Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 September 2018
“Mr. Herzfeld will see you now.” The banker received me in his private office, Unter den Linden 21.
“Your father has credited you for 100,000 marks with us. He has also given me instructions to deposit 50,000 marks security in your name at the Police Headquarters, and to guarantee your lease of the Theater am Schiffb auerdamm from its owners. Please be so kind as to follow me.”
He led me into a bathroom and put his hand on the flusher. “I can pay you the sum in cash. If you throw it in here and pull”—he pulled the cord—“then it's gone, and so are your worries. If you open a theater with it, then it's also gone, but you have a big problem on your hands.” I thanked him and transferred my money to another bank. I had no nerves, at the time, for that kind of joke. On my way home I bought a small blue notebook as a temporary ledger. I sat down with it at my writing desk and entered: “Blue notebook … 5 pfennig.”
I now had a theater in Berlin that had to open in nine months. I offered Erich Engel, whom I consider to have been the most important director of the twenties, the production of the first play. He was interested, and we met at the bar of the Hotel Bristol, where he did most of his work, in order to discuss which play it would be. I remember his first suggestion, to hire a star cast for Wedekind's Spring Awakening, a work which at that time was seen as revolutionary and aggressive. I decided against the project; it was the kind of thing better suited to Reinhardt's intimate theater. We considered one of the chapters in The Last Days of Mankind by Karl Kraus, and rejected it. This long book was written for the reader and not the stage—the characters have no theatrical life. Later, I acted in a studio performance of “The Last Night,” from the same work. Despite much admiration from the press and the ambitious literary public, it never became part of the regular repertoire.