How much do you know about “the Einstein of sex” Magnus Hirschfeld and his film Anders als die Andern? Discovering this 1919 silent gem one night on YouTube inspired playwright Claudio Macor to pen his new play about another little-known corner of cinematic and LGBTQ history. Different From the Others premieres at London’s White Bear Theatre from 29 October to 16 November 2019. Time to get booking!
During the brief period of liberalism in Weimar Berlin in 1919, famous sexologist Dr Magnus Hirschfeld becomes concerned with the increase in male suicide and decides to make a film to educate young gay men. He hires director Richard Oswald who casts Conrad Veidt, Anita Berber and Reinhold Schunzel.
One hundred years since the release of the resulting film Anders als die Andern (Different From the Others), Claudio Macor‘s Different From the Others explores the story behind the making of the film and its aftermath, including the ultimate betrayal: the Nazis tried to destroy all prints of the film… but one survived.
The premiere production, directed by three-times Offies nominated Jenny Eastop, stars Jeremy Booth as Dr Magnus Hirchfeld, Christopher Sherwood as Richard Oswald, Jordan Alexander as Conrad Veidt, Benjamin Garrison as Reinhild Schunzel, Beth Eyre as Anita Berber and Simon Stallard as Kurt Geise.
Talking to… Claudio Macor
You’ve written numerous plays based on real historical events. Are you always looking for material from the past?
I feel that real-life stories find me. I do have a knack of identifying a great story, a true gem and act on it. I believe that the past informs who we are today, how far we’ve come and yet not far enough. What really appeals to me is what people went through for our freedoms. I was born to Italian parents in apartheid South Africa and discrimination of any kind strikes a deep chord.
I cannot sit still and do nothing when I come across stories of discrimination. I become a man on fire, wanting, needing to tell those stories. The dramatic pull is so intense that it impels me to write them. When it comes to gay history, I become even more on fire because we have to know what we went through. Survival is always key. The stories have to be a story of survival. That is my joy.
Cinematic history, in particular, seems a rich vein. Different From Others follows The Tailor-Made Man and In the Dead of Night. Is there something that links these three?
Cinematic history always fascinated me, I find the hypocrisy staggering and the survival even more inspiring. Films, movie moguls, studios were pushing their own agenda and propaganda and yet my characters survive. It gives me and the audience a sense of achievement and winning. These are the themes that link all my cinematic plays.
How did you come across Anders als die Andern?
Okay, I admit it! I was watching gay short films on YouTube one night, trying to find something half decent when I came across a black and white image. I clicked and I discovered Anders als die Andern (“Different From the Others”). I was cold with excitement and in awe of how modern the film was. I couldn’t believe that I had found another gem. I watched it about ten times knowing that I had to tell this story. And I had to tell it this year, 100 years since its release.
What research did you do?
I knew about the actor Conrad Veidt already, I had a good knowledge of the Weimer Republic and German Expressionism, so the main research was the characters.
Does the play focus on a particular person?
The main character in the play is Magnus Hirschfeld, the famous sexologist and, some say, the very first gay activist. It was his passion to make the film that truly inspired me. I based him on myself when I’m in production: full of gumption, vigour and fire. The opening scene is completely me. A man on fire.
Why did you want Jenny Eastop to direct Different From the Others?
I met Jenny Eastop last year at the Offie Awards. We seem to have that same fire and gumption. I knew I had to work with her and Different From the Others is the perfect project. She is a brilliant and hugely respected director. I’m privileged and honoured she’s directing my new play.
Why should audiences see Different From Others?
I want people to discover this great film and story. I want the silent film community to discover and support such an incredible find. But, above all, I want audiences to be blown away by how modern the film is. The inter-titles could have been written by modern-day gay activists – and this was Berlin, 1919.
What are your future plans?
The White Bear Theatre is a great place to start, but my plan is to take this play forward, to reach as many people as possible.
Anything else you’d like to add?
A bit of trivia… My birthday is May 6th. On May the 6th 1987, I was given a copy of Kenneth Anger‘s Hollywood Babylon, where I discovered the story of William “Billy” Haines and went on to write The Tailor-Made Man. On May the 6th 2015, I was reading The Guardian and discovered the article by Peter Tatchell about Dr Carl Vaernet and went on to write Savage. The Nazis burnt the negative of Different From the Others on May the 6th of 1933.
Different From the Others runs from 29 October to 16 November 2019 at the White Bear Theatre, 138 Kennington Park Rd, Kennington, London SE11 4DJ, with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm, Sundays at 4pm. Tickets are priced £12-16. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!