 1893 in Ulm, Germany. In 1936 Piscator emigrated to Paris and from there to the United States in 1938. Together with his wife, director and dancer Maria Ley-Piscator, he founded the Dramatic Workshop at the New School for Social Research in New York, and was the director from 1939 to 1951. A whole generation of American actors – e.g. Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, Rod Steiger, Tony Randall, Harry Belafonte – along with writers like Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, as well as directors Julian Beck and Judith Malina were influenced by Piscator’s teaching method.

In 1951 Piscator, threatened by the McCarthy Committee on the Investigation of Anti-American Activities, returned to Germany, meanwhile his wife Maria Ley continued the Dramatic Workshop in NY.