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Mari Jászai, The Great Dame Of The Hungarian National Theater Died 90 Years Ago

By Robert Velkey // 2016.10.05.

Mari Jászai (original name: Mária Krippel) was born on 24 February 1850 in Ászár, as a daughter of a carpenter. Her maiden surname Krippel means “diseased” in German, and she detested it so much Mari Jászai burned it out from her parish register. In 1866, aged 16, she fled to the touring company of Gusztáv Hubay in Székesfehérvár, and began to work as an extra. Miss Jászai had her first performance in the theater of Székesfehérvár.


Mari Jászai at her first performance

By 1867 she already acted on stages of Buda, and from 1868, in the theatre of Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca, RO). The actress met her first husband, comedian Vidor Kassai during her time in Buda, whom she divorced two years later, never marrying again. Jászai became a member of the National Theatre in 1872, where she remained until her death (except for a one season working in Vígszínház theatre in 1900). This is why she is also called to “the grand dame of the Hungarian National Theater”.

jaszai_mariMari Jászai in the movie A Tolonc

In addition, she was the first woman actress who played antique dramas such as Antigone or Electra on Hungarian stages. The talented “great dame of the National Theater” played 20 types of Shakespeare’s woman roles and she was the first Éva in the iconic drama of Madách, The Tragedy of Man. She could read, German, Greek, French and English flawlessly.

To keep her memory green, the square at the pest side’s bridgehead of the Margaret Bridge is named after her, to Jászai Mari tér.