Monday, 12 November 2012

Brecht Research

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) offered a challenge to Aristotle's ancient approach to theatre as a spectator activity. He sought to stimulate the minds of his audience, integrating economics and politics into his plays, in hopes that those watching would respond with intellect, not emotion. 

As Eyre and Wright describe him, "He was a brilliant man of the theatre, highly receptive to the avant-garde of his day, quick to improve it and somewhat too precipitate to turn it into theory. He was a communist: not a left-winger, not a liberal, nor a humanitarian. From his twenties onwards, he thought and worked in terms of Marxist dialectic and he really wasn't kidding."

Over the course of his career, Brecht developed his so-called epic theater, in which narrative, montage, self-contained scenes, and rational argument were used to create a shock of realization in the spectator. To create a distancing effect, Brecht promoted acting and staging that would merely demonstrate what was being portrayed, thus giving the audience a more objective perspective on the action. In Brecht's plays, say Eyre and Wright, "lucidity reigns: nothing is worse than a jumble of confused impressions."
They go on to offer a look at Brecht's continuing role in political theater:

Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Brecht was revered by left-leaning theatricals as a sage whose slightest jottings could be relied on as a guide to morality, politics and life itself. In the 1990s the collapse of faith in Marxism put a stop to that. But although his Mao-like status hasn't lasted, his plays (or some of them) have quietly entered the theatrical mainstream. Whether they've entered as what they are, or in disguise, is harder to say. Some productions get praised for following his thinking to the hilt, others get praised for throwing his boring theories out of the window. Sometimes both are said of the same production.

Brecht was mainly known for being a theatre practitioner however, he was also both a playwright and producer/director of his own, and others', plays. He also wrote extensively on dramatic theory. 

You should explain his theory in terms of his practice in writing and production. You may be confused if you assume that the theory matches the reality of the plays in production. 

The theory, arising from a Marxist notion of drama as a vehicle for rational didacticism, describes theatre as Brecht, in a sense, wished it to become. This theory is only partly realised in his own work. 

Brecht would say that this is the result of the theatre's (and society's) not being ready yet for the final, perfected version of epic theatre. Modern theatre critics might say that Brecht's practical sense of what works in the theatre has (happily) overruled the more extreme applications of his theory.

Epic Theatre began in the early 20th century from the theories of a number of Russian and German theatre practitioners: Erwin Piscator, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Vsevolod Meyerhold and, most famously, Bertolt Brecht, who is credited for unifying and popularizing the concepts and practices that now make Epic Theatre. 

Brecht (1898 -- 1956) was both playwright and director of plays. His most important works are 'The Life of Galileo' and 'Mother Courage and Her Children' which were written between 1937 and 1945 whilst he was in exile from Nazi Germany. Brecht returned after the war to establish the Berliner Ensemble. 
It was only after the production of his plays that he received wide recognition. 

The 20th century was an age that saw the political extremes of Nazism and Communism compete for dominance worldwide. Brecht himself had Marxist influences and avoided any support of capitalist values in his plays. Instead, many of his plays demonstrate examples of social injustice, and use these to promote socialist ideals. He believed theatre should be capable of making social change, while still providing entertainment

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