Biedermann und die Brandstifter

By (and 65 years after) Max Frisch
Staging: Nicolas Stemann

When Max Frisch’s Biedermann und die Brandstifter celebrated its world premiere at the Pfauen 65 years ago, the positive reactions were based on a misunderstanding: the Zurich audience did not understand the play as a farce about bourgeois hypocrisy but quite literally as a call not to let strangers into their houses. Max Frisch was dismayed and added an epilogue to the play to clarify its satirical intent.

Despite the author’s dismay, the misunderstanding of the Zurich premiere might not be entirely coincidental: after all, in the play, the poor and penniless hawkers burn down the city, not the wealthy Biedermänner, the petty bourgeois. The play clearly mentions that their prosperity is based, among other things, on the fact that they sell their own grandmothers, but it remains unseen – they profit from the suffering of the world, but they don’t want to see it.

Is it possible that the famous “teaching play without a lesson” involuntarily tells us more about its context and its author than was intended by the latter?

At the end of a turbulent artistic directorship, not lacking in misunderstandings, co-artistic director Nicolas Stemann revisits this Swiss satire about bourgeois mendacity, false hospitality and distorted self-images. In the end, it is not only the roof gables that are on fire – at least according to the play.

  • Premiere: 21. March 2024, Pfauen
Bits on Pieces
More texts and contexts related to our stagings in the theatre’s journal.
The Directors Talk
About Season 23/24

The 23/24 season of the Schauspielhaus Zürich will be special. Not only because it is the last season of Nicolas Stemann's and Benjamin von Blomberg's directorship, but also because the eight house directors are all returning to the house once again to work on new productions. In eight short videos, they talk about their plans.