Cover art: detail from "The Pillars of Society" by George Grosz, 1926

The Would-be Bourgeois

Carl Sternheim, translated from the German by Laurence Senelick
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When the opportunity arises for lowly musician Paul Schippel to rise in the ranks of society, he takes it. A series of misadventures follows, but just as all seems lost, including potentially Schippel’s life, fate intervenes, and Schippel is finally welcomed into the bourgeoisie.

Production Info

Cast: 8 total (2 female, 6 male, doubling possible)
Full Length Comedy (about 100 minutes)
Minimal Set Requirements
Period Costumes

Press Quotes

“Life’s meaning lies in the persistence of its creatures to establish their uniqueness and freedom in confrontation with their environment. The heroes of Sternheim ae not of the traditional cast — good, but not too good. They are, in fact, repulsive, malicious, cynical, morally degenerate creatures who nevertheless seem to win the approval of the author as exemplary representatives of vital principles in the order of things.” —Carol A Melillo

“Sternheim’s characters demonstrate a process that defines the whole of bourgeois society, and that might be called a quiet pandemonium of cold-blooded, insidious inhumanity.” —Walter Sokel

“Schippel is a Chaplinesque figure in a bowler hat, but at the same time an Expressionistic ‘New Man’ capable of total transformation. With him there is no question of continuity of character or personality; what he experiences and thereby demonstrates is ‘a sudden change for the better. A rebirth …’ By the end of the play Schippel has demonstrated his truly ‘heroic’ qualities and proved himself worthy to the full of ‘the lofty blessings of the middle class.'” —J M Ritchie

“The bourgeois girl Thekla Hicketier embarks on a love affair with the young prince with a superior awareness that is not only astonishing in the most charming way — the scene is one of the most delightful that Sternheim ever wrote — but at the same time every tragic conflict that might occur in a conventional plot is cut off at the start. Thekla succeeds in parodying herself and her love with a cheerfully open awareness, using all the conventional romantic clichés, which she consciously uses as clichés and contrasts with the ‘real’ situation.” —Wilhelm Emrich

About the Author


  • Carl Sternheim

    Carl Sternheim (1878 – 1942) was a German playwright and short story writer. Sternheim found success in the 1910s poking fun at the burgeoning German middle class in a series of plays he called "Scenes from the Heroic Life of the Middle Class," of which DIE HOSE (THE UNDERPANTS) (1911) was one. His other plays include THE BOX (1912), BURGHER SCHIPPEL (1913), THE SNOB (1914), 1913 (1915), and TABULA RASA (1916).

  • Laurence Senelick

    Laurence Senelick is Fletcher Professor Emeritus of Drama and Oratory at Tufts University. He holds a Ph.D. from Harvard. His expertise is in Russian theatre and drama, history of popular entertainment, gender and performance, history of directing, classical theory. Prof. Senelick is the author or editor of more than twenty-five books, the most recent being, The Final Curtain: The Art of Dying on Stage; The Crooked Mirror: Plays of a Modernist Russian Cabaret; Soviet Theatre: A Documentary History; Stanislavsky: A Life in Letters; The American Stage: Writing on the American Theatre (Library of America) and A Historical Dictionary of Russian Theatre. Others books include: The Chekhov Theatre: A Century of the Plays in Performance and The Changing Room: Sex, Drag, and Theatre, as well as over a hundred articles in learned journals. He is a former Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the Institute for Advanced Studies in Berlin. Prof. Senelick was named Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011. Prof. Senelick has been named a Distinguished Scholar by both the American Society of Theatre Research and the Faculty Research Awards Council of Tufts University. He is the recipient of grants and awards from, among others, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies. He has received the Barnard Hewitt Award of the American Society for Theatre Research for The Chekhov Theatre; the George Freedley Award of the Theatre Library Association for The Age and Stage of George L. Fox and The Changing Room; and the George Jean Nathan Award for best dramatic criticism of 2000. He holds the St. George medal of the Russian Ministry of Culture for services to Russian art and scholarship, and is honorary curator of Russian theatre at the Harvard Theatre Collection. He was also awarded a stipend from the TranScript/Mikhail Prokhorov Fund for Translation from the Russian. In 2008 he won the Graduate Teaching award (doctoral level) of the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools and in 2012 the Betty Jean Jones Prize of American Theatre and Drama Society for Distinguished Teaching. He is a widely produced translator of plays from such authors as Chekhov and Feydeau, and director at Tufts of his own translations of The Inspector General, The Bakkhai, and Anything to Declare? He has acted and directed with such organizations as the Poets' Theatre, the Loeb Drama Center, the Boston Lyric Opera, Boston Baroque, the Actors Theatre of Louisville, and the revue The Proposition. He recently devised new courses on Cabaret, Theatre and Visual Studies, and Low Comedy and played Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape at the Balch Arena Theatre. His recipes appear in the Bon Appetit cookbooks.

About the Book

Book Information

Publisher BPPI
Publication Date 7/27/2023
Pages 76
ISBN 9780881459739

Special Notes

Special Notes

Licensees are required to include the original stage producers credits in the following form on the title page in all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play and in all advertising in which the full cast appears in size of type not less than ten percent (10%) of the size of the title of the Play:
The following must appear within all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play:
The Would-be Bourgeois is produced
by special arrangement with Broadway Play Publishing Inc, NYC