SOUL OF FIRE – she fought for peace
English Version of the play FEUERSEELE / SOUL OF FIRE
Bertha von Suttner – Monologue for Maxi Blaha by Susanne Wolf
Renowned Austrian pacifist, Bertha von Suttner is the central figure of “Feuerseele – Sie kämpfte für den Frieden“, “Soul of fire – She fought for peace”. The well known Austrian Actress Maxi Blaha portrays in deliberately and chronologically chosen chapters, contrasts and episodes, the main concerns of B. v. Suttner. Either passionate humanitarian engagements or dramatic love-affairs in later years, the heroine’s life’s vicissitudes are presented in a moving, yet humorous manner.
Suttner, a strong woman, openly and directly struggles with her basic being. She reveals her visions, her feelings and her misery. She shows the ups and down of her struggle with life. She does so unsparingly honest and hopefully idealistic.
Susanne F. Wolf’s play indicates where Bertha’s life and exogenous conditions harmonized or contradicted with her biography. Based upon scientific research, the play puts the important political, psychological and emotional aspects of Suttner’s life into focus. Passages from Suttner’s book and literary text are subtly mingled. The musically accompanied ”one woman play” in English is a stirring stocktaking of our times, showing that the great visions and ideals of B. v. S. have remained unresolved to this day and age. The play is a theatrical endeavour to disseminate the ideas of the great humanist, to keep them alive.
The debut performance of the play took place in the Austrian parliament in 2014. Over 100 performances all over Austria, in Paris, Istanbul, Oslo, Maribor, Bratislava, in the USA, Canada, all over Japan, in Australia, New Zealand, Iran…
Maxi Blaha was invited to international theatre festivals as well as to the European Parliament in Brussels and the United Nations. She was the first actress to have aa public theater performance at the prestigious NOBELINSTITUT in Oslo, Norway.
„The emotional and political life of a peace activist is scripted and performed with feeling and understanding. Soul of Fire is an elegant little play that gently and economically recreates the life and spirit of Bertha von Suttner, peace activist, writer and, in 1905, the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Austrian actress Maxi Blaha brings a restless intelligence to the role. On a rich carpet square with a couple of old-fashioned chairs, one for her and one for unobtrusive but evocative guitar accompanist Georg Buxhofer she appears in a dress with a fabulously long and heavy 19th-century train. Later in the piece she reverts to contemporary black pants and blouse, but that train becomes an image for the constraints of the times on women…..
Blaha is convincing as a woman of her times, limited in access to formal education and political rights, but able through the chances of her life (and dare it be said, the authority of her social class) to advocate publicly for peace. She dies just before the outbreak of World War I, which is only the extreme intensification of many simmering conflicts. She hands out a pamphlet to the audience that makes it clear she foresees a massive conflict. Why not, she says, simply lay down your arms? Who really wants war? Who speaks up for peace?
The effect on an audience with 100 more years of violent history to factor in could very well be depressing. But Blaha’s intense and persuasive performance makes it clear that peace activism continues and must continue. This is emotional and political life scripted and performed with feeling and understanding.“
(SYDNEY MORNING HERALD)
„…Blaha is convincing as a woman of her times, limited in access to formal education and political rights, but able through the chances of her life (and dare it be said, the authority of her social class) to advocate publicly for peace. She dies just before the outbreak of World War I, which is only the extreme intensification of many simmering conflicts.“
“A smouldering epitaph of a wondrous soul.
The statuesque figure resembling the Venus de Milo is Maxi Blaha…she eloquently reiterates Bertha Von Suttner’s peaceful request to Lay Down Your Arms. Maxi extends her arms above her head and her folk harmonies give voice to Suttner’s life and Nobel Peace Prize pacifist novel.
Georg Buxhofer accompaniment of constant base notes on guitar keeps the fire burning….
Blaha effortlessly jumps from character to character.
Maxi is captivating from the beginning as Bertha’s mother. Narrating her exploitation of Bertha’s accomplishments in languages and singing in Austrian Court.
Segments of songs provide an intermission in the dialogue. The words sung hauntingly by Blaha…In his direction, Alexander Hauer capitalises on Maxi’s powerful presence to convey Wolf’s dialogue: “women were encouraged to embroider the flags to be flown during war” and should not be privy to the “blood filled empty torso’s” of dying soldiers….Maxi details Bertha’s fame exuberantly and her subsequent novels.
A highlight is Wolf’s interactive political scene, involving the audience. Maxi ethereally hands out essays of Bertha’s pacifist work, in realistic prop sheets printed in Viennese. A very affective scene. Appearing to be an almost rudimentary handing out of an agenda at a United Nations general assembly.
The one and only costume change is telling of a shift in Bertha’s mentality, adding a parallel to today’s woman. While she proceeding with the description of the novel, Maxi removes her skirt to fully reveal her pants and then the sleeves from the top part of her costume. She lay them neatly on the stage. Literally, laying down her arms.
Maxi Blaha gave a flawless portrayal of the life of Bertha Von Suttner. Conclusive statements of ” war is still war” mesmerise till blackout.“
(THE AGE, Melbourne)
„Gripping performance by Austrian star…In a gripping performance, Austrian actress, Maxi Blaha, portrays episodes from Bertha von Suttner’s life and work. Costumed by Moana Stemberger in a turn-of-the-century period gown over a pair of modern-day trousers and stylishly modern shoes, Blaha creates an impressive figure, giving a modern-day relevance to the story of this woman who achieved so much for the peace movement.
All aspects of this complex woman are portrayed extremely well. We see the frustration of an intelligent, educated woman trying to find her place in a world of men, flirting with a singing career initially and turning more successfully to writing.
She’s not perfect. Some of her airs and graces are unattractive and there are hints of depression.
The accompanying mood music on electric guitar played by Georg Buxhofer adds a pleasing and haunting dimension to the show. The simple set gives the impression of a period drawing room with tall windows using only some simple curtaining and expert lighting.
This is an opportunity to see a major Austrian actress in performance. The depth of characterisation presented here is quite extraordinary.“
(CITY NEWS, Canberra)
„Women Have Always Been Part Of The Fight For Peace
…The highlight was a passionate solo performance, Soul of Fire, by Austrian actress Maxi Blaha as von Suttner. Blaha said that slipping into the pacifist’s role has become her life’s work, and that she wanted to follow in the trail laid internationally by von Suttner, as an envoy for the “fraternity between nations” that Nobel mentioned in his will and that von Suttner sought. The performance showed a determined, disappointed, fierce, vulnerable, occasionally angry, and profoundly womanly peace activist. As such, it served as a timely reminder of the human effort behind the Nobel Peace Prize and the long tradition of women fighting for peace – all the way into the present to this year’s courageous recipient.“
„… The Austrian suffragette and first Nobel Peace Price winner Bertha von Suttner is the central figure of the performance, portrayed in deliberately and chronologically chosen chapters, contrasts and episodes. From passionate humanitarian engagement to dramatic love-affairs, the heroine’s life’s vicissitudes were presented in a moving, yet humorous manner. Accompanied by guitar music, Maxi Blaha spoke and sung about the political, psychological and emotional aspects of Suttner ́s life. Based upon scientific research, the play showed that the visions and ideals of Berta von Suttner are still valid to date.“
“…Blaha, accompanied by guitarist, Georg Buxhofer, fills the stage with Bertha’s intelligence, her frustrations, her passions and the courage of her cause until she savours the triumph of success in the publication of her novel and its translation into several languages. n the intimate setting of Street Two at The Street Theatre, a simple design of hanging drapes, a chair upon a muted carpet and a backdrop of text panels that outline the history of Bertha von Suttner create an atmosphere of drawing room performance. This is an intriguing, informative and dramatically powerful piece of Museum Theatre, inspired by a life and brought to life by writer Susanne Wolf, the engrossing performance of Maxi Blaha and the atmospheric sounds of the guitar from Buxhofer….The performance is both educational and theatrically evocative. We learn of Bertha’s longings and of her dedication to her cause as well as the trials and tribulations of her private life. Above all, we learn of a woman, whose achievements and message to the world may have been lost in the passage of time. Museum Theatre exists to bring to life those events and characters who shaped history, for better or for worse, and who have left their footprints in the sands of time as lessons for future generations.
In this performance, Bertha von Suttner lives again, as a woman who campaigned for peace and dreamt of a vessel in which all were happy and at peace. Her vessel has been cast upon the rocks of history since her death, and we continue to be a world at wars. Museum Theatre, such as this sensitively written, intelligently directed and powerfully performed monologue, is a beacon of hope for the future and a plea to maintain the work and spirit of Bertha von Suttner in her struggle for world peace. Whether performed in English or in German and with songs interestingly sung in English, Soul of Fire will instruct and inspire, and maybe move the world one step forward towards laying down its arms.“
(Canberra Critics Circle)
“…Austrian actress Maxi Blaha is the star of the one-woman stage show Soul of Fire: She Fought For Peace. First shown at the Austrian Parliament last year, the one-woman show of key moments from von Suttner’s life has since been performed by well-known Austrian theatre actress Maxi Blaha in Canada, Japan, Iran, France and India.
Soul of Fire, written by Susanne F. Wolf, provided an inspiring look at the work and life of Austrian pacifist and first female Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Baroness Bertha von Suttner. The script, a collage of things she said and wrote, provided insight into a complex character. The characterisation and singing by Austrian actress Maxi Blaha and accompaniment by Georg Buxhofer were superlative while really bringing Bertha to life for a contemporary audience…“
(THE DAILY, Auckland)
Further information in English:
SOUL OF FIRE is a mingling of Suttner´s books and literary texts, a stirring stocktaking of our times that disseminates the ideas of the great humanist, to keep them alive.
Austrian actress Maxi Blaha takes the stage as Bertha von Suttner in SOUL OF FIRE, a play that puts the important political, psychological and emotional aspects of Suttner´s life into focus.
As an avid pacifist, this remarkable woman was the figurehead of a world- wide peace movement. She relentlessly fought nationalist fanaticism, aggressive militarism, anti-Semitism and recognized the dangers of hate breeding. As a writer and lecturer, she inspired her friend and benefactor Alfred Nobel to create a Peace Prize. She was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905 for her most famous novel “Lay Down your Arms”.