In Der nackte Mann auf dem Sportplatz © DEFA-Stiftung, Wolfgang Bangemann, Alexander Kühn
Ursula Karusseit was born in Elbing, Germany (now Elblag, Poland) on August 2, 1939. Her family was displaced in 1945 and lived in Parchim for a time, before settling in Gera. After training in business management, she worked as a clerk and stenotypist. She discovered her love of acting through participating in a theater group in her leisure time.
From 1960 to 1963, Karusseit studied acting with Wolfgang Heinz and Erika Pelikowsky at the Staatliche Schauspielschule Berlin-Schöneweide. In 1961-62, while she was still a student, she got a role playing the maid Anna in Max Frisch’s Biedermann und die Brandstifter at the Volksbühne in Berlin. As of then she continued performing at prestigious Berlin theaters, including the Maxim Gorki Theater, Deutsches Theater and Volksbühne. In 1965, she played Red Rosa in Peter Hacks’ Moritz Tassow, the first production of Swiss director Benno Besson at the Volksbühne; this play was halted after only nine performances for political reasons. Five years later, Besson also cast Karusseit as Shen Te in his Volksbühne production of Bertolt Brecht’s Der gute Mensch von Sezuan (Good Person of Szechuan). She also played Elsa, opposite Eberhard Esche and Rolf Ludwig, in Besson’s legendary 1965 staging of Evgeny Schwarz’s Drakon (The Dragon) at the Deutsches Theater; the production remained in repertory until 1981.
Ursula Karusseit also performed in movies starting in the early 1960s. Her performance as the maid Gertrud Habersaat—who lives through war, displacement and the difficult postwar period in the TV mini-series, Wege übers Land (dir. Martin Eckermann)—was her breakthrough as a film actress. In the following years, she appeared in memorable roles that showed off her versatility: the resistance fighter Hilde Coppi in Horst E. Brandt’s KLK an PTX – Die Rote Kapelle; sculptor Kemmel’s wife in Konrad Wolf’s Der nackte Mann auf dem Sportplatz; and a blacksmith’s wife who becomes queen for a day in the fairy tale Die vertauschte Königin. Since 1998, Karusseit had played Charlotte Gaus, the lively, resolute head of a hospital cafeteria, in the television series In aller Freundschaft, one of the longest-running and most beloved German TV series. Over more than twenty seasons, she had became an audience favorite for her performance in this role and the cast was nominated for a Bambi award in 2014.
Since the mid-1980s, Karusseit had worked as a freelance actress at various theaters, including the Schauspiel in Cologne, Schillertheater in Berlin and Kammerspiele in Munich. For many years, Karusseit toured throughout Germany with a literary and musical program entitled Jazz, Lyrik, Prosa. She was also involved in the Theater am Rand, a theater and music project founded by actor Thomas Rühmann and musician Tobias Morgenstern in 1998.
In 2009, Ursula Karusseit was not only honored with a Golden Hen—a German audience and media award—for her lifetime achievements in film and theater; she also published Wege übers Land und durch die Zeiten, based on extensive conversations with Hans-Dieter Schütt about her life and work. Karusseit, who was married to theater director Benno Besson from 1969 to 1995, passed away on February 1, 2019.
Festivals & Awards:
|2009||Golden Hen for Lifetime Achievement|
Bibliography & More:
Karusseit, Ursula. Wege übers Land und durch die Zeiten. Berlin: Das Neue Berlin. 2009.
|2015||Eins ist nicht von dir (One of Them Is Not Yours, TV)|
|2014||Die letzten Millionen (The Last Million, TV)|
|2013||König von Deutschland (King of Germany)|
|2008||Nur ein Sommer (Where the Grass Is Greener)|
|2007||Die Falle (The Trap, TV)|
|2006||Zwei Hochzeiten und kein Todesfall (Two Weddings and No Funeral, TV)|
|2005||Der letzte Tanz (The Last Dance, TV)|
|2002||Der zweite Frühling (Reliving One’s Youth, TV)|
|2000||Das letzte Bild (The Last Image, TV)|
|1999||Nachtgestalten (Night Shapes)|
|1998-||In aller Freundschaft (In All Friendship, TV series)|
|1998-2000||Der letzte Zeuge (The Last Witness, TV series)|
|1997||Unter die Haut (Under the Skin, TV)|
|1991||Die Sprache der Vögel (Language of Birds, TV)|
|1987||Einzug ins Paradies (Entering Paradise, TV series)|
|1987||Abschiedslied für Linda (Farewell Song for Linda, TV)|
|1985||Die Gänse von Bützow (The Bützow Geese)|
|1983||Märkische Chronik (Chronicle of the March Brandenburg, TV series)|
|1983||Die vertauschte Königin (The Swapped Queen)|
|1983||Olle Henry (Ole Henry)|
|1982||Familie Rechlin (The Rechlin Family, TV)|
|1980||Die Stunde der Töchter (The Daughters’ Turn)|
|1975||Daniel Druskat (TV mini-series)|
|1973||Der nackte Mann auf dem Sportplatz (The Naked Man on the Sports Field)|
|1970||KLK an PTX – Die Rote Kapelle (KLK to PTX: The Red Orchestra)|
|1968||Wege übers Land (Paths through the Countryside, TV mini-series)|
|1963||Was ihr wollt (What You Will, TV)|