Northern Illinois University

School of Theatre and Dance


by George Büchner

Woyzeck, the eponymous central character of George Büchner’s play, was based on a real person, Johann Christian Woyzeck, a poor German wigmaker/hairdresser and ex-soldier who was widely in the news in 1824 for killing his female companion in a jealous rage and being beheaded for his crime.

Although he was unquestionably guilty, the court case had dragged out for years. There were serious doubts that Woyzeck had the emotional capacity to be responsible for his actions. Modern medicine in retrospect has called his affliction acute paranoid schizophrenia. Nevertheless, a court appointed doctor determined for a second time that Woyzeck was sane enough to have "decided" to kill and therefore to be executed.

The ensuing controversy over legal rights of the lower classes, treatment of the mentally disabled and capital punishment was extensive. It was fuel to a slow fire of unrest to which social revolutionary author Büchner added his own.

In 1836, three months before his death at the age of 23, Büchner feverishly scripted but left unfinished an astonishing non-linear collection of seemingly disconnected scenes that ultimately create a montage of one bewildered working class common man’s tragic reality.

Translated and completed by several authors during the last century, the play in its various iterations has never failed to be timely in whatever era it has been presented. Robert Scanlon said, "… it shows no sign of failing to elicit the enfant terrible in every artist who undertakes to stage the play."

(This SoTD production is not affiliated with DeKalb CUSD #428)

Feb 20-23, 27-Mar 1

Huntley Middle School Auditorium


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