Mario Schiess

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Mario Schiess (1933-1998) was quantity surveyor, playwright, translator, theatre and film director and producer.


Born and raised in Switzerland, he emigrated to South Africa where he studied Quantity Surveying at the University of Pretoria, graduating in 1956, and for the next 33 years followed a career in the field for as a partner in the firm Prentice, Shaw and Schiess.

Parallel to his formal career, he followed his passion for theatre as a director and playwright.

In addition, he was known in Psychological circles and in 1994 was made an Honorary member of the Association of Jungian Analysts. His forte was dream interpretation and he gave regular workshops and did the occasional radio show.

He was married to Margaret and was the father of five children, including Michèle Schiess.

Schiess died in Pretoria in 1998.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

He worked in South African theatre and film from the early 1970's, and eventually directed of 60 plays, operas, films and TV programmes. He was among others a member of Volksteater in Pretoria and in later years also worked with Durban based Backlash Theatre Company. His interest in Jung's theories formed the basis of a number of his plays as well as his work with actors.

As director

His most memorable achievement as translator and director was perhaps Kafka's Report to an Academy, which he had translated from the German, adapted for the stage and directed with Marius Weyers. It opened at The Laager in 1979, and would go on to play across the country and internationally.

He also directed The Glass Menagerie (1971), Pous Johanna II (Vilar), Woman Alone, The Colossus of Brooklyn (Schiess/Miller), Appassionata (Uys), an Afrikaans translation of Equus Upstairs at the Market (1978), My Son, My Son (Schiess), The Chosen (Schiess), Last Tango in Heaven (Schiess) (the latter three for the Backlash Theatre Company, performed at various festivals).

As translator

Among his translations were Kafka's Report to an Academy, an Afrikaans translation of Equus,

As playwright

Schiess wrote at least ten original plays, among others Nemesis, Iscariot, Charade, The Colossus of Brooklyn, Easter Bells, a play for two, The Revenge, Encounters at Midnight, My Son, My Son, The Chosen (or The Chosen One), Last Tango in Heaven,

Work in Film

He also worked on some South African feature films, including: Die Vervlakste Tweeling (writer/adaptor and director, 1969), with Marius Weyers, Jana Cilliers, Bill Brewer and others; Onwettige Huwelik (director, 1970), with Marius Weyers, Pieter Geldenhuys, Enone van den Bergh and others; Bait (writer and director, 1974), with Marius Weyers, Richard Loring, Diane Ridler and others;

[TH, JH]


See Gosher, 1988.

National Arts Festival programme, 1990.

Correspondence with Michèle Schiess, his daughter. (2 June, 2018)

Commentary by Paul Boekkooi, cited in a draft article on Reza de Wet (2018), based on an unpublished interview with Schiess, which he had done in 1989.

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