1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ekhof, Konrad

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EKHOF, KONRAD (1720–1778), German actor, was born in Hamburg on the 12th of August 1720. In 1739 he became a member of Johann Friedrich Schönemann’s (1704–1782) company in Lüneburg, and made his first appearance there on the 15th of January 1740 as Xiphares in Racine’s Mithridate. From 1751 the Schönemann company performed mainly in Hamburg and at Schwerin, where Duke Christian Louis II. of Mecklenburg-Schwerin made them comedians to the court. During this period Ekhof founded a theatrical academy, which, though short-lived, was of great importance in helping to raise the standard of German acting and the status of German actors. In 1757 Ekhof left Schönemann to join Franz Schuch’s company at Danzig; but he soon returned to Hamburg, where, in conjunction with two other actors, he succeeded Schönemann in the direction of the company. He resigned this position, however, in favour of H. G. Koch, with whom he acted until 1764, when he joined K. E. Ackermann’s company. In 1767 was founded the National Theatre at Hamburg, made famous by Lessing’s Hamburgische Dramaturgie, and Ekhof was the leading member of the company. After the failure of the enterprise Ekhof was for a time in Weimar, and ultimately became co-director of the new court theatre at Gotha. This, the first permanently established theatre in Germany, was opened on the 2nd of October 1775. Ekhof’s reputation was now at its height; Goethe called him the only German tragic actor; and in 1777 he acted with Goethe and Duke Charles Augustus at a private performance at Weimar, dining afterwards with the poet at the ducal table. He died on the 16th of June 1778. His versatility may be judged from the fact that in the comedies of Goldoni and Molière he was no less successful than in the tragedies of Lessing and Shakespeare. He was regarded by his contemporaries as an unsurpassed exponent of naturalness on the stage; and in this respect he has been not unfairly compared with Garrick. His fame, however, was rapidly eclipsed by that of Friedrich U. L. Schröder. His literary efforts were chiefly confined to translations from French authors.

See H. Uhde, biography of Ekhof in vol. iv. of Der neue Plutarch (1876), and J. Rüschner, K. Ekhofs Leben und Wirken (1872). Also H. Devrient, J. F. Schönemann und seine Schauspielergesellschaft (1895).