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THEATER | Women at work: Käthe Leichter & Marie Jahoda

  • Austrian Cultural Forum Washington, 3424 3424 International Court Northwest Washington, DC, 20008 United States (map)
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Käthe Leichter and Marie Jahoda were two Austrian pioneers in the 1920s and 1930s in researching and writing on the condition of work, unemployment and gender pay inequality. Both were political activists who opposed the rise of fascism in Austria and then the Nazi regime. Their life-memories and the important achievements of their work are at the centre of the play “Women at work: Käthe Leichter and Marie Jahoda” directed by Sandra Schüddekopf.

Anita Zieher (as Käthe Leichter) and Brigitta Waschnig (as Marie Jahoda) portray these two women, against a backdrop of politically moving times. Former Senator Franz Leichter, son of Käthe Leichter, will join the artists on the podium for a talk after the show at the ACF Washington.

Stage: Eva-Maria Schwenkel
Music: Rupert Derschmidt
Costumes: Cinzia Cioffi, Marlene Auer
Text: Sandra Schüddekopf, Anita Zieher; original quotes from Käthe Leichter and Marie Jahoda

A coproduction of potraittheater with the Chamber of Labour Upper Austria and Theater Drachengasse Vienna

Käthe Leichter (1895 – 1942) became known as the first director of the women’s department in the Vienna Chamber of Labour. She conducted studies on the working conditions of women and is nowadays considered the forerunner of women’s studies. She was politically active during the 1920s and 1930s in Vienna and fought against the rise of fascism in Austria regardless of the consequences this might have for her life. In 1938, she was arrested by the Gestapo and was killed in the Ravensbrueck concentration camp in 1942. Her husband Otto Leichter and their sons Henry and Franz escaped to the USA. Both sons studied law and engaged in politics, Franz Leichter was a senator in New York for many years.

Marie Jahoda (1907 – 2001) achieved worldwide recognition mainly as the author of the study “The Unemployed of Marienthal”, which she wrote with her then-husband Paul Lazarsfeld and Hans Zeisel. Because of her political engagement she was imprisoned by the Austrian fascists. In 1937, after some foreign appeals to release her, she was allowed to leave prison on the condition that she immediately left Austria. In Great Britain and in the USA she continued her research on the social function of work as well as on prejudice research and mental health. She held positions as a professor at New York University and Brunel University. In 1965 she became Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Sussex.


Anita Zieher was born in Salzburg, Austria, and lives and works in Vienna as actress and chairwoman of portraittheater. After studying politics and communication in Salzburg, she received her acting training in Vienna. She is the founder and chairwoman of portraittheater where she played Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir, Bertha von Suttner, George Sand, Rosa Luxemburg, Marie Curie, Lise Meitner and Hedy Lamarr both in Austria and abroad. She won many prizes as an improve performer and comedian.

Brigitta Waschnig was born in Villach, Austria. She attended the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute New York and the acting school Krauss Vienna. Since 1993 she has had engagements in the Theater of Youth Vienna, State Theater Linz, Theater Phönix, Theater Überzwerg Saarbrücken, Theater Drachengasse, Steirischer Herbst. among others. Besides acting, she also works as a director and was awarded the Intercultural Prize in 2011. As a member of the board she heads the culture factory Helfenberg. She plays improv theatre and works as a CliniClown.

Sandra Schüddekopf (director) was born in Hannover, Germany. From 2001 to 2005 she worked as an assistant director at Burgtheater, Vienna. Since 2005 she has worked as a freelance director at Schauspielhaus Graz, Theater Drachengasse, Munich Kammerspiele, Schauspielhaus Vienna and at the Mainz State Theater, where she won the director's prize in 2009. Since 2008 she has presided over the jury of the renowned Retzhofer drama award.

Franz Leichter was born in Vienna in 1930. He came to the United States as a refugee from Nazi Europe in 1940 with his father and brother and served in the New York State Assembly from 1969 to 1974 and the New York State Senate from 1975 to 1998. He lives in New York City.

portraittheater is a Vienna-based theater company that focuses on extraordinary persons, especially women, and brings their life and work to the stage. Previous shows have included Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir, Bertha von Suttner, Marie Curie, Lise Meitner, Hedy Lamarr, and others. potraittheater has been invited for guest performances in Australia, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Iran, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, Switzerland and to the United States.


Photo: (c) Barbara Palffy

*Parking on International Court is available after 6:30 pm (for the duration of the event) or on 36th Street; access to the Embassy through the park behind the building.

A registration is not a guarantee of a seat as these are assigned on a first-come first-served basis. Doors close at event start-time.