The Caucasian Chalk Circle December 20, 2010-January 20, 2011
Seacoast Repertory Theatre
125 Bow Street
Phone Number: (603) 433-4793
Artistic Director: Craig J. Faulkner
Dramaturg: Andrew Bear
“ Seacoast Repertory Theatre will reflect and enhance our community through the shared experience of live theatre. Our productions and outreach programs will be inclusive and accessible and will empower and inspire the imaginations of both audience and artist.”
About the Play
The story begins with two peasant groups fighting over a valley that had been abandoned after World War II. The groups decide respectively on an agreement and want to celebrate. In the midst of their celebration, The Singer agrees to tell the story of The Chalk Circle… This story revolves around a peasant girl, Grusha , who steals a child in order to become a more respecting and loving parent than the natural mother. The Governor’s wife, Natella , leaves her baby behind when she escapes the estate. Later, Natella attempts to win back Michael to reclaim the Governor’s estates. Simon , a soldier who follows orders of the Grand Duke, falls in love with Grusha. Although she loves him as well, Grusha is forced to marry another man in an attempt to save the baby Michael. However, Azdak annuls the marriage, making it possible for Grusha and Simon to be together.
Characters Grusha (played by Rachel Green) a servant in the Governor’s palace, who rescues the Governor’s son Michael. Simon (played by Ross Geller) a soldier who falls in love with Grusha. Azdak (played by Joey Tribiani ) an outlandish judge appointed to rule domestic and political cases. The Singer (played by Chandler Bing ) a narrator who guides the story of The Chalk Circle. Natella (played by Phoebe Buffay ) the Governor’s wife. Michael (played by Emma Geller ) the Governor’s child who is being fought over. Ensemble (played by Monica Geller, Richard Burke, Estelle Leonard, Sandra Green, Eddie Menuek, Frank Buffay Jr., Kate Miller, Chip Matthews, Emily Waltham ) include supporting characters throughout the show. Comprised of Ironshirts, Servants, and Guests.
Performance History First performed Carleton College in Minnesota in 1948. This student production was assisted by the translation of Eric Bentley. Bentley directed the professional debut of The Caucasian Chalk Circle at Hedgerow Theatre in Philadelphia in 1954. Also in 1954, the Theatre am Schiffbauerdamm in Berlin conducted the German premiere.
About Bertolt Brecht
With political, economic, and social turmoil coloring the world around him, Bertolt Brecht developed his own form of politics. Born in Augsburg, Bavaria, just northwest of Munich, Brecht was a child in a respectable, middle-class family. His mother was a Protestant, who read the Bible to him and taught him about religion. His father was a managing director at a paper mill, who was strict and against his love for theatre. Between 1914-1918, German soldiers were being killed in the first World War. Completed in 1918 while attending Munich University, Brecht’s first complete play was called Baal . The play involved adultery and murder. In the same year that Baal was completed, Brecht was sent to work in the army hospital on the battlefield at the end of World War I. In the 1920s, Brecht became a huge supporter of Marxism . During the same decade, Brecht moved to Berlin where he worked for the directors Max Reinhardt and Erwin Piscator. He also developed the ballad opera Die Dreigroschenoper in 1928 and the opera Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny in 1930.
More About Brecht
Brecht was an optimist and a “generous utopian thinker”. (Mueller) In The Art of Bertolt Brecht , Weideli explains that the 1930s was a lonely time for Brecht. Away from family and friends, living in Denmark and then the United States, the playwright continued to work on creative pieces to wait for the theatre world in Germany to become popular once again. He finished the play The Caucasian Chalk Circle in 1943, and it was first performed in the United States at Carleton College at May 1948. Because of the dysfunctional political systems in Germany, the arts were not being funded nor appreciated. In an attempt to publicize his work, Brecht moved to Denmark and then the United States. In 1949, East Berlin authorities agreed to provide financial support for Brecht’s project the Berliner Ensemble . Berliner Ensemble was a theatre group developed by Brecht and wife Helene Weigel. It provided opportunities for students to direct Brecht plays before they have been premiered. Brecht found the difference between innovative art and genuine innovations. (Mueller) He died during London rehearsals for The Caucasian Chalk Circle .
War in Germany
In 1918, the German monarchy collapsed which led to the attention to democratic forces. At this time, Germany was split between Social Democrats and the German Communist Party.
Throughout World War I, 700,000 German civilians were killed. The country was in ruins and needed leadership throughout the 1920s.
Adolf Hitler came to power after his role in the NSDAP. By 1939, Austria and Czechoslovakia were under German control. On September 1, 1939, Germany attacked Poland.
This background of warfare was significant to the arts world and to the specific lifestyle of Bertolt Brecht; therefore, being the catalyst to his travels to Denmark and the United States.
Developed in the mid-1900s by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in Britain. Followers study society and what motivates people. The Marxism values focus on socialism and the development of economics in a capitalist environment. Karl Korsch, a Marxist theoretician who had been a Communist member of the Reichstag, taught Brecht the values in the late 1920s.
Berliner Ensemble, 1950 . Berliner Ensemble was a theatre group developed by Brecht and wife Helene Weigel. It provided opportunities for students to direct Brecht plays before they have been premiered.
Note from Andrew In The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Brecht combines the themes of love, loss, dispute, and greed. Through their own misfortunes, his depictions of human relationships and political turmoil are realistic in signifying chaos.
1.) How did the timeframe come across to you as the audience? The decade, most likely 1950s, is not specified as Brecht, however, is sometime in the future.
2.) Were you unsure how to react during the court scenes? The judge was being so unruly, and humorous, about such serious crimes.
3.) How do you think this imaginative society by Brecht relates to our society today?
4.) What were the stylistic differences that you saw from watching The Caucasian Chalk Circle that differ from other plays you have seen recently.
5.) What would you have changed about the set design?
6.) Are the historical references that you have learned about (i.e. World War I and World War II) relative to Brecht’s direction in The Caucasian Chalk Circle? How?
Brecht, Bertolt, and Eric Bentley. The Caucasian Chalk Circle. New York: Grove, 1966. Print.
Isherwood, Charles. "Theater Review - 'The Caucasian Chalk Circle' - At American Conservatory Theater, Brecht’s Test of Devotion - NYTimes.com." Theater - The New York Times. 30 Nov. 2010. Web. 30 Nov. 2010. <http://theater.nytimes.com/2010/03/02/theater/reviews/02caucasian.html>.
Mueller, Roswitha. Bertolt Brecht and the Theory of Media. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1989. Print.
Theater of War. Dir. John W. Walter. Perf. Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline. DVD.
Weideli, Walter. The Art of Bertolt Brecht. [New York]: New York UP, 1963. Print.