|» Former President of OISTAT Dr. Helmut Großer passed away on May 23rd, 2010—a sad message from DTHG|
|» OISTAT regrets the loss of Helmut Großer - Louis Janssen|
|» HELMUT GROSSER: “AMERICAN IDOL” - from Joel E. Rubin|
|» In Memory of Helmut Großer - from Jarmila Gabrielová|
|» Helmut, a great mentor for the next generation of OISTAT leaders - by Maija Pekkanen|
|» Helmut Grosser was my friend - from Michael Ramsaur|
|» IN MEMORIAM – HELMUT GROSSER from John Faulkner|
|» Helmut Grosser was a vital part of the bond between USITT and OISTAT in the early years - from Len Auerbach|
|» A historic contribution - from Richard Pilbrow|
My first introduction to German Technical Directors came from those somber faces staring out of the Introductory Chapter in Volume I of Kranich. All men and serious fellows indeed. Even Walther Unruh, of a later generation, and grandfatherly type that he was, bore the strongest resemblance to his predecessors. Meetings, for Walther, were treated in a serious way with firm agendas.
Meeting Helmut Grosser turned out to be a far different experience. It was I think in 1966 at a meeting of a propaganda-front conference “Interscena” in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. The American and the German Federal Republic delegates had been invited to participate. With our countries out of favor with the regime, we found ourselves housed in a transient hotel far far up the Vinoradska trolley line. There were constant comings and goings with tourist buses day and night. The beer supply was always exhausted at the hotel bar before we could return from our afternoon meetings. We Americans made common cause with a smiling bearded German fellow, then working in Köln, who joined us in a mutual search for Pilsner, while he simultaneously probed the extent of his English vocabulary. This was the start of my relationship with Helmut Grosser that continued for more than four decades.
Two years later, again in Prague, we found ourselves participating in the formation meeting of the OISTAT, Helmut was then seconding for Prof. Unruh. A wonderful surprise was meeting Helmut’s beloved Rosemarie at that meeting. Rosemarie’s few words of English were supplemented by her ability to mime the thought she wished to convey. For example, my wife and Rosemarie had long insightful conversations with each other, these remarkably charming women forgetting their mutual inability to speak the other’s language. My wife and I became close personal friends with Helmut and Rosemarie. Their love and close devotion to each other was immediately apparent. Their continued closeness as we knew them over the next decades set a new standard for enduring married life.
Helmut assisted Unruh during the Professor’s term as the first President of OISTAT, and subsequently became the German Federal Republic’s official delegate. We very much admired Helmut’s ability to perform that task, as well as assume the Editorship of the BTR, while performing his duties as the Technical Director, at the operas in Köln and later in Munich. Our principal contacts were in the meetings of the OISTAT Commissions and Congresses. Helmut came to the meetings extremely well prepared on the agenda. He would quietly debate the issues until the point at which he thought the meeting had gone off track. Then a more aggressive Helmut appeared, a more animated Helmut, a more forceful Helmut. He used humor and mirth, as a means of adroitly re-focusing the meeting. This combination of serious purpose advocated with humor is a Helmut trait that is much to be envied. In the same way I am reminded of the annual Christmas messages that arrived yearly from the Bavarian State Opera, always focused on some aspect of the season’s opera production coupled with some small physical object of humorous intent.
In 1973 I invited Helmut to deliver a series of month-long Master Classes in theatre design and technology sponsored by our Institute of Theatre Technology (USITT). The classes consisted of two or three days of lecturing in each of ten locations throughout the United States. The students came from the graduate and undergraduate theatre departments of the teaching institutions in each location, and were highly selected. Helmut prepared vigorously for these classes, including considerable enhancement of his English vocabulary. The messages that Helmut delivered included a love of theatre and opera, the obligations of the theatre professional, the leadership role of the Technical Director, and the importance of safety in the theatre. Helmut brought a clear vision of professionalism in the theatre that instilled his own love for the profession of theatre. He and Rosemarie made enduring friends throughout the United States on this visit and on several subsequent visits.
Helmut had set such a high standard during the Master Class tour that in 1985 he was still well remembered for his outstanding professionalism. In that year the USITT awarded him a “Special Citation” (less than a dozen individuals have been so honored by the Institute as it celebrates its fiftieth anniversary). The concluding words of the citation are--- “his continuing and prolific efforts to develop and improve the state of theatre production and organization.”
In 1997, as Helmut was completing an eighteen year term as President of OISTAT, I had the honor of awarding him the OISTAT’s Gold Pin. At the same ceremony the USITT made Helmut an Honorary Fellow of the Institute, the only non-member ever to be awarded this distinction.
Present at that ceremony as well was another of OISTAT’s greats, Josef Svoboda. The three of us together taking some credit as among the Founders of OISTAT, and also for the success of our original mission, to facilitate a dialogue between East and West beyond the political borders created by the “Cold War”.
Dr. Joel E. Rubin, author of this article, is a theatre-planning consultant in New York City. He is a Past-President and the Co-Founder of USITT and preceded Helmut Grosser as President of OISTAT.