La Ronde (the original German name is Reigen) is a play written by Arthur Schnitzler in 1897 and first printed in 1900 for his friends. It scrutinizes the sexual morals and class ideology of its day through a series of encounters between pairs of characters (shown before or after a sexual encounter). By choosing characters across all levels of society, the play offers social commentary on how sexual contact transgresses boundaries of class.
Schnitzler's play was not publicly performed until 1920, on 23 December in Berlin and 1 February 1921 in Vienna. (An unauthorized production was mounted earlier, in Budapest in 1912.) The play elicited violent critical and popular reactions against its subject matter.
The titles of the play—in German Reigen and in French La Ronde—refer to a round dance, as portrayed in the English nursery rhyme Ring a Ring o' Roses.
La Ronde was first printed in 1900 for private circulation. In 1903, the first German-language edition was published in Vienna, selling some 40,000 copies, but was banned by the censors a year later. A German editor was found in 1908 to publish the play from Germany. In 1912, it was translated into French and in 1920 into English, and published as Hands Around. In 1917 an English translation written by Marya Mannes was published by Boni & Liveright, inc.
Schnitzler's play was not publicly performed until 1920, on 23 December 1920 in Berlin and 1 February 1921 in Vienna. The play elicited violent critical and popular reactions. Schnitzler suffered moralistic and personal attacks that became virulently anti-Semitic. Schnitzler was attacked as a Jewish pornographer and the outcry came to be known as the "Reigen scandal." Despite a 1921 Berlin court verdict that dismissed charges of immorality against the play, Schnitzler withdrew La Ronde himself from public production in German-speaking countries.
The play remained popular in Russia, Czechoslovakia, and especially in France, where it was adapted for the cinema twice, in 1950 and again in 1964. In 1982, forty years after Arthur Schnitzler’s death, his son Heinrich Schnitzler released the play for German-language performances.
In 1922, the founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud wrote to Schnitzler that "you have learned through intuition—though actually as a result of sensitive introspection—everything that I have had to unearth by laborious work on other persons."
The play is set in the 1890s in Vienna. Its dramatic structure consists of ten interlocking scenes between pairs of lovers. Each of its ten characters appears in two consecutive scenes (with one from the final scene, The Whore, having appeared in the first).Scenes
- The Whore and the Soldier
- The Soldier and the Parlor Maid
- The Parlor Maid and the Young Gentleman
- The Young Gentleman and the Young Wife
- The Young Wife and The Husband
- The Husband and the Little Miss
- The Little Miss and the Poet
- The Poet and the Actress
- The Actress and the Count
- The Count and the Whore
In 1981 the theatrical rights to Schnitzler's play fell temporarily out of copyright and several stage adaptations were crafted and performed.
In 1989, Mihály Kornis re-located its action to communist-era Hungary, rendering the Young Gentleman and the Husband as communist politicians. Michael John LaChiusa's musical adaptation Hello Again was produced off-Broadway in 1994. David Hare's The Blue Room re-located its action to contemporary London, where it was first staged at the Donmar Warehouse in 1998. There have been four notable gay versions of the story: Eric Bentley's Round 2 (1986) is set in New York in the 1970s; Jack Heifner's Seduction and Michael Kearns's pro-safe-sex piece Complications (2004) (Complications was remade as Dean Howell's film Nine Lives); and Joe DiPietro's Fucking Men (2008) (which is set in contemporary New York).
Suzanne Bachner created an adaptation examining 21st-century mores, including, straight, gay, and bisexual characters entitled Circle. Circle opened its five-month off-Broadway run at The Kraine Theater on February 15, 2002, Horse Trade Theater Group presenting The John Montgomery Theatre Company production.
A new musical gay version, written by Peter Scott-Presland with music by David Harrod, ran at the Rosemary Branch Theatre in London in March–April 2011.
Dood Paard, the Amsterdam-based avant-garde theater collective, presented Reigen ad lib at the Peter B. Lewis Theater of the Guggenheim Museum in New York in April 2011.
A new translation, translated by Lukas Raphael, directed by Joel Cottrell and designed by Amber Dernulc set in 1953, opened at The White Bear in London in August 2011.
A new contemporary adaptation, by American playwright Steven Dietz, is called 360 (round dance). It was scheduled to premiere in November 2011.
The dramatic structure of the play has been utilized by longform improv ensembles. A series of two-person improvised scenes are interwoven in the same way as Schnitzler's characters are. The form was first used by Craig Cackowski in Chicago in the mid-1990s.
In his autobiography, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: and Other Things I've Learned, Alan Alda says that for the first story he wrote for M*A*S*H (an episode titled "The Longjohn Flap"), he borrowed the structure from La Ronde. "In my version, the object that's passed from couple to couple is a pair of long johns during a cold spell in the Korean winter."
These films are based upon La Ronde (1896), some without crediting the play or the playwright:La Ronde (Max Ophüls, 1950)
La Ronde (Roger Vadim, 1964)
Hot Circuit (Richard Lerner, 1971)
Reigen (Otto Schenk, 1973)
La Ronde (Kenneth Ives, 1982)
New York Nights (Simon Nuchtern, 1983)
Choose Me (Alan Rudolph, 1984)
La ronde de l'amour (Gérard Kikoïne, 1985)
Chain of Desire (Temistocles Lopez, 1992)
Karrusel (Claus Bjerre, 1998)
Love in the Time of Money (Peter Mattei, 2002)
Nine Lives (Dean Howell, 2004)
Sexual Life (Ken Kwapis, 2005)
Deseo (Antonio Zavala Kugler, 2010)
360 (written by Peter Morgan and directed by Fernando Meirelles, 2011)
30 Beats (Alexis Lloyd, 2012)