Bertlot Brecht Resource Pack

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Bertlot Brecht Resource Pack

  1. 1. Bertlot Brecht 1898 - 1956 Summary of the life and works of Bertlot Brecht
  2. 2. Eugen Bertholt Friedrich Brecht Biography • Brecht was born into a world of conflict and contradictions, on 4th august 1898 in Augsburg, Bavaria. • By his 16th birthday World War 1 had broken out and he had witnessed a number of deaths of those he was associated with at school. Financial, political and personal instability were a way of life and would remain so for Brecht till his death 48 years later. • Brecht worked in an army hospital after studying medicine at Munich University from 1917 – 1921. This extreme work exposed him to the sight wounded soldiers and all his life he was said to never get over the smell of death. – this could explain some of Brecht’s forthcoming extreme theatre methods…
  3. 3. Biography • The 1920s were an eventful decade for Brecht; he divorced his first wife, married his second and had written 3 plays , “Baal” , “Drums in the night” and “In the jungle of cities” he also published a volume of short stories, directed a play a “A man’s man” and had his first collaboration with the composer Kurt Weill in “Mahagonny”. This was followed by the immensely popular “The Three Penny opera”. • He also started to develop his more unique views which evolved to become Epic Theatre. This came about as he started to reject idealism in favour for individualism. • He was forced to flee Germany in 1933 due to his leftist political beliefs (he had quickly become favoured towards the ideas on Karl Marx and his socioeconomic theories). He also opposed Hitler and the Nazi regime. This lead to him spending 14 years in exile travelling into Scandinavia, where he wrote his major plays before reaching the safety of America.
  4. 4. Biography • His theory evolved through practise into Epic Theatre where he believed theatre should not only reflect our world but change it. He drew on all available resources for his plays including staging collaborations with other directors, new music with composers and used the help of designers, these together made a totally new form of theatre. • By the end of his life he was an important figure with theatre, he had astounded Europe with his productions due to the unique and extreme staging and acting, which conversed to the audience in apparent simplicity. • Over 40 years since his death and it is striking that all his theories (especially his thoughts on Epic theatre) are still relevant in theatre today. Through out this presentation we will be exploring the theories and themes that will help you to understand the excitement and strengths of Brecht and his productions.
  5. 5. Bibliography of Works • BAAL: Baal was written to visually and verbally and express Brecht’s dislike of Hanns Johst’s play “Der Einsame” as the play had the qualities of naturalistic writing that Brecht didn’t approve of. • This first play consisted of short scenes which could be moved around without any apparent continuity, he borrowed this structure from the practitioner ‘Buchner’. This would later on be involved in the construction of Epic Theatre. • Baal is a text that could be taken as a partial self portrait. Its anti-hero (a protagonist who displays less pleasant characteristics of a human being) is a poet and singer; similar to a young Brecht, A quote from Brecht’s book: The complete showing traits of a nonconformist. plays of Buchner “Aristotelian (Dramatic) theatre {one scene leading to another: growth} and his own epic “Epic Theatre” {each scene on its own: montage}”
  6. 6. Bibliography of Works • “Drums in the Night” • This was Brecht’s 2nd play which brought in a new and popular theme of the time; a return of a soldier from war • By using a post-war soldier as his main protagonist, Brecht showed a man’s thoughts within a revolutionary and war- stricken environment. Produced in 1922 it coincided with the unsettled post-war atmosphere in Germany. Banners were placed in the auditorium asking the audience “not to stare romantically”. Brecht here was asking the audience not to relate to the character directly or pity them, instead they should be seen solely as an object Here we are starting to see Brecht de-romanticise the act of watching theatre by asking his audience to distance themselves from a character, This is where we begin to see the idea of “Epic Theatre” (portrayed in his later works)
  7. 7. Bibliography of Works • “In the Jungle of Cities” • In this his 3rd play Brecht enlisted the help of a designer friend ‘Casper Neher’. The play was set in a superficial Chicago and was presented like a boxing match. • Brecht found collaborative inspiration from Upton Sinclair’s novel “The Jungle”. • For Brecht Chicago was all he loved and hated about the “American Dream”. This was not the last occasion were Brecht set his productions in an imaginary city. • He again used the theme for an American Dream setting in his works: He moved on to make Soho in London the setting of his St Joan of the Stockyards, sensational play “The Threepenny Opera”. Happy End, However it was not a city that audiences in the The Resistable Rise of Arturo “American Dream World” could recognise. This is one of his last productions before we saw the full extent of his theory “Epic Theatre”
  8. 8. Epic Theatre • Brecht’s theory's, which he went on to call “Epic Theatre” were directed against the illusion created by traditional theatre in which the audience witnessed a slice of life. • Instead he encouraged spectators to watch events on stage dispassionately and to reach their own conclusions. • To prevent spectators from becoming emotionally involved Brecht used a variety of techniques, among them was the Verfremdungseffekt (Alienation or estrangement effect). This was achieved through such devices as; unfamiliar settings, interrupting the action with songs and Alienation (V effect) announcing the contents of each scene through posters. Brecht used various techniques to make sure that thought took priority over emotions in his audience. He had to make sure they knew they were there to engage and react to the play, rather than to merely enjoy, emotionally, what was in front of them.
  9. 9. Lighting, Sounds & Design within epic Theatre • Lighting The lights were to be in full view of the audience as were there operators to ensure actors were seen in the same world as the audience. Light would indicate the passage of time or change of scenes rather than create mood or atmosphere. •Sound Rather than accompanying the action on stage, music was meant to comment on or conflict with the action on stage. • Stage Design Brecht only used scenery and props that This theory we feel reflects the future works of Peter Brook (a fellow were directly necessary for telling the story. practitioner) as shown in his production His stages would therefore be almost bare and of “The Grand Inquisitor”. Were he uses empty. He made it so that any set changes minimal setting using only 1 chair & 1 would be made in full view of the audience. As book, however it is how he uses and for the props themselves they were often positions these props which help us highly symbolic and would be representations understand the deeper meaning of the rather than real object. play and character.
  10. 10. Comparisons Between Dramatic & Epic Theatre •Epic Theatre (Brecht’s Theory) • Dramatic Theatre (the norm) • Plot: Has a beginning , middle and end, •Narrative: Begins anywhere, continues and issues raised in the play are and stops. Issues are not resolved resolved •Turns the spectator into an • Implicates the spectator in a stage situation: suggests to the observer: but suggests that the spectator spectator that what their watching is like can question what he or she is seeing real life •Forces the audience to take • Provides the audience with decisions: makes it clear that there are sensations: a theatre of illusion with problems to be solved ideas reinforced • The spectator is involved in •The spectator is made to face something something • The spectator is in the thick of it, •The spectator stands outside, shares the experience studies • Growth: events follow each other in a smooth progression •Montage: events are shown in self contained scenes
  11. 11. Summary- Epic theatre • Epic theatre stands for a theatre of high complex theoretical and practical ideas, which took Brecht most of his life to formulate. We have demonstrated that the early plays had traces of the ‘Epic’, but it did however take a good ten years for all aspects to come together. It wasn’t until his last great plays in the 1940s and 1950s that epic theatre was finally firmly established.
  12. 12. Influences • Georg Buchner 1813-37: Involved •Frank wedekind 1864-1918: He was himself in radical politics, which nearly renowned as a cabaret artist, thus he lead to his arrest. acted as a close role model for Brecht. As • One of his overriding themes in his Brecht attracted his own share of scandal plays was mans search for his destiny in the cabaret sellers of Munich and in a hostile world. (Brecht) Berlin. • He is famous mainly for his influence on •Their plays have a similar structure: the expressionists in which the short scenes seemingly unconnected, protagonist would move through a which by their relentless forward sequence of dramatic sequences each movement build to an often shattering having some psychological or symbolic physical climax. importance in itself. •Like Brecht Wedekind had a contempt for bourgeois society and his plays Karl Marx 1818-83 (who is buried in tended to focus on the double standards Highgate cemetery round the corner of sexual morality in Germany, especially form Jamie’s house): he provided the as they effected the young. philosophy for the Russian revolution in 1917. •It just so happens that Brecht’s convictions with the law seem to coincide •Many of his reforming ideas were with aspects of Marxist thoughts. incorporated into the new state.
  13. 13. To summarise: Caroline thinks: Even with Brecht’s Jamie thinks: extreme techniques with the uses of Brecht has come up with lighting and sound, it is quite difficult for a unique and inspirational idea, but he the spectators to be dispassionate while thinks it might be too imaginative in watching and for the actor to not performance. integrate with the character they are portraying. Roxy thinks: That with great Vicky thinks: That Brecht's understanding and knowledge of epic theory's and practises were relevant theatre, a Brecht production could be to the time of his works, e.g. extremely hard hitting. However with out emotion brought up by the war. But knowing all of Brecht’s theory's and there's no innovative relevance in reasoning's behind his work, his plays modern day times. As world could be imaginatively challenging for a conflicts don’t effect modern day modern day audience. society in the same way. “Brecht is the key figure of our time, and all theatre work today at some point starts or returns to his statements and achievements.” - Brook, P, The empty stage, penguin, 1986.
  14. 14. Bibliography • “Wikipedia” internet site • “Collected Plays” 1994 Brecht, Bertolt. • “Theatre studies” 2000 Simon Cooper • “The empty stage” 1986 penguin

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