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Gisela May


Gisela May was something like "the mother of two nations": During her stage career in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), she portrayed Mother Courage, a tough war widow, and during her television career in Germany, she became known as "Muddi," the tough mother of a self-proclaimed investigator. Her career had four different parts: She appeared onstage in plays by Brecht, Shaw, Shakespeare, Girardoux, and many others. As a singer, she became famous as a diseuse, the German form of a chansonniere, interpreting chansons by Brecht, Kastner, Eisler, and others. As a voice actress, she portrayed classic roles by Ibsen, Sartre, and, of course, Brecht. And onscreen, she appeared in films and some television series, including the series that made her legendary.

May was born on May 31, 1924, in Wetzlar. After graduating from the Leipzig acting school in 1944, she became a familiar face in the theaters of the GDR, working in Danzig, Dresden, Gorlitz, Leipzig, Schwerin, and Halle. In 1951, she went to Berlin, where she worked for the German theater and was a member of the Berlin Ensemble for more than 30 years. In 1978, May appeared for the first time as Mother Courage in Bertolt Brecht's play Mother Courage and Her Children. For nearly a quarter-century, she starred in the epic role of a widowed mother of three during the Thirty Years War, who has to fight for the survival of her children. It became her favorite role, and her interpretation was a model for following actresses.

She also became famous for her chanson interpretations. Her voice was known for its strength, versatility, sensation, discretion, virtuosity, concinnity, and frugality. Her records made her internationally famous; she received awards in Italy, France, the USA, Germany, and — of course — the GDR.

While her first role as a mother made her famous onstage, her second role as a mother made her famous nationwide. Between 1992 and 2006, May appeared in all 65 episodes of the crime-comedy series Adelheid und ihre Morder ("Adelheid and her murderers"), in which she portrayed Rosa Muller-Graf-Kleditsch, the willful, snoopy, egotistical, but cordial thrice-widowed mother of the titular police secretary, Adelheid Mobius, a self-reliant, divorced middle-class woman with a good nose for investigation. May and Evelyn Hamann, who starred as Adelheid, invented the dialogue, which illustrated the mother-daughter relationship in the series:

"Sag nicht immer 'Muddi' zu mir!" ("Don't always call me 'Muddi'!")

"In Ordnung, Muddi!" ("It's okay, Muddi!")

The series came to an abrupt end after Hamann died of cancer in 2007.

Gisela May died on December 2, 2016, in Berlin, at the age of 94, bringing seven points to team WEP (2 for hit and 5 for the solo). May came onto WEP's list as a substitute in 2012 and was nominated five times in a row, being the second German actress to score points for him in 2016.


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