Theatre and Film, Johnny Carson School of


Date of this Version



Published in Theatre Annual 57 (2004): 27-42. Copyright © 2004 by The College of William & Mary. Used by permission.


In 1869, the Prussian House of Deputies passed a law that transformed theatre practice in Berlin and other Prussian cities. When the newly unified Germany came into being two years later, the 1869 law became the legal order of business for all theatres within the new Reich. That law, called the Gewerbefreiheit Gesetz (Freedom to Engage in Business Act), put an end to the way theatre had formerly been produced, dissolving the concession system that had been in operation for decades previous; it also terminated a tradition that had functioned for centuries, both in Prussia and in nearly all other German-speaking states. Yet few students of the German theatre - not to mention students of the theatre in general-are familiar with the concession system, ramifications of the 1869 law that discontinued it, nor with conditions prior to 1869 contributing to the law's enactment. This essay is an attempt to provide historical scrutiny to, and broader familiarity with, personalities and procedures involved in nineteenth-century Prussian theatre production during the decades preceding formation of the Wilhelmine Empire.