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Eichmann in Jerusalem as Epic Theatre
My presentation will discuss how Hannah Arendt “recycles” Brecht in her political philosophy through the example of Eichmann in Jerusalem. Arendt’s account of the trial continually emphasizes the theatrical elements of the trial. For this reason, Eichmann in Jerusalem is often read as complete rejection of theatre from the domain of the law. In my presentation, I argue that this interpretation misses the significance of contemporary theatre, and especially Brecht, for Arendt. If we read Arendt within the context of contemporary theatre we see that Arendt does not reject the use of theatre techniques in the courtroom per se. Instead, she positions herself against one form of theatre (an Aristotelian drama that invokes suspense, empathy and catharsis) and for another form of theatre (the epic theatre of Bertolt Brecht, whose poem “O Germany” serves as the epigram of the book). In Eichmann in Jerusalem, Arendt offers a Brechtian restaging of the trial itself.
Upcycling Brecht? Verbatim Theatre and/as Epic Theatre Practice
Verbatim theatre, a subgenre of documentary theatre, pledges to commit itself to only use spoken evidence or verbatim witness accounts for its playtext and is chiefly influenced by Bertolt Brecht. In the tradition of Brecht it wishes to educate and emancipate its spectators and to enable playwrights to take direct responsible action. Moisés Kaufman in particular pays tribute to Brecht in the introduction to The Laramie Project, acknowledging that “The Street Scene” was pivotal in the play’s creation: “[it] gave me an idea about how to deal with this project, in terms of both its creation and its aesthetic vocabulary” (Kaufman 2001: vii). In I Am My Own Wife Doug Wright directly emulates “The Street Scene” when Charlotte, the protagonist, gives an eyewitness account to a ‘collection of spectators’ of how a Nazi attack took place (see Brecht 1940: 371). Verbatim theatre uses a high degree of self-reflexivity to foreground its devising process, thereby aiming for a critical perspective. Thus, it meets Brecht’s ideal of distance, but maintains a productive connection to the spectators. I argue that Brecht’s epic theatre is upcycled by verbatim theatre, because it refrains from using a Puntila-esque sledgehammer and instead finds a balance between critical distance and emotional connection.
The Berliner Ensemble Stages The Playboy of the Western World
In May 1956, under Brecht’s supervision, Peter Palitzsch and Manfred Wekwerth directed J.M. Synge’s Irish classic, The Playboy of the Western World (1907). This paper examines how the company breathed new life into a play that caused a riot at its premiere, but then became little more than a harmless, quirky comedy. The intellectual approach to, rehearsal and direction of The Playboy tell much about the dialectical treatment of what Brecht called a ‘realistic’ text, and the production itself shows how certain received understandings of Brechtian stagecraft were actively jettisoned in the name of offering the audience a challenging piece of theatre. The paper thus sheds light not only on a particular production, but also on a series of staging principles that help dispel certain myths about Brecht’s directing strategies.
A Model Family in a Model Home or a Tale of Fictitious Capital
Working in Los Angeles, Brecht wrote numerous film treatments in which he attempted the impossible, to challenge the formulas of the film industry and create works that were both popular and radical. I conceive of his notes as “potential”, as starting points for a new kind of film in our century. I will present my work based on Brecht’s scenario “A Model Family in a Model Home” inspired by an article in Life Magazine (1941) that described a competition for Ohio’s most typical farm family. The prize was a week’s stay in a model home at the State Fair. The only drawback, this home was open to the public, turning it into a stage in which the family was forced to perform their daily life. My project consists of an installation, drawings, objects and a speculative film that begins with Brecht’s ideas about working people and the home as a stage upon which larger political and social forces are played out. Moving into the postwar period, I explore the concept of “the model home” as a catalyst for the suburban expansion that led to uncontrolled speculation, massive foreclosures and the rise of “zombie subdivisions”.
Brecht and the recycling of the avant-garde in the GDR
In the early days of the GDR Bertolt Brecht played a crucial role in supporting returning German Avant-Gardists and incorporating them in his later projects. In particular returned Avant-Gardists from their Western exile, such as John Heartfield, Hanns Eisler and Paul Dessau, relied on the backing of Brecht. This fact became an important reason that the playwright manoeuvred himself into a problematic position in the GDR cultural political scene in the 1950s, especially during so-called Formalism Debate. Brecht, who might not be categorized as an Avant-Gardist himself per se, stressed the fact that the Avant-Garde had a valid place in the new Germany. In this quest, the writer was seated zwischen den Stühlen during his time in the GDR, as Werner Hecht recently pointed out.
In this paper I will apply Hal Foster’s hypothesis in The Return of the Real (1996) that (in contrast to Peter Bürger’s thought) an aesthetical transmission of the historical Avant-Garde after 1945 was possible. I will argue that in the context of the 1950s Brecht’s “issues of authority” (Stephan Parker) are key in the process of undermining the premises of the cultural dogma of Socialist Realism. He became the engine behind the recycling of the Avant-Garde in the GDR. In order to document the continuous project of the new Institution Kunst, I will investigate his involvement in two debates, related to Dessau’s music for The Condemnation of Lucullus and to Eisler’s libretto Johann Faustus.
When Eddie & Bert met Bill: 'Bingo' The Game's Up!' Brechtian dramatic strategies in Edward Bond's radical revisiting of Shakespeare.
In one of Edward Bond's major plays of the 1970s he engaged in a radical revisiting and interrogation of Shakespeare in his play 'Bingo - Scenes of Money & Death' (1974).
This paper will explore Bond's employment of Brechtian dramatic strategies in that play but also, crucially, reveal the ways in which Bond was also engaged in a radical re-evaluation of Brecht.
Training the Audience: Brecht and the Art of Spectatorship
Brecht argued that it was not enough to develop a new kind of theatre, but that theatre practitioners also needed to cultivate the art of spectatorship. Drawing on new archival material, this paper investigates how episodes in Die Mutter, Mutter Courage, and Der kaukasische Kreidekreis can be viewed as training exercises in Brechtian spectatorship. The episodes hold contrasting examples of ‘culinary’ and ‘critical’ spectatorship up for scrutiny, providing negative and positive role models for the audience. They also posit a connection between acting and spectatorship, as the characters-as-actors recycle their observations of social behaviour, using them to construct their own performances. However, the uses to which the characters put their observations vary: Die Mutter and Der kaukasische Kreidekreis present us with a taxonomy of ‘dramatic’ and ‘epic’ performances, suggesting how actors can make the transition from the former to the latter, and to what effect. The paper finishes by asking what we can learn from real-life audience reactions to the plays’ first postwar stagings at the Berliner Ensemble, and why the audiences of Mutter Courage repeated some of the spectatorial errors that Brecht’s plays parodied on stage.
“Altes wird aufgerollt”: Paul Dessau’s posthumous collaborations with Brecht
“Diese Technik der Übernahme, das Sich-selbst-Zitieren ist auch von Brecht. Er hat einmal zu mir gesagt: “Weißt du, wenn man etwas Gutes gemacht hat, soll man es wieder aufnehmen und in anderem Rahmen nochmal verwenden.” (Dessau) From their first collaboration in 1943, the Deutsches Miserere (settings of Kriegsfibel poems), through to 1956, Paul Dessau was Brecht’s most dedicated and innovative musical collaborator, providing compositions for a wide range of works: Mutter Courage, Der kaukasische Kreidekreis, Das Herrnburger Bericht, the opera Die Verurteilung des Lukullus, dozens of songs. This “Musikarbeit”, as Dessau termed it, continued after Brecht’s death with orchestral music (In memoriam Bertolt Brecht, 1957), the peace cantata Appell der Arbeiterklasse (1960), film music (the Vietnam War blood donor film 400cm3, 1966), and songs for and with children including the Tierverse cycle, the subject of Dessau’s only book publication, Musikarbeit in der Schule (1968). This paper will look at these posthumous collaborations, both the new compositions using Brecht texts and the recycling of old ones:
“Altes wird aufgerollt, von mir bewußt in Neues umgewandelt – ein Vorgang, der legitim ist und an dem ich besonders viel lerne für die weitere Arbeit.“ (Dessau)
Rediscovering the familiar – Teaching Brecht in HE education
During my work as a lecturer in drama and performance, I have witnessed a generalised misunderstanding and/or resistance to Brecht and his performance theories, largely stemming from the limited insight they have received in school or college, mostly caused by syllabus constraints. The proposed practical seminar will blend anecdotal observations, particularized theories and applied educational devices, accumulated from my experience of teaching Brecht at the University of Cumbria. During the seminar I will facilitate selected workshop techniques that have counter-acted these barriers while teaching on the BA (Hons) Performing Arts course. I will demonstrate how I enable students to engage with socio-political themes, promote to them the importance of historical context within theatre, enhance their understanding of symbolism and the representational, demote emotion as their a creative objective and develop them as thinking practitioners. The seminar will also explain why Brecht is a key practitioner for students for their personal and cerebral development as well as within their creative, theatrical toolkit.
The influence of epic theatre in Group Theatre of Sao Paulo
Brecht was almost unknown in Brazil until after his death. It was in the 1960s that the playwright began to have greater visibility among Brazilian artists, influencing three major groups of political theatre of the time and gained further strength after the declaration of the civil-military dictatorship. With the end of dictatorship in the 1980s, came the weakening of the Brazilian political theatre. As a result, in the 1990s, artists from Sao Paulo organized themselves against the commodification of the theatre, formulating the so-called Manifest of Art against Barbarization. This organization transformed the theatrical reality of the city, generating a phenomenon known as group theatre of Sao Paulo. This phenomenon is characterized by the resumption of political theatre and by revisiting Brecht, modifying it to the Brazilian reality. The group theatre concept has as its influence the Berliner Ensemble and all other European ensembles. The aesthetic used by these groups is epic par excellence, showing the relevance of Brecht as a distinguished playwright to the context.
Marco Castellari: Die neue italienische Brecht-Welle
In den letzten fünf Jahren scheint das italienische Theater Brecht wiederentdeckt zu haben. Gerade das Mailänder Piccolo Teatro – in den Nachkriegsjahrzehnten unter Giorgio Strehlers und Paolo Grassis Führung die Brecht-Bühne Italiens schlechthin – hat mit Luca Ronconis umjubelter Heilige Johanna-Inszenierung (2011/12) den augenfälligsten Anstoß gegeben. Als Kulminationspunkt der neuen Brecht-Welle im Bel paese kann die für April 2016 ebendort annoncierte Dreigroschenoper betrachtet werden, durch die der Regisseur der Stunde Damiano Michieletto gleichzeitig den 60. Todestag Brechts und das 60. Jubiläum von Strehlers legendärer Opera da tre soldi-Inszenierung begehen wird. Der Vortrag, der auch andere neuere Brecht-Inszenierungen zwischen Rom und Mailand berücksichtigen wird, soll einerseits den Recyclingsmodi nachgehen, welche die italienischen Adaptionen aufweisen, und andererseits nach den Gründen fragen, die diese italienische Brecht-Aktualität zu erklären vermögen.
The interpretation and misinterpretation of the Verfremdungseffekt on the modern Xiqu stage – take the Yueju opera Good Person of Jiangnan as an example
The epic theatre and the Verfremdungseffect are Brecht's constructive misreading of Mei Lanfang's brilliant Jingju performance, and widely recognized as a critic of the “culinary theatre” of his age. Since the 1980s, Chinese Xiqu productions that include elements from different theatre traditions are flourishing on the stage, such as the Kunqu opera Macbeth (1984), the Bangzi opera Medea (1993). What arouses my curiosity is that the Yueju opera Good Person of Jiangnan adapts not only the drama text of Brecht's Good Woman of Szechwan but also endeavours to practice interpretation of the V-effect, which is quite rare, since most of such performances are trying the “western story, eastern body” mode.
The V-effect requires making the action strange, alien, remote or separate, therefore the director could naturally adopt any devices that preserve or establish the distancing. In my presentation I would explain in detail Good Person of Jiangnan's stage interpretation of the V-effect, especially those based on the traditional Xiqu role category and the performance skills. Yet the adaptation of the “story” as well as the “body” ensures no critic of our age. Against the context of modern China as the “World's Factory”, it surprises me that from this performance arise very few discussions about the reality and most audiences criticize it as non-authentic Yueju opera or defend it as following the intercultural, modern tendency. When and how could the Yueju opera transgress the “brilliant scholar, beautiful lady” mode and take part in the social transformation, as Brecht expected for the V-effect, remains a big question.
Wer ist der „Zweifler“? - Über den Zusammenhang von Bild und Gedicht
Zu dem Gedicht Der Zweifler (1937) lässt sich Bertolt Brecht von der Figur auf einem chinesischen Rollbild inspirieren, die er ebenfalls als “Zweifler“ benennt. Die Frage, wer dieser “Zweifler“ im chin. originalen Rollbild ist, fasziniert den Leser und Forscher des Brecht’schen Gedichts. Die genaue intermediale Beziehung zwischen Brechts Gedicht und dem originalen Rollbild ist jedoch unklar. Im Zusammenhang mit der Bildfigur steht darüber hinaus ein auf dem originalen Rollbild notiertes chin. Gedicht, das sich philosophisch von dem Brecht’schen Gedicht Der Zweifler unterscheidet. Im Zentrum dieses Vortrages steht die Frage, inwieweit sich die Vieldeutigkeit des origninalen Bildes und der Bildfigur auf die Interpretation des Gedichts von Brecht auswirkt. Meines Erachtens ist es nicht erfolgversprechend, das Brecht’sche Gedicht auf Grundlage einer eindeutigen Identifikation der Bildfigur im Original zu interpretieren. Denn zum einen bleibt es Spekulation, wer die Figur überhaupt ist oder inwieweit Brecht sie tatsächlich identifizieren konnte. Zum anderen lässt sich die These vertreten, dass die Bezeichnung der Figur als “Zweifler“ in erster Linie der Bildwahrnehmung und der anschließenden Stilisierung Brechts entspringt. Die sich fest in einen Umhang hüllende Figur – in beobachtender und von oben nach unten-rechts blickender Körperhaltung mit auseinanderstrebenden Füßen und gekrümmten Schultern – ist im Gedicht Brechts als “Zweifler“ stilisiert: Er solle wiederholt als eine kritische und warnende Instanz für die Praxis des Kollektiven fungieren. Dieser Vortrag versucht, einen sicheren Zusammenhang zwischen Bildfigur und Gedicht herzustellen.
Chou, Christine Jing-Chia
Revision and Critique on the Tradition: Unfamiliar Side of Brecht to the Chinese World
The Chinese World is proud of the basis of Brecht’s efforts on ‘art of spectatorship’ (Zuschaukunst) were to some extent based on what he saw in the full sign performances of the well-known Chinese jingxi star Mei Lanfang. Although Brecht’s term ‘alienation effect’ is widely well-known, the biggest problem in teaching ‘Brecht’ in the Chinese world is the fact that Brecht’s theatre theory and practice were not conventional. The subject of teaching ‘Brecht’ includes Aristotelian Poetics tradition versus Brecht’s ‘non-Aristotelian’ theatre, and his method of substituting ‘phobos’ and ‘eleos’. Furthermore, Brecht revised and critiqued on the German tradition regarding what Goethe and Humbolt meant by ‘Bildung’, an inner self-cultivation and an emphasis on cultivating the mind, was later interpreted by Thomas Mann as being that which makes human free. By contrast, Brecht’s intention was to create a paradigm shift, in which social and political action was integral in his theatre -- only through the acknowledgment of an appeal to the masses is social change possible. The impasse both in theatre and in sociopolitical reality urged Brecht to explore new directions. Throughout his experiments he was conscious of the vital importance of foreign theatre traditions, he made up his mind about their usefulness, but did not abandon the real self of his culture.
Compared with Brecht’s critical attitude and boldness of starting a new performance-audience relation, the Chinese world has different relationship with tradition that criticism and critical discussion are unfamiliar. Scholars in China were never encouraged or interested in overthrowing the authority of the canons in favour of their own ideas. Instead, they sought to enrich the authority of the tradition by claiming a clearer understanding of their original meanings. After all, Confucianism had developed since the Han period (206 BC–AD 220) and became the central philosophical orthodoxy in social, political, and cultural matters, the literati inherently had the duty of being active scholar-officials. Embracing the Confucian Weltanschauung and pedagogic concept, inwardly concerned social stability, while outwardly acting as a Great Wall by asserting cultural superiority over neighbouring cultures, Confucians revised and at times reedited the canons that were the source material for ethical-moral education and developed concepts in theatre theory.
Therefore, Brecht’s revision and critique on tradition becomes an important cognition in teaching ‘Brecht.’
Eclectic Brecht? : Assessing Calcutta Repertory Theatre's Galileor Jivan (Life of Galileo)
This paper tries to assess, analyse and gauge the strands of cultural/aesthetic transposition that Brecht's play "Life of Galileo" undergoes in its Bengali rendition (Galileor Jivan), performed by the Calcutta Repertory Theatre (CRT) in Calcutta (now Kolkata), India in 1980. Galileor Jivan becomes an important case study because it provided the opportunity for a rare confluence of styles of theatre making in the history of Bengali theatre through the collaboration of Fritz Bennewitz (a director steeped with GDR legacy), and the leftist progressive amateur group theatre movement in Calcutta. Here it must be mentioned that the CRT did not exist as a group independently but was formed as a collaborative project of six major theatre groups in Calcutta. One needs to contexualise and simultaneously question (and therefore the question mark in the title) the tenacity of the concept of 'Eclectic Brecht' in terms of the contradictions and the syntheses in generating transformative theatre aesthetics aimed at social intervention brought about by the collaboration. By stressing on the eclectic approach towards cultural/aesthetic transposition of the Brecht play in West Bengal (a state in India), this paper tries to methodologically historicise traits of dialectics inherent in theatre aesthetics in the context of Bennewitz's directorial strategies and its dialogue with actorial/theatrical strategies of the Bengali proscenium theatre in Calcutta of the time.
Recycling Lenin’s The Imperialist War: The Struggle against Social-Chauvinism and Social-Pacifism
For his polemic (ca. 1929) against “the [at that time] most progressive . . . bourgeois faction, the ‘Frankfurtistic’” (BFA 21, p. 305), Brecht recycled a section of Lenin’s The Imperialist War: The Struggle against Social-Chauvinism and Social-Pacificism which he had marked in his own copy (now at the Bertolt-Brecht-Archiv) of Lenin’s Sämtliche Werke, Vol. XVIII (Vienna-Berlin: Verlag für Literatur und Politik, 1929). In his polemic, Brecht says “Lenin has supplied the answer concerning the connection between war and civil war” (BFA 21, p. 305).
Brecht’s views, at that time, on the War (“in its forty-year run-up and its leap into revolution”—BFA 21, p. 305), what it teaches (“a new way of seeing things”— BFA 21, p. 305), and its connection with “the new dramatics” (BFA 21, p. 304) neatly parallel Lenin’s thoughts.
In my paper I explore how this recycling of Lenin influenced the development, during this time, of dialectical dramatics (epic theatre) and evaluate Werner Mittenzwei’s observation, from 1967, that, between 1928 and 1933, Brecht transitioned into the revolutionary working class (“Die Brecht-Lukács-Debatte,” Sinn und Form, 19.1: 237).
Castorf Destroys Brecht: Considerations Regarding Der Jasager, Die Massnahme and Baal
During his years as a playwright and director Brecht reworked and deconstructed, often radically, the works of previous playwrights and writers. Given the fact that there was no Shakespeare or Lenz estate, Brecht had virtually free reign to manipulate and alter the preexisting texts as he saw fit, using them as politically and socially charged statements without fear or challenge from the sources.
Enter Frank Castorf, whose radical work branded him as a “text destroyer” as he violently and deliberately tore apart pre-existing works, mixing them with multiple additional sources, rock and other interpolated music, and multimedia as well as other sources from outside the original work of the playwrights with which he dealt.
This paper will consider three of Castorf’s productions of Brecht, Der Jasager and Die Massnahme at the Volksbühne am Rosa Luxembourg Platz, and Baal at the Residenz Theater Munich that was a finalist at the 2015 Berliner Theatertreffen. While the first two productions were huge departures from the Brecht “originals,” BAAL created such an outrage from the Brecht estate that it was challenged and banned from the stage, aside from a handful of performances from February to May 2015. Taking a look at the nature of all three performances this presentation will look at the rationale for the severe challenges against Baal and the ultimate decisions to ban it from performance.
Brecht and Nature: Recycling the Environment?
“Was sind das für Zeiten, wo / Ein Gespräch über Bäume fast ein Verbrechen ist …!” The word “fast” is key here, for even in the worst of times Brecht allowed himself, mainly in his poetry, to talk about nature. My paper will explore how this was so based on a set of questions. How is nature revealed vis-à-vis the cynicism of the “Cities”? In the wake of the havoc wreaked by two world wars? Are its properties recycled in order to accommodate the new order of modernity (as in T.S. Eliot or Gottfried Benn)? Or are they conserved using other kinds of intervention? Instead of resorting to “industrial” methods of recycling, was Brecht more like the gardener who composts his botanical waste in order to have it retain its essential ingredients as it yields new and different fruit?
Furthermore, which earlier traditions, aside from the Volkslied, did the materialist Brecht mean to use or recycle? He observed nature with the accuracy of a Breughel and the Dutch landscape painters. And his nature imagery – wind, water, earth, sky – is poetically no less cohesive than that of, for all their differences, his predecessor Goethe. In this respect he was able to recapture that “schöne widersprüchliche einheit” which after Goethe split into a “profane” and a “pontifikale Linie” (AJ 8/22/40). In so doing he did not conform to conventions of modernity, nor did he heed Adorno’s dictum concerning poetry after Auschwitz. Hence after his death the avid “recycling” and celebration of nature in GDR poetry that was so profoundly influenced by his own.
Der Künstler im Zeitalter der ludischen Kombinatorik: Zu Schlöndorffs Baal-Verfilmung
“Der liebste Ort auf Erden war ihm immer der Abort“ heißt es in Brechts “Baal“. Es war nicht zuletzt die Ästhetik der Hässlichkeit, die den “abstoßenden“ Mann als Liebesobjekt vieler Frauen zeigt, die Volker Schlöndorff, den jungen Regisseur vom Zeichen des Oberhausener Manifestes zur Fernsehadaption des ersten Dramas von Brecht veranlasste. Nicht ohne Bedeutung ist es, dass das Manifest aus dem Widerstand gegen die Heimatfilmästhetik des sog. “Papas Kinos“ erwachsen ist. Brechts “Baal“ war darüber hinaus ohnehin ein perfektes Beispiel für ein anti-bürgerliches Drama und konnte somit den kritischen, linksorientierten Ton der rebellierenden Generation von 1968 treffen. Bei Brecht kann der Künstler geradezu als notwendige Instanz gelten, vor der sich das Bürgertum bewähren und dank der es sich definieren lässt. Anfang der 70er Jahre schien es allerdings nicht mehr aktuell zu sein. Marcuses Schriften waren damals schon längst bekannt und breit rezipiert worden. Nicht lediglich die “Herabsetzung der höheren Kultur zur Massenkultur, sondern die Widerlegung dieser Kultur durch die Wirklichkeit“, wie es bei Marcuse heißt, waren nun die Maßstäbe der Kultur schlechthin. Dies kam u.a. darin zum Ausdruck, dass während noch zur Zeit der Entstehung von “Baal“ der Held eine antagonistische Stellung zu der bürgerlichen Welt nehmen wollte, so nun wurde jedes Anderssein durch das gesellschaftliche Universum einverleibt.
War die Besetzung der Hauptrolle durch R.W. Fassbinder – ein junges kompromissloses Genie jener Zeit, der sich auch im Privatleben – ganz “baalmäßig“ – eher schlampig und hedonistisch – zeigte, Ausdruck der Larmoyanz nach verlorener Welt oder spielgelt sich darin eine tiefere Reflexion über den Wandel von Werten und Wertvorstellungen über die Kunst, den Künstler und die Gesellschaft in einer Welt, in der der Kultur die Baudrillardsche “kombinatorische Beschaffenheit“ zugeschrieben wird.
Der Beitrag will zeigen, wie das Drama von Brecht den Recyclingprozessen im Zeitalter der ludischen Kombinatorik unterworfen wird und zu welchen Re-interpretationen es führen kann. Fischer, Sylvia
Epic Theatre and Eight-Inch Heels: The Unlikely Alignment of Drag Superstar RuPaul and Brecht
“Epic Theatre and Eight-Inch Heels” explores the surprising alignment between Bertolt Brecht and world-famous drag icon, RuPaul. Nowhere are Epic Theatre and its Brechtian tenets enacted in a more unexpected and entertaining way than in contemporary drag culture, particularly in Rupaul's TV series Drag Race. Rupaul's career is rooted in the outrageous and powerful artifice of drag, and its impact on identity discourse and gender politics; her influence is felt internationally and generationally through the phenomenon of Drag Race.
“Eight-Inch Heels” will be a multimedia piece that builds upon my recent work in Salon Magazine on Drag Race and its role in expanding the visibility of the LGBT community through the enactment of Epic Theatre's tenets. The piece will demonstrate that Drag Race employs Brechtian devices such as radical separation, the V effekt, and gestus. Brecht and RuPaul both use forms of drama that display their own staging to critique the sociopolitical barbarity surrounding them, whether Stalinism or homophobia. By discovering Brecht in drag, “Eight-Inch Heels” exhibits the contemporary relevance of Brecht to the radical politics behind the hashtags, hairpieces and Autotune of Drag Race. Brecht might agree with RuPaul’s assertion, “We’re born naked, and the rest is drag.”
Brecht’s poems for children as seen by today’s kids
Brecht wrote a number of poems for children, not only for his own kids, educating and amusing. In 1968, Helene Weigel invited school children to illustrate Brecht for his 70th birthday, with great results. However, language and attitudes change quickly with young people, so it is a question how today’s kids see those poems. For the Brecht Festival Augsburg of 2014, a painting competition for school children in grades 3-6 was initiated. Suggestions were offered but they were free in their choice of text, as well as size and technique of their art work. 1,400 children from all over Bayerisch Schwaben and all types of school participated. A jury picked 56 pictures for an exhibition in the local theatre, and a book was published. The wide response and the quality of the pictures show that the poems are still well understood today. Favourites were texts that celebrate the imperfect or unorthodox, like “Onkel Ede”, “Der Pflaumenbaum” or “Lied vom Kind, das sich nicht waschen wollte”. Examples will be shown in the presentation.
Engaging with Brecht: Producing Mother Courage in Higher Education as a Test of His Methodology
In the spring of 2015 Texas Tech University produced Mother Courage and Her Children using Brecht’s methodologies as explicated by David Barnett in his book Brecht in Practice. This essay examines how an application of Barnett’s writings to Brecht’s classic work helped the group discover new ways of creating theatre collaboratively and engage with the text at a deeper analytical—and dialectical—level. This exploration includes the production team’s use of music, sound, costume, lighting and scene design to create Verfremdung, as well as the writing of the overall Fabel of the play and how the ensemble of actors tested the Fabel, creating tableaux of Arrangements for each Micro-fabel to clarify the Gestus of each scene. The use of Brecht’s methods for creating greater character complexity through an emphasis on sociological over psychological detail are also discussed as is the attention given to each figure’s various Haltungen and how the ideas of contradiction and “Not…but” were applied. Finally, the realization of the team’s ideas in performance and the spectators’ views of the work are examined.
Translation, Adaptation, and Implementation of Brechtian Theater Aesthetics in the Turkish Context
Following a military coup in 1960, parliamentary democracy was established in Turkey and a new progressive constitution guaranteed freedoms of thought and expression, political activity and organization. Immediately thereafter, one of the questions intensely debated concerned the function of literature. Foundational texts of Marxism saw publication in Turkish, and the translation of Bertolt Brecht’s theoretical and literary work made possible the adaptation of his work for the Turkish stage. This paper examines the engagement, translation, and implementation of Brechtian theories of epic theatre and dramaturgical practices in the Turkish context, particularly focusing on leading literary and dramatic journals. Key figures in these debates were literary critics like Özdemir Nutku and Metin And, as well as dramatists like Haldun Taner and Vasif Öngören. Ultimately, by searching for new forms for a progressive Turkish theatre, Turkish intellectuals emphasized the necessary adaptation and thus transformation of Brechtian techniques to properly reflect Turkish socio-political realities, while at the same time foregrounding intersections between epic theatre and traditional Turkish folk theatre—and thus striving for a synthesis between the two traditions.
Degenerate’ Opera? The Contemporary Reception of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny
The contemporary reception of Brecht’s work during the Weimar Republic is an area of Brecht studies that has been somewhat neglected (though the same point applies to other key theatrical or operatic works from this period, such as Krenek’s Jonny spielt auf!). My paper attempts to rectify that anomaly to some degree by analysing the reception of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, paying particular attention to National Socialist and right wing responses to the opera (if indeed it is an opera!), with reference to reviews in newspapers and periodicals. My attempt to make sense of these responses draws on Hans Robert Jauß’s classic essay ‘Literaturgeschichte als Provokation der Literaturwissenschaft’/’Literary History as a Challenge to Literary Studies’. I argue that Jauß’s key category, the ‘horizon of expectations’, is in need of fundamental revision, and propose replacing it with the notion of ‘horizons of (artistic) discourse’. In so doing I draw on M. H. Abrams categorisation of conflicting concepts of poetry in The Mirror and the Lamp, and conclude by briefly considering contemporary responses to the Leipzig production of Mahagonny with reference to Abrams’ model, in an attempt to identify the multiple horizons of discourse that inform its reception. The full version of the paper analyses the full range of critical responses to the Leipzig premiere from far left to far right, and presents a much more detailed account of theoretical issues pertaining to reception theory and cultural analysis – in other words, recycling!
A Play By Any Other Name: The Ragged Cap a.k.a Señora Carrar’s Rifles: The First Brecht Production in the Southern Hemisphere?
“He made suggestions. We/Took them on”. In 1938 the members of the New Theatre League in Newcastle, an industrial port city 100 miles north of Sydney, did just that. Just one year after the world premiere in Paris of Señora Carrar’s Rifles, starring Helene Weigel, the play – and Brecht – debuted in Australia. Indeed, this may well have been the first Brecht play to be produced in the southern hemisphere. While the standard account of Brecht reception in Australia describes the first Brecht production as taking place in Sydney in 1939, this earlier production has been entirely absent from the theatrical record, until now. It has been overlooked, probably in large part because the participants retitled the play, naming it instead The Ragged Cap. Ironically, by their own act of “revamping or recalibrating” the Brechtian source material, they erased Brecht from the theatrical record and with that their own place within it as Brecht pioneers “downunder”. The work of the Newcastle NTL in the late 1930s is barely known today, but for nearly four years from early 1937 the Newcastle NTL was a vibrant and active contributor to the national and international project of the New Theatre Leagues – changing the world through theatre.
The Gestus of Communism
When reconstructing the recycling of source material, we tend to think of individual authors and works; but very often, recycling also involves acts of translation across art forms and audiovisual media. In the case of Brecht, we can see this process in the making of a particular habitus or, to use his term, gestus. In my presentation, I propose to reconstruct the field of visual, musical, and performative practices that, during the Weimar Republic, produced the gestus of communism in art and politics. To be defined as a particular way of looking, speaking, standing, and moving, this gestus of communism is inseparable from the habitus of militant masculinity closely associated with, and actively promoted by, the KPD. We can see its emergence in three areas: the representation of the communist agitator in Weimar painting; the choreography of class consciousness in dances by Jean Weidt; and the performative style of communist agitprop, especially the Rote Sprachrohr. These practices identified with the communist lifeworld not only allowed Brecht to further develop gestus as a dramatic technique and critical device; it also facilitated the kind of re-gendering that makes Kuhle Wampe (1932) a reflection on the performance of gender and politics—and their problematic connection within proletarian culture.
“[S]he made suggestions. We took them”: Brecht’s Women Colleagues as Muse for adaptation and translation
Students of literature have been interested in the idea of collaboration for some time. Traditionally, the aim of scholars studying collaboration was to understand exactly who wrote what and to correct attributions accordingly. Some scholars set out to establish collaborators as authors in their own right. This strategy has yielded some insights into the previously unacknowledged contribution of collaborators, and interesting as a potential challenge to the ideology of individual authorship.
For the more specific case of writing together I would like to examine various forms of co-writing with Bertolt Brecht, what its meanings are for the participants and how it affects the texts in question. Various forms of co-writing have been quite common throughout literary history, even at the height of the cult of the solitary genius in romanticism. Stillinger also revealed the different forms multiple authorship can take: “[T]he young Keats being refined, polished and restrained by well-intentioned friends and publishers; the middle-aged Mill being spruced up by his wife for attractive autobiographical presentation; Coleridge constructing his philosophy with lengthy extracts taken over verbatim without acknowledgment from the Germans; Eliot seizing on the revisions and excisions of his mentor” (Stillinger 1991: 182). Brecht’s women colleagues seem to have inspired many of Brecht’s plays, providing “revisions and incisions”, even texts in translation for their collaboration, and adaptation of works from John Gay and Shakespeare. In my paper I’d like to look at Elisabeth Hauptmann’s, Ruth Berlau’s and Margarete Steffin’s suggestions for adaptations and “recycling” of materials in Brecht’s plays.
From critical to confessional? “Sexual dependency” re-imagined
“I don’t ever want to be susceptible to anyone else’s version of my history,” photographer Nan Goldin wrote in 1986, in the preface to her collection “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.” Goldin’s preface never mentions the Brecht-Weill song of that title, sung by Mrs. Peachum in Die Dreigroschenoper. On the surface, Goldin’s urban drug--culture photo series can only be imagined at a long stretch as a recycling of Brecht’s text. The photographs appear to operate in the confessional mode, as an insistence on Goldin’s subjective vision, without the critical distancing Brecht worked to foster. On closer inspection, however, Goldin’s photo captions work similarly to Brecht’s “Spruchbänder” or placards announcing action before it occurs onstage; a title such as “Shelley leaving the room” or “Nan after being battered” reifies and thereby exposes the social – and particularly gendered – inequities of urban life in the 1970s and early 80s. Drawing on transmediality studies by Irina Rajewsky and Regina Schober, this paper argues that textual elements of “reportage” cross media between the Brecht-Weill song and the Goldin project, in order to reveal a critical aspect of images often dismissed as “heroin chic.”
Post-Brechtian Aesthetics in Contemporary British Drama
Bertolt Brecht, whose epic theatre has shaped the development of British political drama ever since the Berliner Ensemble’s first visit to London in 1956, has continued to inspire playwrights in Britain even beyond the watershed years of the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the wake of the sweeping philosophical and political transformations of the time, fundamental interrogations into the forms and functions of political art have considerably influenced contemporary appropriations of Brechtian epic theatre in Britain. As a consequence, post-Brechtian aesthetics have been characterised by a turn to the experiential and affective, thereby spurring an oscillation between critical distance and emotional implication of the audience. The resulting ambivalence represents a key strategy in post-Brechtian theatre, as the example of Scottish dramatist David Greig illustrates. In both The American Pilot (2006), a reworking of the Brechtian parable, and The Events (2013), which bears similarities with the Lehrstück, Greig combines both V-effects and affective appeals to the spectators to create a political theatre that powerfully responds to the philosophical and political challenges of the twenty-first century.
“Das hat Brecht nicht verdient”: Frank Castorf’s ‘Baal’ as an Act of Vandalism
This paper will explore Frank Castorf’s staging of Bertolt Brecht’s ‘Baal’ (2015), and its near-immediate cancellation by the Brecht estate. After the show’s run was halted at Munich’s Residenztheater, Castorf’s ‘Baal’ was permitted one final performance, closing the prestigious Berliner Theater-Treffen. Aside from a scramble for tickets, the controversy resulted in a media storm and hundreds of online (and offline) discussions, all asking similar questions: has Castorf ‘vandalised’ Brecht’s ‘Baal’, or, indeed, Brecht’s legacy? These debates, simply through the framing of their questions, constitute the act of adaptation as a destructive force. Conversely, Brecht’s own theoretical approach to adaptation urges that artists should not live in fear of “destroy[ing] the classics,” and that a “fear of vandalism turned people into philistines.” With the tensions between ‘philistine’ and ‘vandal’ encapsulated in the complicated cultural expectations of a Brecht work re-staged, this paper will question the implications of innovatively recycling Brecht – and examine the point at which aesthetic decisions become matters of legality.
Brecht’s ‘Material Value’: Frank Castorf Recycles Baal
To take the slogan “Recycling Brecht” seriously, one has to examine Brecht’s ‘Theory of Material Value.’ At the end of the 1920s, Brecht sketches a model for an appropriation of the classical canon that maybe described as a practice of gestural citation, situated within a context of an all-embracing cultural practice of repetition and transgression. Brecht’s special dealing with works by Marlowe, Shakespeare, Villon, Schiller, Hölderlin, et al. finds its echo in contemporary theatre productions that re-introduce his material or utilitarian value into the present. A prominent example is Frank Castorf’s staging of Baal at the Residenztheter in Munich (2015), which was prohibited by Suhrkamp publishers and Brecht’s inheritors alike. Based on theoretical considerations on the concepts of material value and recycling, my paper will investigate how Castorf’s exemplary production appropriates and deploys Brecht’s ‘raw materials’ – which I will describe as 1) a historicising practice by relocating the dramatic events to Vietnam, 2) a trans-medial ‘separation of elements,’ 3) an opera-like intensification of ‘conditions,’ and 4) a scenic re-enactment of theatre and film classics.
Held, Phoebe von
Eternal Returns: Strategies of Adaptation in Fleischhacker
In this intervention I will look at the process of adaptation in Jae Fleischhacker, which interests me as a project of radical experimentation and as Brecht's first attempt to carve out the principles of epic drama, a drama fit to react to the challenges of capitalism. Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann’s journey through the Fleischhacker material ran through a complex process of re-writing and adaptation, which started with The Pit by Frank Norris (1903) as the main source material for the Fleischhacker scenes, and led to the intra-authorial adaptations of The Bread King, a Hollywood film proposal written in 1941, as well as the short story Der Hamlet der Weizenbörse (1940). I will investigate the adaptive mechanisms, moments and strategies that Brecht pursued in this re-writing process: where lay the moments of transformation; which textual materials and aesthetic forms survived the process of adaptation, and which were rejected on the path towards epic theatre? What were the key thoughts that moved this process forward and what were the dead ends that inhibited conclusion. This inquiry is part of my research for a translation and staging of Fleischhacker.
Wozu ist Brecht noch ¨brauchbar¨, z.B. in Paraguay?
These: Aufklärung ist heute noch nötig - und möglich. Seit 27 Jahren -jedes Jahr-, lese und analysiere ich die Stücke Brechts mit meinen Studenten im Fach ¨Deutsche Literatur¨ -in der Philosophischen Fakultät der Staatlichen Universität Asunción-, und was ich versucht habe in all diesen Jahren, ist etwas Aufklärung in ihren Köpfen zu pflanzen/fördern, und dafür ist die Intelligenz, die in den Brechtschen Stücken überall erscheint, mein Hauptwerkzeug gewesen. (z.B., in Form von Dialektik, die ständig Thesen und Antithesen gegenüberstellt, oder in Form von Ironie und Sarkasmus, die die Realität illuminieren, um so die Manipulationen der Mächtigen, die uns gefährden/bedrohen, aufzudecken.)
Meine Absicht ist also, meinen Studenten zum selbstständigen/kritischen Denken zu motivieren, denn obwohl das als etwas leichtes angesehen werden kann, ist es etwas sehr schwieriges -siehe heute die verrückten Fundamentalisten-, und noch mehr in einem Land mit so tiefen autoritären Wurzeln, wo die Menschen nur an Gehorsam, Wiederholung, Lüge und Korruption, gewöhnt sind.
So hoffe ich die Studenten zu verändern -die Änderbaren-, und durch sie ihre Familien, ihre Schüler -die meisten sind LehrerInnen-, und die Gesellschaft insgesamt.
The Queer Verfremdungseffeckt; or the rejection of Heteronormative Realism
The central concern of this paper is how Brechtian and queer theory has intersected and facilitated generations of Queer playwrights to counter hegemonic discourses of heteronormativity. I will apply Brechtian methodology to plays and performances considered Queer. "Brecht is the key figure of our time, and all theatre work today at some point starts or returns to his statements and achievements," claimed Peter Brook. This is evident in the early Queer Theatre movement, which utilized Brecht’s key theories as points of departure in its rejection of heteronormative realism, providing a unique intersection of gender, sexuality, race and class.
Drawing from a corpus of plays from Theatre Rhinoceros, Split Britches and Gay Sweatshop. These companies were chosen because their works predominantly revolve around the formation, assertion and subversion of gender and sexual identities. As such, they elucidate many of the theoretical issues at stake in this research. The foundations for my theory are found in selected works by Willet (Brecht on Theatre 1978), Elin Diamond (Unmaking Mimesis 1997) and Butler (Gender Trouble, 1990).
“Producing Something with the Other’s Talents”: Brecht, Community, and Zusammenarbeit in Exile
It has long been known that in his writing, Brecht recycled tropes, plots, and language not only from the literature of the past but also from his contemporaries and comrades. Yet the mechanics, meanings, and ethics of this intellectual style, if hotly debated, have been much less well understood. Drawing on extensive historical research into the period of Brecht’s exile in Denmark (1933-1939), this paper posits a stable, efficient, and effective group of Mitarbeiter (co-workers) that included Brecht, the actress Helene Weigel, and the writers Walter Benjamin, Margarete Steffin, and Karin Michaëlis. It illuminates the working and personal relationships amongst these Mitarbeiter to demonstrate how a system of intellectual collaboration and literary borrowing was developed and utilised by the participants. Examining the fine detail of several collaborative projects through an analysis of manuscripts, journals, and correspondence, the paper also considers philosophical and ideological commitments, in particular socialism, broader anti-capitalism, and anti-fascism, to show how sharing, repurposing, and recycling were understood by this group. The paper asserts that this kind of recycling was understood by Brecht and his co-workers not only as an anti-bourgeois impulse, but also—in interpersonal relationships and in broader political terms—as an ethical and creative good.
The Brechtian Legacy: Contemporary Performance
At the end of Delbo’s play a Holocaust survivor states, “We wanted to be heard, we wanted to be understood,” but she also realized that audiences will never understand. Lawrence Langer points out in The Holocaust and the Literary Imagination that “the paradox for the artist is that its exclusiveness, the total absence of any shared basis of experience that would simplify the imagination’s quest for a means of converting it into universally available terms…” made it impossible for Delbo to offer a complete understanding of her experiences in Auschwitz-Birkenau. This paper explores Langer’s paradox by contextualizing Delbo’s play utilizing a consciously recycled staging of Brecht’s notions of Verfremdungseffekt.
While Delbo’s text is autobiographical, it fails in a purely realistic staging given the enormity of the history and our lack of shared experience. While modern audiences can visit the sites of Auschwitz-Birkenau, we can never truly understand what happened. Therefore the production process involved exploring ways to bring Delbo’s poetry to life without attempting to create unattainable stage realism.
This presentation explores the production process, the in-depth dramaturgical work, historic research, the experience of working with Holocaust survivors, and our efforts to recycle Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt to insure that actors and audience understood that they were experiencing events on a stage and not in reality.
Tracking the Inexplicable Rise of Corrupt Power: Perceptions/Receptions of Brecht’s Ui
It is not uncommon to condemn historic Germans for not having the foresight to recognize the potential catastrophic consequences of allowing Adolf Hitler to assume national office. His early political career was characterized by vitriolic, Nationalistic rhetoric that fanned fear, anger and xenophobia in his country. Comparing two enormously successful Berliner Ensemble productions of Brecht's parable on the early years of Hitler's régime, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, offers valuable insight into how Germans understand, construct and confront images of Hitler’s cultural legacy. Brecht was among the first artists to recognize and boldly tackle the personification of evil and his 1941 play paved the way for other, evolving versions of Hitler’s notorious legacy. The two very different 1959 and 1995 Berliner Ensemble productions of the script were among the most successful in the history of the company. Although Brecht’s original 1941 text remained largely fixed, the performance of the central character radically altered over time. The 1959 Palitzsch/Wekwerth production portrayed Hitler as a foolish puppet empowered by the greed and corruption of the capitalist system; a Marxist interpretation. Meanwhile, Heiner Müller's 1995 production highlighted the ascent of a dangerous psychopath who dominates a fractured political system; a post-modern, Freudian interpretation. Both shows privileged evolving German perceptions of corrupt power and political context over historic fact. This paper explores how two German directors fashioned and catered to contemporary perceptions of Hitler and paved the way for ever-evolving cultural insight into the machinations of power and evil.
Image and action: Brecht in actor training
This presentation describes a practical approach successfully developed in response to two decades in which our political context was transformed - from polarised confrontation, through the neo-liberal ascendancy and socialist failure to the disappearance of political alternatives.
In teaching this entailed a shift from texts like The Mother and the Lehrstücke, and abandonment of intensive lecture-based input (especially Marx), drawing instead on students’ performative drive and moral engagement with character and situation in practical text analysis. Treating theory as always provisional and arising from practice. Politicising by stealth.
The method adopted was designed to develop actors’ dramaturgical consciousness and adapted from Boal’s early technique of Image Theatre. Students create and test sequences of freeze-frame images in in terms of causality, sympathy-antipathy and moral judgement.
They then break down short scenes from Fears and Miseries into images, identifying turning points and contradictions, alternative outcomes (real and ideal), and the “Not … But”.
Discussion is kept to a minimum, primarily through an exchange of images. Students are encouraged to discover how the impact of the scene depends on their engagement as actors, and how, in the process, they take ownership of the dramaturgy.
The final stage of the work, based on Mother Courage, and Brecht’s notes and Model Book photographs, demonstrates how Verfremdung is activated and the spectator’s critical attitude engaged through the actors’ practice.
Mann ist Mann und Kabuki
Die Truppe von Tsutsui, die sich “Kabuki“ nannte, gastierte im Oktober 1930 in Berlin. Brecht hatte Gelegenheit, den Kabuki-Klassiker Kanjinchô zu sehen. In Mann ist Mann, 1926 geschrieben, Ende 1930 / anfang 1931 umgearbeitet und im Februar 1931 von Brecht selbst inszeniert, kann man deutlich den Einfluss vom “Kabuki“ erkennen. Das Stück zeigt das Schicksal eines irischen Packers in Indien, der sich in eine Kampfmaschine verwandelt.
In Kanjinchô wird Yoshitsune, der zuerst als Pilger verkleidet war, auf der Bühne blitzschnell in einen Träger verwandelt und in Mann ist Mann wird dieselbe Technik verwendet. Die Verwendung von übertriebenem Makeup weist auch Parallelen zum Kabuki auf.
Um den Diener Benkei riesengroß aussehen zu lassen, wurde er im Kabuki mit Füllmaterial versehen, bekam hohe Geta-Sandalen und eine große Nase. In der Aufführung von Mann ist Mann von 1931 erscheint ebenfalls ein riesiger Mann, der ähnlich wie im Kabuki ausgestopft ist und auch sehr stilisiert spielt. Eine solche Inszenierung im Kabuki-Stil könnte von Tsutsuis ”Kabuki“-Aufführung inspiriert worden sein.
Die “Mitate“ – das japanische Verb “mitateru“ heißt “etw. für etw. halten“ – benutzt man oft in der japanischen Theaterkunst. In Mann ist Mann schafft man mit einem montierten, künstlichen Elefanten ein Spiel im Spiel. Das ist eine Art von ”Mitate“-Spiel. Gleichzeitig kann man sagen, das ganze Stück sei ein ”Mitate“- Spiel.
“Betrayal and Homage”: War Primer 2 and the Problem of Appropriation
Bertolt Brecht, like many leftist critics and Marxist theorists, was inherently skeptical about the ability of mass-produced imagery to document underlying causes of human relations (see, for example, his seminal essay “Dreigroschenprozess”). This paper examines the ‘updated’ adaptation of Brecht’s somewhat lesser studied collection of 69 ‘photograms’ (War Primer, 1955). This War Primer 2, published in 2013 by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin (London: MACK Publishing) as the “belated sequel”, takes on mass media images from around the world that visually document the so-called ‘War on Terror’, juxtaposing these - as Brecht did during his exile years - against highly critical poetic epigrams, instructing the reader on how to ‘read’ photographs against the grain of convention. How is War Primer 2 both an “act of homage and an act of betrayal” (Broomberg/Chanarin) to Brecht’s original work? Where do these works diverge in terms of content and intention, and what can we learn from this? Can we consider Broomberg and Chanarin’s version as a functional example of the process of “Umfunktionierung”, or is it something else? What can we as critical thinkers and consumers of ubiquitous mass media imagery take away from this collection? Although it seeks to appropriate Brecht’s voice, the War Primer 2 employs Brecht’s premise and technique without calling the original into question.
Ipanema, José de
Brazilian Radical Theatre: Dialect of Images and Physical Actions
The Radical Brazilian Theatre (TRB) is a poetic developed since 1988 by Ricardo Guilherme from Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil. The main target of this work is to establish a productive kinship between its principles and modern conception of Brecht’s key theories. With a history of more than fifty plays, TRB transubstantiates Gestus and Verfremdungseffekt presenting on stage, with the single help of actor’s body and voice, a critic viewpoint of contemporary agenda.
Its strong narrative profile and special commitment to learning process and social change through theatre as a tool of increasing awareness are connected to the decision of Guilherme to stay at his homeland, away from cultural mainstream and establishing from there a Brazilian, northeastern, unique, political positioning. The radical acting is an original way of conceiving Brechtian inheritance and to provoke critical reasoning of the audience while putting the actor as the main source of theatricality. Video, sound, as well as any other machinery or scenario, are considered obstacles to the imagination of spectators, who have an active role on appreciating a radical play. This anthropocentric view of theatre considers the actor as the most important artistic tool, the only capable of interfering in the political passiveness of spectators.
Recycling luxury: The Lindbergh texts
In a comment from 1929, Brecht plans to publish various texts. The price will be relative to the value, so that luxury items are expensive and those of importance («Wichtiges») cheap (GBA 26, 291). For instance, the very popular «Dreigroschenoper» is labelled expensive and a book for children («Kinderbilderbuch») cheap, perhaps because of its educational value. But «Lindberghflug», too, is labelled expensive, which is quite strange. Is this Lehrstück not important? What makes it luxurious? In its first printing (April 1929) it is called a «Radio-Hörspiel», only later (June 1930) a «Radiolehrstück»: did the play stop being luxurious when it was turned into a Lehrstück?
Brecht rewrote this work several times, and there are at least 11 texts (some of which are identical). It started as a “recycling” of Charles Lindbergh’s book “We” (1927) and ended in a version called “Der Ozeanflug” (1950/1959) where Lindbergh’s name is demonstratively crossed out. What happened to the work along the way?
The Method of Recycling in Bertolt Brecht’s Die Heilige Johanna der Schlachthöfe helps us to understand the message of his play
Today industrial factories recycle old machines to create new machines with its parts. Bertolt Brecht (1898 –1956) the German poet works in this same sense. He puts parts out of the old theatrical plays, novels and biographies and composes with them a new play for the spectators. He wants to help them to understand the new public social situation of the human beings and also that the spectators change their minds for better human interactions.
I want to show the method of recycling old plays by Brecht with his plays Das Leben Edwards II and Die Heilige Johann der Schlachthöfe. The goal of his plays is that the spectators do not only amuse themselves by the plays, but that they change their understanding of themselves and of the social political society. They have to leave the theatre as changed human beings.
There is a relationship between the poet and his time. He picks up the problems of the social society and points them in his plays. He wants to change the minds of the spectators so that they will become responsible human beings.
Bertolt Brecht lived in the time of social political and mental changes after World War I, in which the social and human question were negotiated. A new method of theatre was necessary to change the self-evidence of the spectator in the view of the new social political situation. Brecht chooses the epic-rational method for his plays in the sense of Horaz “delectare et prodesse.”
Brecht shows in his play Das Leben Edwards II that the egoistical lifestyle of a human beings is a problem for the society. Already 1920 he criticises the play of Friedrich Schillers “Don Carlos” that his imagination of freedom has nothing to do with the imagination of freedom of the workers in the book of Upton Sinclair The Jungle. Brecht means, that the conception must be concrete for the reality. Brecht tries to show this with his play Die Heilige Johann der Schlachthöfe Brecht recycles like industrial factories the old plays of Skakespeare, Goethe, Schiller, novels and biographies, the evolution of Karl Marx Kapital and the financial help of the Salvation Army and makes with their parts a new play with a human message for the society.
Brecht explains the demand for himself and his poets to describe and represent the truth in the time an in the reality about the social conditions to demonstrate the subject of the spectators the object of the social tensions and demand them to think about them.
Brecht knows the philosophical remarks of Immanuel Kant “pictures with out conceptions are empty.” He recycles his play “Die Heilige Johanna…” with many pictures and contents its hero Johanna with revolutionary ideas. The Johanna of Brecht is not that of Schiller. Its figure is changed by the thought of the figure Faust by Goethes play. Johanna wants to find out. “Why are the worker always poor?” Why can they not change their situation?” Brecht addresses with his new method of a play the spectators.
Transmedia documentary and Brecht: The case of 18 days in Egypt
One manifestation of the digital revolution has been the emergence of the transmedia documentary – a genre that treats single subjects in different media and through relatively self-contained forms that employ the Internet as the distribution platform. The genre's realist mandate, the user interaction it affords, and its inherent opposition to medium specificity all evoke Brecht's ideas: from those expounded in The 'Threepenny' Trial to the ideas put forward in the Lehrstück theory fragments. 18 Days in Egypt – an outstanding transmedia work about the toppling of Hosni Mubarak – corresponds to Brecht's thought and practice in some of its formal procedures, as well as in its political engagement.
Curiously, the list of sound ethical and aesthetic questions 18 Days promises to address excludes a question concerning implications of a media work's possible co-option by dominant culture, which Brecht considered crucial. Underlying this disregard seems to be the notion that the dichotomy between dominant and counter-dominant cultures is no longer relevant in our postmodern era, when the production and dissemination of media texts is available to all with access to the computer and the web. I use Brecht and 18 Days to interrogate the applicability of the mentioned view to documenting such events as the Egyptian uprising, which suggest that history may not be over after all.
Waking the Dead: George Tabori's Reframing of ‘The Jewish Wife’
“The Jewish Wife” is one of the few texts by Brecht focused on the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany. For Hungarian-Jewish playwright George Tabori’s relationship to Bertolt Brecht, the scene from Furcht und Elend des Dritten Reiches is of particular significance, as evidenced by Tabori’s multiple attempts to reframe “The Jewish Wife,” which exemplify his aspiration to reconceive Brechtian theatre in a post-Holocaust world. In the fall of 1961, while residing in New York, Tabori first suggested to his then wife, the Swedish actress Viveca Lindfors, using the text for a session in Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio. Lindfors’ successful performance, which highlighted the protagonist’s irreducible despair and suffering over the more abstract critique of middle class capitulation, was then featured prominently in the subsequent off-Broadway production of Brecht on Brecht, a collage of Brecht texts that Tabori had compiled and translated. Two decades later, the scene reappeared in Tabori’s Bochum production of his Jubiläum (1983)—a play commemorating the Holocaust, commissioned on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Nazi seizure of power—in the form of a postmodern reflection on the link between past and contemporary anti-Semitism. Close to another two decades passed until Tabori directed the scene once again, also in the context of a commemoration, this time the Berliner Ensemble’s annual remembrance of the first deportation of Berlin Jews in October 1941. The BE performance was staged as a joint production with Christoph Hein’s one-act Mutters Tag, a variation or continuation of Brecht’s “The Jewish Wife,” in which Tabori played an aging Jewish writer whose dead mother appears to recall her fate and express concern over his welfare in the country of her murderers. In my paper I discuss Tabori’s changing relationship to Brecht’s text and explore its position in Tabori’s own theatre, which draws on Brecht while reconfiguring his work in light of the Holocaust.
Entfremdung instead of Verfremdung: Appropriation and Refunctioning of the Epic Theatre Theory and Practice in the New German Stage
Common Ground by Yael Ronen & Ensemble (Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin), Das Fest after the film of Thomas Vinterberg & Mogens Rukov, directed by Christopher Rüping (Schauspiel Stuttgart), Die lächerliche Finsternis , by Wolfram Lotz, directed by Dušan David Parizek (Akedemietheater, Wien) - all three performed at the “Theatertreffen” in Berlin, 2015 – as well as The Dark Ages written and directed by Milo Rau, and Urteile By Christine Umpfenbach and Azar Mortazavi, directed by C. Umpfenbach (both at the Residenztheater, Munich 2015) – are all paradigms, to be analyzed in my paper, of a prevailing trend in a dominant, mainly young section of the new German theatre today (especially, but not exclusively, in ensemble devising groups) of appropriating major constituents of Brecht’s socio-political Epic Theatre’s theory and practice in order to restructure and refunction them from within, a quarter of a century after the Fall of the Wall and the demise of all ideologies.
This intentionality attests itself, first and foremost, in adopting Brecht’s anti-realistic techniques, but rejecting his belief that by renouncing the illusionist theatre, “the old narratives“ and defamiliarizing Reality, the stage will be capable of exposing the postulate, dogmatic “truth” about the social circumstances, thereby imposing it on the spectator (under the deceptive guise of presenting it as his/her own choice) and urging him/her to change them (in the article “Towards a New Drama”). Absorbing epic devices such as storytelling, direct confrontation of and with the audience, repudiation of the commitment of the actor to embody only a single, psychologically motivated, developing character, resorting to third person delivery and quotation tactics, occasional usage of the past tense, verbal cross-dressing, Gestus, etc. -- the performers of the German new theatre advocate, in a typical postdramatic spirit, a polyphonic, non-exclusive battery of truths, thus relativizing them, trading the instrumental-didactic-dogmatic character of the epic theatre and its messianic Marxist-moralistic optimism for the nihilist determinism of apocalyptic or carnivalesque eclecticism and open-endedness of an apparent “work in progress”, in contrast to the effect of a recycled, well-rehearsed and “closed” production that Brecht demanded (moreover, Brecht believed in the power of “facts”, in the “scientific” theatre as redeemer of truth; the new projects deny this perception altogether. Not only are facts subject to various interpretations, i.e. “truths”, but they hamper the need for “Einfühlung” and “Mitleid” – suffering with the “other” - emotional Enlightenment-period notions that Brecht outright rejects, and the new German theatre attempts to elicit). Indeed, once and again the new German theatre suggests the option of reconciliation (as in The Dark Ages and Common Ground) between agents of opposing political entities, however in the wake of Brecht’s “Der Vorhang zu und alle Fragen offen”, the principle, political questions remain unresolved.
On the other hand, the new political theatre of social awareness challenges what might be termed Brecht’s “genus” approach of dialectically confronting socio-economic stereotyped types stigmatized according to social stratification (such as, the good proletarian versus the wicked bourgeois capitalist) – and solicits the idea of Man as an unikum, and society (e.g., the cast) as a conglomerate of diversities.
Another strategy that the new politically and socially minded new German theatre borrows from Brecht in order to invert, subvert and recodify is that of historicization, detachment of the evidence, in order to endow the spectator with an emotionally uninvolved perspective on social life through a remote fable. Notwithstanding the current negative connotations of the exploitation of the spiritual commodities of “exotic” cultures – as Brecht so often does – considered nowadays a detestable colonialist and paternalistic act of hegemonic Europeans, most of the productions analyzed in my paper convert Brecht’s practice into the historiciazation of the performers’ own real or imagined biographies, thus applying epic acting techniques to the rendering of their own life-stories: they quote themselves, reflect upon their own behaviour from a critical distance, and reduce their psycho-physical complexity into a schematic Gestus. Thereby they “comply” with Brecht’s indoctrinate dictum of abolishing the “hypnotic magic” of Realism, by paradoxically putting Reality itself, namely, their own presence on the stage, demanding the spectators’ primarily non cerebral involvement in their narratives.
Consequently, the major transcodification attempted by representatives of the new German theatre relates to the realm of the implied spectators’ (or textually inscribed target audience’s) responses, imbued in Brecht’s two key-notions: Verfremdung and Entfremdung. Whereas the V-effekt denotes emotional alienation in order to allow the spectator to reflect upon his/her social circumstances, Entfremdung might refer to the very opposite. The prefix Ent denotes in German cancellation, obliteration, abortion, elimination. In other words: In a blatant contrast to its habitual elucidation, Entfremdung might literally denote the abolition of defamiliarization (or – de-depersonalization), or perhaps of strangeness (i.e., de-estrangement), through the epic technique. The new German theatre that via the measures of the epic theatre requires empathy – Mitleid, Empfindung – replaces the V- with the E-effekt: Instead of defamiliarizing the familiar, these productions – as I will demonstrate in my lecture – familiarize the defamiliarized.
Ludic philosophy in Brecht’s drama and prose
Brecht can be considered a philosophizing thespian in that he distrusts the hypnotizing common sense and emphasizes the necessity of knowledge and critical distance in theater. As a thespian, he cannot but philosophize amidst the social and interactive events, thereby stressing the necessity of the embodied, situated and performative nature of the critical distance and thought. Moreover, he insists that knowledge and seriousness include the aspect of joy, amusement and lightness. I argue that these characteristics of Brecht’s thinking can fruitfully contribute to the definition of what can be called the ludic thought. To this purpose, I will first analyze the possibility to connect Brecht with some aspects of Nietzsche’s philosophy of play. I will especially mention Nietzsche’s stress on joyful, passionate and always situated thinking that falls into neither consuming escapism nor superficial relativism. Second, I will argue that ludic thinking can reveal a special structure of subjectivity and social ethics. I will demonstrate this on the example of Nietzche’s ethics of play and Brecht’s ludic figure of Mr. Keuner.
Learning Provocations: On Cinematic Lehrstücke
Brecht wrote his major essay on film Der Dreigroschenprozeß, while he was developing his theory for a pedagogical theatre - the Lehrstück. Despite the obvious differences between theatre and cinema, it is striking that he mused on the potential of the new media (film and radio) to close the gap between transmitters and receivers of information. Yet notwithstanding Brecht’s reception on the part of the Francophone and Anglophone film theory of the 1970s, or even his influence on Noël Burch’s “Oppositional Version of the development of film style” there has been almost no research on cinema’s potential to produce lessons “for the producers” as per the utopian aspiration of the Lehrstücke. Peter Schepelern describes Aki Kaurismäki’s proletarian trilogy as a Brechtian Lehrstücke on account of the films’ minimalist style and their schematic plots, while Nikolaj Lübecker suggests that Lars von Trier’s Dogville has a Lehrstück dimension because of its “didactic engagement with the problem of Dogville”. However, both use the term in passing without elaborating on its implications.
Contemporary films such as La Commune (Watkins, 2000), The Act of Killing (Oppenheimer, Cynn, 2012), and Caesar Must Die (Taviani Brothers, 2012), capitalize on the pedagogical aspiration of the Brechtian Lehrstücke by asking their protagonists to reenact actions and subsequently to reflect on them. In this paper, I intend to supply some fresh insights into Brechtian cinema by using as case studies The Act of Killing, and La Commune. The paper hypothesizes a pathway capable of offering some fresh perspectives on the aforementioned films as well as on making us rethink the currency of Brecht’s pedagogical experiments.
Brecht after Brecht: Broomberg and Chanarin and the Politics of the Changeable Text
Following on from my paper ‘“Don’t start with the good old things, but the bad new ones”: Broomberg and Chanarin occupying Brecht’ for the AGS last year, this paper follows my continuing work with artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, as they inhabit, transform, occupy, and recycle Brecht’s 1955 Kriegsfibel. Their War Primer 2 montages images from the ‘war on terror’ with Brecht’s original photo-epigrams, directly into 100 copies of John Willett’s 1998 English edition literally inhabiting its pages. The limited edition artist book was published by Mack Books in 2011, and a free to download e-book version was published in 2012 by Mapp Editions. War Primer 2 has been exhibited extensively, most recently at MOMA, New York, and was (controversially) awarded the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2013. However, this paper focusses more on the transformative processes involved. War Primer 2 in fact is only a stage in their sequential reworking. Earlier versions of the Brecht project have been based on independent images entitled Poor Monuments and Portable Monuments, and the artists (themselves previously embedded war photographers) are developing an opera version of the work, starting with Eisler’s original settings of 15 of the Kriegsfibel, and incorporating moving images of contemporary terror (wikileaks, press videos, mobile phone footage of major events etc.) to create a powerful rethinking of Brecht for the contemporary age. The project was premiered in London 2013 (a taste is available on the web) and is in development. In January 2015 they developed a new take on the material at the Tate Modern - a performance involving procession, poetry and military drumming with army cadets. This paper explores the simultaneous appropriation and critique of war imagery in their work; the, perhaps problematic, aesthetic effect; and examines how the impetus of Brecht’s original is constantly reformulated, shifting genre and approach as it goes, as a powerful challenge to the politics of the contemporary image. But finally it attempts to tease out the ways in which the artists rethink, remember, inhabit and recycle Brecht.
Mit Eisler im Arbeitszimmer und Dessau in der Küche: Brechts “Wünschelrutenprinzip“ in der Musik
Mit seinem Recyceln ganz unterschiedlicher musikalischer Phänomene, Stile, Gattungen, Moden, Produktionsästhetiken – reichend von Bach, Mozart, Bänkelsang, Wandervogel, Kabarett, Operette, Jazz, Wagner, Busoni, Adorno, Schönberg oder Cage – schuf Brecht sich allmählich ein privates Werkarchiv stets wiederverwertbarer Muster für seine aktuellen Anforderungen als Lyriker, Dramatiker und Regisseur. Seine Arbeitsmethode einer weiträumigen, internationalen Suche nach Wiederverwertbarem ist das „Wünschelrutenprinzip“, wie es der finnische Komponist und Dirigent Simon Parmet treffend beschrieben hat. Es bedeutet ein vorurteilsfreies Sichten und Durchmustern ganz heterogener Musikarsenale nach deren Nützlichkeit für Brechts Texte.
Dabei geht es keineswegs nur um den Gebrauchswert eines bestimmtes Musikwerks oder eines Musikstils, einer Gattung, eines Instruments oder gar eines spezifischen Klangs: vielmehr greift Brecht auch auf hochkomplexe Produktionsästhetiken zurück – so auf Wagner, der ihn mit seinem Gesamtkunstwerk und der damit ausgelösten gesellschaftlichen Rezeption empfindlich provoziert. Kein anderer Komponist hat ihn so umfassend beeinflusst beim Aufbau seiner Gegenwelt: Brechts Theaterimperium, das er am Ende seines Lebens mit Helene Weigel realisieren kann, ist ohne Bayreuth nicht denkbar. Hier mischen sich kritisch aufgegriffene und umgedeutete Adaption mit Kulturerbe, mit Produktionsgeschichtlichem, multimedial Verwertbarem und Verkäuflichem zu einem neuen Zusammenhang, der die „Marke Brecht“ entschieden mitprägt. Gerade der Brecht besonders am Herzen liegende Musikbereich weist prominent auf die Methode des Recycelns, Aneignens, des in neue Kontexte Stellens, des Kenntlich- und Unkenntlichmachens hin. Inzwischen werden die „klassischen“ Songs seiner Komponisten erneut recycelt und als Hip-Hop, Jazz oder Rock und in den weltweiten Verwertungskreislauf rückgeführt.
Mein Vortrag soll sich mit Brechts ganz unterschiedlichen wie folgenreichen Methoden seines Recycelns innerhalb des Musikbereichs beschäftigen, die bei der eigenen Musik wie in der Zusammenarbeit mit Komponisten zur Wirkung kommen.
Brecht zum Gebrauch: Einige Thesen
Ich lege hier kurz einige Thesen zur Arbeitsweise Brechts und deren heutige Produktivität vor, die ich in einer konkreter aufgearbeiteten Form zur gemeinsamen Diskussion vorschlagen möchte.
Vielleicht liegt da ein möglicher Grund, warum eine ernste Auseinandersetzung mit Brechts Arbeit in Italien, aber nicht nur in Italien, immer noch ausbleibt, selbst wo die Auseinandersetzung mit seinem Werk scheinbar intensiv ist: aufgrund einer eingefleischten, selbstverständlichen und vielleicht nicht ebenso harmlosen Idee von Kunst und Dichtung, die Brecht praktisch und theoretisch radikal in Frage gestellt hat und die mit Zähnen und Nägeln, durch Forschungsstipendien, schöne, verschönende Übersetzungen und staatlich finanzierte Produktionen immer noch verteidigt und befördert wird.
Laut dieser Idee unterschiede sich Kunst von Arbeit und Technik und Wissenschaft eben dadurch, dass wer künstlerisch tut, nicht wirklich weiß, worum es geht, warum er es tut, wozu, und was für Folgen es haben kann. Brecht versucht zum Grunde des zeitgenössischen Theaters, der Literatur, der Kunst im allgemeinen, des Denkens, des Erkennens, des gesellschaftlichen Mitlebens zu gehen. Das ist, was Kunstamateuren, träumerische Kunstverbraucher und dichterische Denker ihm nicht verzeihen können: denn so gehe das Geheimnisvolle, das Nutzlose der Kunst, nämlich die Kunst selbst, zugrunde.
So wie diese Kunst ist die ganze Gesellschaft jetzt: Das scheint Brecht fast 35 Jahre früher als Guy Debord gewahr zu werden. Dazu war kein prophetisches Vermögen nötig. Denn zur Zeit Brechts hat unsere Zeit schon angefangen: Durch die technische Komplizierung des Geschehens auf jeder Ebene ist die wirkliche Tragweite der sozialen Phänomene schwer zu fassen und schwer zu widerstehen geworden. Unsere Produktionsmittel und unsere Produktionsverhältnisse, die Arbeitsteilung, die verallgemeinerte Warenform, die Delegierung auf die Technik und auf das Technische der Organisationsapparate in jedem Bereich, begünstigen einen abstrakten, ja unverantwortlichen Umgang mit allen Mitteln, selbst den nicht-technologischen. Alles Tun und Denken, alles Reden und Mitteilen, egal auf welchem Gebiet auch immer, kann sich selbst nicht mehr verantworten.
Da ist, wo Brecht eingreift, wo „ein Rest noch zu tun ist“: Wo gedacht und geschafft wird, sei es auch philosophisch gedacht und künstlerisch, literarisch geschafft wird, ist man noch nicht fertig. Ein Rest ist zu tun, und ein unentbehrlicher: es soll so etwas wie eine Materialprobe aufgestellt werden, so wie man Materialproben in der Technik aufstellt, schreibt Brecht einmal in einer Notiz, um die Festigkeitsgrenze von Metallen nachzuprüfen. Man soll nämlich die Bedingungen bereitstellen, unter welchen das Gedachte, das Geschriebene, das Gesagte, jeweils in seiner Tragweite und in seiner Unzulänglichkeit hervortreten kann.
Aus dieser Perspektive sind alle Werke unfertig, nicht nur diejenige, die fragmentarisch geblieben sind. Alle müssen jedes Mal bearbeitet werden, wo Bearbeitung nicht einfach die soundsovielte ästhetische Variation, oder eine Gelegenheit zum Selbstausdruck mehr ist: damit der Zusammenhang in dem sie gedacht, gelesen werden, in sie eingreift und damit sie ihrerseits in den Zusammenhang eingreifen können. Das hat Brecht aus dem alten, vortechnologischen, handwerklichen Mittel des Theaters gelernt und dies Wissen (nach dem Fatzer-Text) auch irgendwo anders angewendet, als wo es gefunden worden ist: Man muss sich an den Kontakt mit der jeweiligen Situation halten.
Wenn Denken und Erkennen in diesem „Eingriff“ und nicht in einer angemessenen Darstellung der Wirklichkeit ihren Schwerpunkt haben, müssen alle Denkformen und Produkte (Werke, Erkenntnisse, Wissenschaften, Techniken) auf die Probe der jeweiligen Situation gestellt werden und umgekehrt: ihre „Haltung“ zur Situation (denn auch Gedanken und Bilder und Texte „verhalten sich“) soll herausgearbeitet werden. Das verschiebt den Akzent von der Darstellung, sowohl in wissenschaftlichem wie im künstlerischen Sinne, auf einen Gebrauchswert der Darstellungen.
Wenn dieser Hinblick auf die Haltung des Geschriebenen, auf das Eingriffspotential fehlt, fehlt Brecht zufolge das wirklich Unentbehrliche: alles andere kann entbehrt werden, bis auf dies eine Element. Das wäre das echt künstlerische Moment oder das Moment, wo wirklich gedacht wird, nämlich wo nicht illusionistisch gekünstelt, wo nicht über die Situation derer hinaus gedacht wird, die solchen Künsten und Gedanken ausgesetzt sind.
Nicht alle können zum Künstler, Wissenschaftler oder Philosophen werden, aber jeder kann und muss dazu fähig werden, Werke und Wissen, Handlungen und Denkhaltungen in diesem Sinne zu testen. Dies technische unentbehrliche Moment kann erlernt, soll geübt werden und lässt sich nicht vereinzelt, auf eine repräsentative Weise hervorbringen: dafür ist eine kollektive Arbeit immer schon impliziert, dazu müssen möglichst viele fähig werden und möglichst oft muss das zustande gebracht werden, denn eingegriffen wird nicht einmal für alle.
McDowell, W. Stuart
Bards at the Gate
Shakespeare and Brecht have much in common. Poets, playwrights, producers of their plays, and, yes, political thinkers. On the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 1616, and the 60th anniversary of Brecht’s passing in 1956, I intend to consider Shakespeare’s Coriolanus on the stage in contrast with Brecht’s Coriolan. Several aspects will be considered. Does Brecht’s re-writing of Coriolanus effectively facilitate the inclusion of Verfremdung in the story-telling of the drama in performance; in contrast, how do Shakespeare’s dramatic techniques strengthen his own rewriting of history? In what ways did the extended, collective rehearsal process of the Berliner Ensemble and the virtual director-less productions of Shakespeare’s original Globe spring from the exigencies of each respective text? What can we learn about these two bards’ depictions of the eponymous character and the plebeians at the gates of Rome from the lavish BE production at the Theater am Schiffbauerdam vs. how we imagine the story might have been staged on Shakespeare’s bare, thrust stage? My paper draws upon my observations of rehearsals and performances of Coriolan at the BE in the 1960s including interviews I conducted with Manfred Wekwerth, Peter Kallisch, and Helene Weigel, and upon my experience with productions of Shakespeare’s and Brecht’s works as Artistic Director of the Riverside Shakespeare Company of New York City.
Dancing Feet, Metric Feet: Fred Astaire, Brecht and a thirties socio-cultural quickstep
This paper takes as its starting point a reference by Brecht in his essay Über Reimlose Lyrik mit Unregelmässigen Rhythmen to 'ein amerikanischer Unterhaltungsfilm' – in fact SHALL WE DANCE, though (deliberately?) unidentified by Brecht – in which a performance by Fred Astaire is cited as an instance of the links between jazz , the new sounds of the techno-mechanical era and their connection to irregular rhythms in poetry. While the essay itself dates from 1938, a year after the film's release, and was published in Moscow in the final edition of DAS WORT in 1939, the inclusion of a reference in the essay to jazz and American culture raises a number of intriguing questions – especially given the heated debate in Russia in the 1930s concerning jazz and its perceived links to 'formalism'.
The Antigonemodell 1948 and the Couragemodell 1949 trace Brecht’s theatrical reintroduction into post-war Europe after his years of exile. Brecht’s models fascinate because of their double performance: part on stage, part by means of the book. Using these two as key examples, this paper argues for the revaluation of the model book genre as an alternative kind of theatrical performance in print. The Modellbuch played a key role in the artistic practice of the Berliner Ensemble: compiling it was a main training task for Brecht’s assistant directors; sending it out to other theatres across Germany as a binding performance blue print a way for re-educating the theatrical community. The Modellbuch, I would like to argue, did not so much record and store a production as recycle, revision, and reframe the advent of performance itself. It modelled a theatrical utopia.
The Castrated Schoolmaster
The contribution raises the question why the planed Modellbuch on Brecht’s staging of the „Hofmeister“ (The Tutor) by Lenz has not been published despite the fact that pictures, commentary, protocols etc. had already been produced and five copies of a preliminary Modellbuch had even be given to theatres who were interested in copying the production of the Berliner Ensemble. As I will argue documents on the production process of the “Hofmeister” show that despite its great success Brecht himself considered the production to be a compromise and even a defeat. This new perspective is important in the context of the more general hypothesis that to Brecht himself everything he produced for the theatre after his emigration was by no means comparable to what he had achieved in the early 30’s, namely in his learning plays, in “Fatzer”, “Brotladen” and “Maßnahme”. From here a new reading of Brecht’s staging of “The Tutor” can be developed of which I will give a short outline in my lecture.
Neureuter, Hans Peter
Brecht als Übersetzer
Unser Umgang mit Brecht kann bereichert werden durch das Studium von Brechts Umgang mit der Tradition. Ihre Wiederverwendung ("Recycling") steht bei ihm bekanntlich im Spannungsfeld von Nutzung ihres Materialwerts für Zwecke der eigenen Gegenwart einerseits und bewahrender, anerkennender Interpretation andererseits. Während die erstere Haltung, der 'Gegenentwurf', die rüde Verwertung ("Umwandlung von Abfall") als Grundzug des Brecht-Theaters wohlbekannt ist, wird die letztere, das klar um die Integrität eines Ausgangstext bemühte Übersetzen, noch zu wenig wahrgenommen. Es ist im wesentlichen der seines Theater beraubte Exulant Brecht, der sich der Begegnung mit fremden Texten öffnet. Ein Funke eigenen Interesses läßt ihn dabei das Original auch in unbekannten Sprachen divinieren - und oft genauer als die vermittelnde Interlinearversion (erstmals von Tatlow an den Chinesischen Gedichten beobachtet). Nach einem kurzen Überblick über die in Frage kommenden Texte soll Brechts Praxis als Übersetzer beschrieben und reflektiert werden. Bisher vorgesehen sind die Gedichte Die kleinen Alten und Die Morgendämmerung von Baudelaire und Die Weidenpfeife der finnischen Dichterin Katri Vala (1901-1944).
Noah, Temitope Abisoye
Gerima’s Teza and Brecht’s “Mother Courage”: Politics of Motherhood at the War Front
Set during the 1970s through 1990s, Haile Gerima’s film Teza (2008) centers around the Ethiopian revolution. In perhaps one of the most poignant scenes of the film, a young boy, Worku, is tilling the fields in his village when he is ambushed by soldiers. His mother rushes to his aid and shields his body with hers while the soldiers kick and beat him mercilessly. They beat her as well, leaving her bleeding from the mouth as they carry her son away to fight in their war. Worku’s mother eventually searches for her son and finds him wounded and almost dead in a hospital. The main character of the film says that when he saw Worku’s mother return with her son’s mangled body, this reminded him of Brecht’s drama “Mother Courage.”
My paper compares and contrasts “Mother Courage” and Teza, focusing on these scenes between the soldiers, and the sons and their mothers. Worku is placed alongisde Swiss Cheese from “Mother Courage” and Worku’s mother is juxtaposed with Mother Courage herself, Anna Fierling. My paper demonstrates how these scenes of capture speak to Brecht’s and Gerima’s conceptions of war and the agency of the mother in contending with its sufferings.
Recycling Brecht, Recycling Shakespeare, and the Production of a New Tragic Paradigm
Brecht challenged theatrical norms throughout his career as playwright, theorist, and director. Aristotelian catharsis was to be replaced by critique as a result of distance and retrospective, a stance that critics have often perceived as a rejection of tragedy. This paper will show that instead of dismissing tragedy, Brecht interacts in unconventional ways with the genre, thus producing a new tragic paradigm through a combination of the Dionysian and critical distance. Brecht’s studies of Shakespeare were essential in this regard. In his reading of Hamlet, Brecht concludes that Shakespeare’s tragedy and Epic theatre are not mutually exclusive because the play entails the Dionysian cry for revenge, which is simultaneously defamiliarized by Hamlet’s doubt and hesitation. According to Brecht, it is the inherent “Verfremdung” in Hamlet that accounts for the play’s undiminished relevance. Brecht develops this into the theoretical claim that combining Dionysian and Epic theatre allows for a more complex form of historical analysis.
It is thus not by chance that Brecht turned to ancient tragedy after his first encounter with German culture upon his return from exile after World War II. Frustrated with the “innocent ignorance” of National Socialist crimes displayed by many Germans and the decline of artfulness in acting technique that he found in many theatres, Brecht turned to Antigone to reinvigorate his concept of Gestus and to tragedy to explore isolated aspects of unprecedented crimes. The new tragic paradigm that Brecht developed partially through his studies on Shakespeare turned into a complex response to the historical situation of Germany after National Socialism and the Holocaust.
Manifestations without the Manifesto? Bertolt Brecht and Edwards-MacLiammóir’s Dublin Gate Theatre
Scholars have identified the 1960s as a period in which Irish theatre began to be influenced by ‘Brechtian’ aesthetics. However, the important role of the Edwards-MacLiammóir company in that process remains unexplored. Director Hilton Edwards and designer Micheál MacLiammóir were the first to stage Brecht’s work in Ireland, producing Mother Courage in 1959 and Saint Joan of the Stockyards in 1961. This paper argues that their collaborations were characterised by an on-going and continually evolving quest for scenographic dramaturgies (in which they drew on a range of international influences), revealing that a later phase of that mission involved an engagement with the work of Brecht. Edwards’ use of what Richard Pine refers to as a ‘Neo-Elizabethan’ approach to staging Shakespeare illuminates this development of his stagecraft. Extending Pine’s discussion, I situate the work of the Edwards-MacLiammóir company in the context of today’s understandings of scenography, in which the collaborations of Brecht and Casper Neher have been positioned as seminal. I explore the extent to which Edwards and MacLiammóir incorporated ‘Brechtian’ aesthetics as stylistic devices or ‘intervention[s] in the process of performance’ (McKinney and Butterworth, The Cambridge Introduction to Scenography 44).
Brecht and Photography
This paper develops the discussion about the production and usage of Brecht’s Modelbooks. Alongside Theaterarbeit, the Modelbooks play an important role in Brecht’s productions in order to organise, keep the material preserved for him and future generations. This usage was deeply criticized by the time the models were published and this controversy is similarly of this paper interest. Here three Modelbooks are examined, both photographs and comments: Antigone Model 1948, Constructing a Role: Laughton’s Galileo and Courage Model 1949. Besides, a central text from Theaterarbeit: Does the Use of the Model Restrict Artistic Freedom? takes part in this discussion. From all Brecht’s collaborators Ruth Berlau had a key participation on the Modelbooks elaboration as a photographer. Although she has never been a professional photographer she was in charge of this task during many years. She photographed not only the presentations, but also the rehearsals, costumes, scenography elements, casting, everything related to Brecht’s work. In different opportunities, especially during exile, her photographs were the only way Brecht could keep contact with the productions he wasn’t able to be nearby. The debate about the model’s usage and the artistic freedom is the central point of this article.
A Translator’s Perspective on The Business Affairs of Mr Julius Caesar
Brecht’s novel The Business Affairs of Mr Julius Caesar, published in Germany 60 years ago, has just become available in translation. Two aspects of “recycling” the original as an English version may be of interest.
Firstly, why has Brecht’s innovative attempt to write a historical novel incorporating his theories and his long-standing fascination with Caesar attracted so little interest in English-speaking countries? Response has been confused and misleading, including claims that the novel attempts to modernize Roman life and politics, Esslin’s verdict in 1959 that it “fails to convince” and Perry Anderson’s comment in 2011 that the work allegorises Fascism as the rise of Julius Caesar. What attitudes are at the root of these essentially dismissive comments?
Secondly, can reflections on the act of translating the work promote a better understanding of it? Perhaps, rather than pretending that the act of translating is objective, seamless and perfect, it would be a more appropriate Brechtian approach to acknowledge and recycle some of the issues involved – with a view to enhancing our appreciation of the original.
The Director as Researcher: Bertolt Brecht
Written from a practice-based perspective, this paper discusses the adapted methodology of The Etheatre Project, under the umbrella of Bertolt Brecht’s political theatre theories and practices. Brecht serves here not only as a theoretical framework and aesthetics to support the political character of The Etheatre Project, and to produce critical spectatorship through distancing strategies, but also as the basis for a research method. In particular, I study the role of the director as researcher, focusing on the Brechtian function of a ‘researcher-director’. Brecht’s theatre was a laboratory, a space where experimentation and learning – in terms of young directors training - took place on the basis of collaboration rather than a realization process of the performed idea by a dictator-director completely in control over his stage (Weber and Munk, 1967–68; Barnett, 2013, p. 130). I used ethnographic methods to study audience behaviour during performances studied for the project, similarly to Brecht’s audience evaluation, and used documentation not only for recording but also for educational purposes, derived from Brecht’s use of recording methods, such as modellbücher and notate. This paper aims to restore Brecht as a researcher-director, recycling his directorial practices to build a practice-based model of performing arts research.
“Erinnert ihr euch der peinlichen Schädel des Sokrates und Verlaine?“: Bertolt Brecht’s Satyr Drama Baal
Proceeding from an investigation into the preface to the first version of Baal from 1918, Plato’s Symposium emerges as a key source, particularly the portrayal of the satyr-like Socrates who, carousing amongst his slumbering fellows, recommends an approach to drama neither exclusively tragic nor comic. Brecht’s understanding of Socrates is further mediated by a critical reading of Nietzsche’s relentlessly idiosyncratic and contradictory meditations upon Socrates, from his first work, Die Geburt der Tragödie, to his last, Götzendämmerung. Essentially, Nietzsche criticises the ironic dialectician Socrates as a decadent phenomenon in ancient Greek culture, the destroyer of tragedy as well as the corruptor of youth. Alluding copiously to Götzendämmerung, Brecht plays upon Nietzsche’s Socrates in his portrayal of the idol Baal, whom he endows with the skull of a criminal decadent, reminiscent, he claims in the preface, of both Socrates and of the poète maudit Verlaine. The paper explores the scale of the ironic dialectician Brecht’s early dramatic ambition in (i) the portrayal of the iconoclastic, hedonistic and corrupting poet-philosopher-beast Baal – unstageable and unpublishable in 1918 - who glories in instinctual bodily existence whilst a pathologically decadent Europe destroys itself in war; and (ii) a dramatic approach neither exclusively tragic nor comic, issuing in a serio-comic Brechtian everyday satyr drama, informed by irony, satire and related distancing techniques, not least parody of Plato’s parodic Symposium and of Nietzsche passim. The paper hence attempts to re-ground research into the portrayal of Baal and into the young Brecht’s dramatic concerns, showing that at the outset Brechtian non-Aristotelianism is informed by a quasi-Socratic scepticism towards the tragic mode, the pre-eminence of which Plato’s pupil Aristotle had re-asserted.
Celan als Rekonfigurierung Brechts
Wenig Zweifel besteht sowohl an Celans Rang als wohl bedeutendstem deutschsprachigem Lyriker der zweiten Hälfte des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts; wie auch daran, daß er sich von den Erfahrungen des deutschen Faschismus und der Shoah hergeschrieben hat. Nichtsdestotrotz ist es nicht üblich, den Hermetiker Celan in einem Atemzug mit dem operativen, publiken und kommunikativen Brecht zu nennen. Indes, die These des Vortrags wird sein, daß in vielerlei Hinsicht Celans poetisches Werk in aufschlußreicher Weise mit dem Brechtschen berührt. Dies fängt an mit dem betont “äonischen” Zeitempfinden der beiden Dichter, als Zeugen “dunkler Zeiten” und Beschwörer einer möglichen Wende der Zeiten; und zeigt sich dann weiterhin darin, daß angesichts annihilatorischer Gefahr beide sich zu einer Dichtung der Kreatur bekennen; daß beide, auf je verschiedene Weise, im Kontext des faschistischen Sprachmißbrauchs ihre Dichtung zum Medium eines fundamentalen Neuentwurfs der Sprache gemacht haben, daß sich – nicht zuletzt durch das Verfahren der Verfremdung und der exponierten Rolle des Schweigens - der traditionellen Poesie verweigert; und schließlich, daß dem Werk beider Dichter ein ausgesprochener Interpellationscharakter eigen ist. So sind beide Autoren Dichter der res publica eines potentiell exterminatorischen Weltzustands, gegen den die Dichtung - gerade als Dichtung - dann ihren lebenswahrenden Einspruch erhebt.
From Opera to Novel: Brecht’s Cross-Genre Recycling of the Threepenny Materia
Walter Benjamin opens his commentary on Brecht’s Threepenny Novel by insisting that the novel’s relationship to the Threepenny Opera be understood as a discontinuous rupture rather than some developmental aesthetic maturing of a work of art. Political events after the writing of the opera called for an aesthetic response that necessitated the re-casting of the Threepenny material in an epic satirical novel for that material to retain its currency. Therefore, Benjamin writes, little remains of the opera’s basic elements and plot. Taking Benjamin’s notion of a discontinuous rupture, this paper nevertheless argues that, rather than simply departing from the opera, the novel maintains a continued dialogue that both estranges and poignantly recalls the opera. This sustained cross-genre dialogue, the paper argues, is motivated and mediated not only by the intervening political rupture of Fascism to which Benjamin alludes, but also by Brecht’s continued refinement of his own aesthetic theory, notably through his dramatic subgenre of the Lehrstück, on which Brecht worked concurrently with the Threepenny Novel. The paper thus examines the dialectic constellation of Threepenny Opera, Lehrstück, and Threepenny Novel with particular view to Brecht’s application and indeed exploration of the V-Effekt and Gestus in each genre.
Canonizing Brecht in India: A Study of the Theatre of Fritz Bennewitz
This paper probes the crucial role of Fritz Bennewitz’s theatre in establishing Brechtian dramaturgy and aesthetics in North India in the 1970s. Bennewitz, the resident director at the Deutsches Nationaltheater in Weimar, German Democratic Republic (GDR) between 1960 and 1992, played an influential role in the transcultural dissemination of Brecht in India. First, I demonstrate that the sudden emergence of Bennewitz’s theatre promoting the aesthetics of Brecht, resulted from the cultural and transnationalist politics of the National School of Drama, a state governed institution in India, and the GDR. Secondly, I argue that Bennewitz was the first important German theatre director and teacher whose theatrical adaptations of Brecht and practices helped in culturally situating Brecht in India. Thus, his productions were more than “modelbuch” productions (based on the models offered by Brecht) as they were generally considered. Finally, I analyse Bennewitz’s approach to Brecht and contend that it marked the beginning of what Erika Fischer-Lichte calls as Verflechtungen von Theaterkulturen (Interweaving Performance Cultures), a liminal space that transcended the politics of intercultural theatre. Broadly, the paper problematizes the idea of Brecht in India and expands the purview of Brechtian scholarship by analysing the performance of Teen Take Ka Swang (The Three Penny Opera, 1970), the first production directed by Bennewitz in India.
Brecht’s Antigone and the Art of Recycling
Brecht’s comments on his adaptation of Antigone provide resources for a theory of cultural adaptation that at one and the same time converts what it views as old cultural material into something vibrant that is calibrated to modern needs and interests, and also serves to educate historical sense and aesthetic taste in such a way that moderns are better able to enjoy the original work. The modern adaptation both refashions the original work to make it more usable and also elucidates the original to make it, itself, more valuable. One might be tempted to call only the first part of this duality “recycling,” insofar as recycling converts the now-useless into something functional for modern needs. But Brecht provides resources for thinking about recycling-as-art, or art-as-recycling, in such a way that recycling can involve the creation of new functions while also helping us to see better or differently the original product’s own functions and beauties as well. Looking at Brecht’s Antigone is particularly rewarding for thinking about recycling and art because a similar conception plays out in the text itself. Creon has started a war for control of ore, a non-renewable resource that can adorn and enrich the city but that can also be consumed by being made into spears or lining individuals’ pockets. I explore the repeated references to ore and to Creon’s practices of consumption as opposed to possibilities of recycling and renewing suggested by Antigone, Tiresias, and Brecht himself, to articulate a theory of the act of recycling as a form of functional art.
Brecht’s Bard: Translating the Coriolanus
While Brecht regularly used translations when adapting plays by others or when producing own dramatic work, his Coriolanus is different in that it is the only work which Brecht is securely attested (by no less a source than Elisabeth Hauptmann) to have translated completely on his own, without assistance from any of his collaborators – even if the translation strategy evidently adopted by Brecht will turn out to be characteristically complex nonetheless. I will attempt to outline, within the time constraints of a conference paper, a sustained close analysis of Brecht’s translatorial practice here (which is also informed by concepts and strategies developed in the vibrant and comparatively new discipline of Translation Studies). Such an analysis of the Coriolanus seems both timely and promising. It will allow for a detailed, micro-level sense of ‘Brecht at work’, exposing how he received the one of the two foreign languages he was very competent in (the other being Latin) and how he crafted the most basic and minute building block of his art, language (as opposed to, for instance, larger building blocks like plot, Fabel, scenography and acting style). And it will demonstrate how his over-arching strategies of adaptation manifest themselves at the most concrete level of language, also bearing in mind that as (sole) translator Brecht had a level of control over the artefact he created which as director he could never hope to achieve (however much ‘in charge’ of the collaborative theatre work in rehearsal he may have been, especially late in his career at the Berliner Ensemble). In the specific context of this Recycling Brecht conference, I hope that this paper will also function as a complement of sorts to Mark Ravenhill’s workshop on the Coriolanus.
Recycling Brecht: David Greig’s The American Pilot and The Events
Beltolt Brecht’s influence has been meaningfully present throughout Greig’s career, for instance, from one of his earlier plays Europe (1994) to the recent The Events (2013). This paper aims to explore Greig’s theatre’s recycling of Brecht by reference to two of his plays, The American Pilot (2005) and The Events (2013), both directed by Ramin Gray. The first part of the paper will focus on Brecht’s significance to Greig’s work in general to then move on to those two particular plays by identifying some strategies which foreground such influence. These include the impact of the treatment of character and of the remaining of all actors on stage irrespective of whether they are ‘acting’ or not. In the second part of the paper, I will argue that the traits identified in the work under discussion are post-Brechtian (Barnett 2013) and that they can be tentatively located within the ‘post-Brechtian postdramatic’ (2013). According to David Barnett, “Brecht’s method […] is put under pressure by the conditions that brought about postdramatic theatre” (2013: 48), which leads him to articulate the notion ‘post-Brechtian performance’. As I hope to show, the fact that Greig’s theatre is not ‘postdramatic’ does not mean that dramatic theatre is exempt of being able to deconstruct representational practice (Tomlin 2013). The paper concludes that the potential repercussions of Brecht’s imprint on Greig’s work – through the alluded post-Brechtian mechanisms – provide a rich model for the fostering of such deconstruction.
The Invention of the Model
This paper will examine the early development of the Modellbuch, from Brecht's close relationship with Ruth Berlau (beginning during the years of the Danish exile) and the documentation of the Galileo production with Charles Laughton in Beverly Hills and New York (1947) which in turn led to the more extensive documentation of the production of Brecht's Antigone production in Chur (Switzerland) after returning to Europe. My paper will in particular pay attention to Berlau's photographic work and how it was integrated within the more comprehensive notion of the "model" and the publication of two editions of Antigonemodell 1948.
Trading Futures: The Fleischhacker Project
Brecht employs the terms epic and documentary more systematically in late 1926. They come to refer to a form of storytelling that makes the production of meaning observable and is in rupture with linear time. Stories unfold as if they had already happened; for example, they unfold from the perspective of what, with historical remove, will be seen to have been valid. Is it a coincidence that Brecht and Hauptmann create such modes of narration while they are investigating—with Dan Drew and Fleischhacker— futures trading, a form of speculation that imputes processes as running against a future that has already been anticipated? My talk will explore the interrelation between aesthetic form and object and, in particular, focus on Brecht’s and his collaborators’ experiments with narrative view points. Hauptmann claims that, in the attempt to capture in dramatic form such undramatic things like money or speculation, new aesthetic forms took shape. She kept secret perhaps that money also attempted to capture the drama.
Sahota, G. S.
Recycling the Folk and Refashioning the Public: Brechtian Epic Theater in Post-Independence India
In the 1970s, just as Brechtian theatre was increasingly appearing exhausted and clichéd on the stages of London, Berlin, New York and other metropolitan centres, it was “gaining new lease of life in the countries of the so-called Third World,” notes the Hindi critic Vasudha Dalmia. Influential members of the Indian theatre establishment, such as Ebrahim Alkazi, believed that Brecht had evolved “the loose epic style” through “an intensive study of the classical Indian, the Chinese and Japanese theatres.” So strong was the affinity felt between Brechtian form and the aspirations of postcolonial theatre that Habib Tanvir, the celebrated director and political activist, famously declared that “to be more Brechtian is to be more Indian.” Dalmia’s research retraces the asymmetry of power between rural and urban spheres, noting how the city used the “folk” to articulate national selfhood while rarely reflecting on how rural agents could benefit from urban institutions, forms, and resources. This presentation will elaborate with an analysis on how Brechtian theatre was transformed in unexpected ways as it was translated into Indian contexts, and, conversely, how an alternate, e.g. non-bourgeois/non-traditionalist – perhaps even non-nationalist – public sphere was faintly emerging over the '70s through this very figure of the “folk.” Over these years political theatre conjoined classical Sanskrit, vernacular, and Brechtian forms as it swept over India with the upsurge of Naxalite Maoism. This presentation will attempt to distinguish the modality of “public sphere” instantiated through the Indian recycling of Brecht by comparing it with the publics imagined in neo-traditionalist epics in Hindi and Urdu.
Brecht and Decision Science
Brecht strove to create a theatre in which audiences became active decision makers, able to draw on both their logical understanding and emotional reactions to the scenes he portrayed.
To this end he tried to minimise the Aristotelian function of empathy in his theatre (though with some provisos and exceptions). Much of his theatre practice was directed at enabling audiences to think clearly about the social structures which encouraged action which might appear surprising, as well as encouraging his audiences to be surprised at decisions they make without thinking.
In the last few years, a whole new discipline straddling psychology, economics and business studies has grown up, under the umbrella title "Decision Science". While Brecht would probably have had his quibbles with some of the assumptions of this discipline, he would certainly have studied its methodologies to better understand the process of encouraging useful judgement in the theatre.
Some of the central ideas of this discipline are contained in Daniel Kahneman's influential book Thinking Fast and Slow. Kahneman posits two systems of thinking: system one – a deeply seated set of reactions with which we make decisions almost instinctually; and system two – the logical system with which we think things through and calculate correct answers based on logic. Kahneman demonstrates, using evidence from many psychological experiments, how the automatic assumptions stemming from our “system one” thinking often lead us into unwise and illogical decisions which might have been avoided had we enabled our “system two” thinking. I would like to explore these ideas in relation to some of the strikingly analogous concepts contained both in Brecht's theoretical work and his dramaturgy. Clearly, Brecht did not intend to eliminate emotion from his theatre, but much of his attention is directed towards enabling his audiences to use their judgement in a constructive and logical way, without being overwhelmed by empathetic emotion. What do Kahneman's experiments add to our understanding of the Verfremdugseffekt?
Brecht's political heritage: Milo Rau's "International Institute of Political Murder"
Since the so called ethical turn, there are strong signs for a renewed interest in moral, social and political subjects in contemporary drama. In my paper, I am going to focus on the work of Swiss author, Milo Rau, who ranks as one of Brecht’s political heirs in German speaking theatre. With his theatre and film production company “International Institute of Political Murder" (IIPM, founded in 2007), he arouses worldwide attention for his political theatre projects. By inventing a dramatic version of the historical method of reenactment, he confronts the public with the re-production of famous political lawsuits, such as the trial against the Russian punk band “Pussy Riot” or the accusation, sentencing and execution of former Romanian dictator Ceausescu and his wife. In another project, Rau and his team, for example, reenacted the inflammatory radio shows which preceded the genocide in Ruanda.
In their radicality, spontaneity, interactivity and political topicality, Milo Rau’s performances apparently move away from traditional forms of documentary theatre. They do not assume a certain moral reality which is depicted mimetically, but create morality by performing it. As Milo Rau himself often refers to Brecht as one of his models, I am going to discuss the question if his work can be regarded as a succession of Brecht’s ideas, or if it should rather be considered as a radical change within the concepts of political theatre.
Quotes as commodities – The use of slogans in Bertolt Brecht’s and Kurt Weill’s Mahagonny
Bertolt Brecht’s and Kurt Weill’s opera Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny is based on a simple aesthetic principle that could be called ”art as quotation”. Not only is the libretto full of everyday clichés, traditional proverbs, literary allusions and sayings from the Bible, but the musical score is also loaded with references to classical German operas and modern American dance-music. The point of this quotation technique was not so much to recycle already used cultural material and somehow make it new. As Brecht explains in his Notes to Mahagonny, the overall aim with the opera was to investigate the ”culinary” aspect of art and to demonstrate that a work of art in capitalist society appears as a commodity. That raises the question of how a quotation is related to the commodity form. In my paper I will discuss this question not only by reading Mahagonny in the light of Marx’s theories of economic value and Walter Benjamin’s reflections on the age of mechanical reproduction, but also by placing the opera in its contemporary cultural context: the turbulent years of the Weimar republic.
Enzensberger contra Brecht: Herr Zetts kritische Auseinandersetzung mit dem Herrn Keuner
In diesem Referat geht es darum, Hans Magnus Enzensbergers Herrn Zetts Betrachtungen (2013) als eine kritische Auseinandersetzung mit Brechts Geschichten vom Herrn Keuner zu betrachten. Genauso wie Herr Keuner ist Herr Zett ein “Denkender“. Obwohl weder Brecht noch Herr Keuner dort erwähnt werden, setzt sich der Text kritisch mit den Ideen Brechts auseinander. Sowohl Herr Zett als auch Herr Keuner interessieren sich für die chinesische Philosophie; beide mögen Jahrestage und Geburtstagsfeier nicht (86). Herr Zett ist der Meinung, dass Zorn, Wut und Empörung “kostbare Ressourcen“ sind, die es zu schonen gelte (61). Das erinnert an Mutter Courages Feststellung, dass “eine kurze Wut“ zu nichts nutze ist. Aber Herr Zett stellt auch Brechtsche Begriffe in Frage, z. B. die Solidarität (56), den Kapitalismus (182) und den Minimalismus (52). Herr Zetts Verteidigung des Anachronismus (47) kann als Argument gegen Brechts Interesse an dem Fortschritt verstanden werden. Herr Zett spielt gern des Teufels Advokat: Er legt sogar ein gutes Wort für die Entfremdung ein (117), und er äußert sich positiv über die Figur des Spekulanten (183). Er äußert sich negativ über das linke Ressentiment (115) und über die politische Korrektheit (124). Der Vergleich zwischen Herrn Zett und Herrn Keuner wird zeigen, inwiefern Enzensberger seit den achtziger Jahren seinen Rückzug auf Positionen des libertären Konservatismus fortgesetzt hat.
Brecht in Contemporary German Theatre: Frank Castorf’s Productions of Brecht’s Plays from the Perspective of Postdramatic Theatre
Within contemporary German theatre, Frank Castorf is known as a leading deconstructive director, who breaks theatrical rules with his innovative and experimental method. Castorf is highly interested in staging classical plays by deconstructing them, with the aim not only of representing contemporary society, but also of criticizing it. In the last decade, Castorf has directed five of Bertolt Brecht’s plays: In the Jungle of Cities (2006), He Who Says Yes, He Who Says No (2007), The Measures Taken/Mauser (2008), Lehrstück (2010), and Baal (2015). In these productions, Castorf contributes to the evolution of Brechtian theatre within contemporary German theatre. Postdramatic theory suggests that postdramatic theatre is post-Brechtian and that, while manifested in the present, it evolves from the past. Castorf’s contemporary theatre practice exemplifies not only the propositions of postdramatic theatre, but also Brecht’s deconstructive perspective. This thesis analyzes the theatrical interplay between Brechtian theatre, postdramatic theatre, and Castorfian theatre.
Repeating ‘Pirate Jenny’: Re-cycled Performance as Radical Teaching Demonstration
For over twenty-five years I have employed a teaching strategy in the university classroom and rehearsal hall with repeated success: re-cycling a performance of Brecht and Weil’s “Pirate Jenny” as demonstration of Brecht’s Epic Theatre techniques. I first performed the song in the role of Polly Peachum for the Brecht Company’s production of The Threepenny Opera in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1989. Now a professor at a university in Chicago, I repeat my performance in the classroom to enact feminist pedagogical principles de-centering authority in the classroom and to demonstrate the radical power of Brecht’s performance style to engender social consciousness and promote change. Whether in introduction to theatre, a beginning acting class, an advanced directing class, or a rehearsal hall, this recycled performance has been the single most effective teaching practice I’ve employed in a quarter century teaching Brecht. Not only does it actively demonstrate Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt, disrupting classroom norms on multiple levels, but it also opens up relational dynamics between professor and students, revealing the performative aspects of all classroom exchanges. The exercise prompts increased awareness of personal/political intersections through active application of Brecht’s performance aesthetics, such as “commenting on.” The multiple acts of recycling at work—including Brecht’s use of John Gay’s ballad opera, translation, replication of my youthful performance, and variations in repetitions over years and courses—demonstrate the power of layered aesthetic and pedagogical strategies to inspire alert and empowered agents of social change. I propose to perform “Pirate Jenny” as part of my "presentation."
Mother Courage and her Versions
Bertolt Brecht’s Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder is considered to be one of the greatest German plays of the 20th century. In 2012, a version of the play was discovered that differs significantly from all others. This playbook was produced specially for a performance of Brecht’s play in Vienna 1946 at the Theater in der Josefstadt. This previously unknown version sheds new light on the play’s chequered history, a history that reflects the turmoil of the mid-20th century. In this paper, I explore the implications of this version for our understanding of Brecht’s intentions for Mother Courage. I examine why the play was rewritten, the singular nature of this version of the text and its brief production history. In addition to original analysis of the playbook itself (currently housed in the Brecht Archive), I draw on posters, photos, and reviews of the production that have only recently come to light to probe the following questions: What role did Brecht have in this little-known production? What were the director and or playwright hoping to achieve through the changes they made?
“From now on music had the characteristics of art“: composing Brecht after Brecht
It is common knowledge that The Threepenny Opera itself as well as several of its songs borrowing from poems of Villon are a product of Brecht’s excessively quoted “laxity in matters of intellectual property“, and his tendency to recycle. In turn Kurt Weill’s compositions occasionally originate from musical proposals of Brecht, who had himself adapted foreign material again. And eventually Brecht even wrote contrafactures based on Weill’s music, such as “The Ballad of the Reichstag Fire” in 1933 and “The new Canon Song” in 1946. Clearly the paths of recycling textual and musical ideas and sources are not always quite as spectacular and diverse even when Brecht is concerned. Nevertheless, this prominent example points towards a fascinating and rewarding examination of musical settings of Brecht’s texts – especially as the number of possible objects of study seems to be unlimited. Until today composers worldwide enjoy “recycling” Brecht’s words in a variety of ways, differing in choice of instrumentation as well as musical and textual genre, sometimes combining his writings with lyrics of other authors. The presentation will discuss the development of the composers’ manner of dealing with Brecht’s texts since his death. Considering his close collaboration with artists like Weill, Eisler and Dessau and the continued popularity of their works it is to be suspected that even in more recent settings traces of Brecht’s own musical aesthetics and methods might be found.
Recycling Mahagonny: Harry Smith’s Avant-garde Film Remake
On 20 March 1980 Harry Smith’s Mahagonny film opened at the screening auditorium of Anthology Film Archives located at 80 Wooster St. in Lower Manhattan. Less a screening than an underground performance by an avant-garde artist, the event was “staged” under Smith’s supervision with four 16mm projectors running simultaneously in random combinations he had designed in advance. Interchangeable gels were attached to the projectors and painted glass slides were supposed to be projected in order to frame the images on the four screens set up in a square grid configuration at the front of the cinema. Two projectionists oversaw 12 twenty-five minute rolls of 16mm film, while Smith himself manipulated a spotlight with green, red, and yellow color filters as well as a soundtape with the 1956 German-language recording of the entire 1930 Brecht/Weill opera Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny that was synchronized manually with the projected images. Like his earlier films, this was conceived as a trance-inducing sound-and-light show, but never before had Smith produced such a long and complicated live spectacle. Indeed, so convinced was he of the kinship between dreams and film that he once stated the ideal response of the viewer to this – his magnum opus – was to fall asleep. Symptomatically he also refused the offer of the Austrian avant-garde artist Peter Kubelka, who attended one of the screenings, to open his film in Vienna because, so Smith explained, people there would understand the German opera libretto and thus be distracted from the overall effect.
In this presentation I will consider the following questions: Who was Harry Smith? Why did he invest over ten years of his life in making this adaptation of the Brecht/Weill opera? What is the connection between this project, emerging from the beatnik scene of the American underground in the 1970s, and a quintessential work of oppositional art from the late years of Germany’s Weimar Republic?
The Actor’s Mr. K
A contemporary theatre discussion about construction of identities, representation and cognitive strategies can benefit from how Brecht challenges the view of the actor and the role as psychologically consistent identities. This view narrows down the actor’s expressivity and the performance’s sociological aspect. To offer an opposing standpoint I will recycle Brecht’s Mr. Keuner as an inspiring tool in actors’ education. I will argue in two steps that the revolutionary contribution to actors’ work given by Brecht consists of the combination of the necessity to take a stance together with the need to permanently change. In ’Weise am Weisen ist die Haltung’, Brecht articulates a pronounced desire for physical and cognitive consistency manifested in a Haltung. Second, in ’Massnahmen gegen die Gewalt’ Brecht shows how Man must be ever-changing and refrain from fixed and consistent personal traits in order to survive. The scenic objective transforms itself constantly and is the driving force of the actor’s intention. Thus, the challenge for the actor is not to be someone else, a character, nor to express herself, but to endure the constant change - to consider herself as a Nobody (Benjamin) in a consistent Haltung. The aim of the proposed reading of Brecht, based in practice, is to pinpoint the playful opportunities for change and disguise instead of the emphasis on fixed identity and insistence on self-expression in the actor’s work.
Brecht, Weill, and Hannah Arendt: Pamela Katz’s Book The Partnership in View of her Work for Film
My presentation will focus on Pamela Katz’s new book The Partnership: Brecht, Weill, Three Women, and Germany on the Brink (New York: Doubleday, 2015). It is a scholarly work by an artist on the tumultuous collaboration between Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. With a scholar’s eye for detail and a writer’s imagination, The Partnership reassesses the artistic personalities of Brecht, Weill, and the women who contributed to their collaboration: Lenya, Hauptmann, and Weigel. I will concentrate particularly on the image of Bertolt Brecht that she paints in this book. In the context of the IBS Symposium, my paper will fit into the theme of Brecht “the recycled”, and the focus on music theatre will contribute to the subject of “cross-genre” Brecht.
Pamela Katz is primarily an artist – a novelist and screenwriter. She wrote a novel on the life of Lotte Lenya, published in German by Aufbau Verlag under the title Die Seeräuberin (2001). Katz also collaborated with the director Margarethe von Trotta and co-wrote the screenplays for von Trotta's films Rosenstraße (2003) and Hannah Arendt (2012), starring Barbara Sukowa. Since her scripting of the recent film Hannah Arendt may have occurred during the time of her research for her book The Partnership, I will also highlight certain cinematographic aspects of Katz’s scholarly work on Brecht and Weill.
Zwischen Tradition und Experiment. Rezeption und Adaption von Brechts Stücken in Polen in den Jahren 1990 -2015
Die Art und Weise wie die polnischen Regisseure die Stücke von B. Brecht in den letzten fünfundzwanzig Jahren interpretiert und inszeniert haben, beweisen, dass die Rezipienten (gedacht seien hier Übersetzer der Texte, Regisseure und Zuschauer) die Theateraufführungen sehr unterschiedlich kategorisiert und bewertet haben. Wenn man die Rezeption als ein Prozess betrachtet, in dem es zur Spannung zwischen verschiedenen Akteuren, Individuen und Gruppen, Kritikern und kulturellen Institutionen kommt, so ist es als erstes zu betonen, dass jeder Rezeptionsakt einen bestimmten Wahrnehmungs- und Entschlüsselungscode impliziert. So hat auch der französische Soziologe Pierre Bourdieu diesen Prozess verstanden, indem er die Frage nach der Aneignungsweise von Kunst zur Debatte stellte.
Unter Heranziehung von Bourdieus Kategorien kann man am Beispiel der in Polen meistgespielten Stücke Brechts die Rezeptionsmechanismen und die ästhetischen Positionen der erwähnten Akteure rekonstruieren.
In den letzten fünfundzwanzig Jahren haben sich die Position des Regisseurs und die Rolle des Kritikers in der polnischen Kulturlandschaft geändert. In den Brecht-Aufführungen geht nun um szenische Projekte der Regisseure, die sich zwar an das elitäre Publikum richten und keine Bühnenerfolge sind, stellen jedoch das Aktuelle und Gegenwärtige an den Dramen heraus. Das Interesse an Brecht lässt nicht, auch wenn der Raum der Produktion der Massenware immer größer wird. Seine Stücke werden in das Repertoire der polnischen Theater gern aufgenommen und immer wieder gespielt. In den Jahren 2002-2014 hat man in großen Theatern Polens solche Stücke wie Baal, Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder, Die Dreigroschenoper, Der aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui u. a. inszeniert und mehrmals aufgeführt.
All That Brecht: Polish Quadruple Translation against the Legacy of Communism
In 2012, after almost a quarter century of silence, the first collection of Brecht’s poetry since the symbolic milestone of 1989 was published in Poland by the collaboration of four translators. Its title All That Brecht alluded to the poet’s corrupted image and ambivalent position in the Polish literary arena, which the translators aimed to revisit and revise. In the Communist era, Brecht’s texts were quite often manipulated by means of ideologically driven editorial practices. When placed in anthologies among authors both of West and East Germany, they could at the same time serve on the opposite sides of the barricades and represent two divergent political agendas. As a remedy to the poet’s ambiguous status, the translators constructed their book in a very meta-critical way: they presented their individual subjective readings of Brecht’s poetry, juxtaposed them next to each other within the book, and openly discussed their translation choices and editorial solutions.
The aim my paper will be to discuss two major aspects of this untypical project of translating Brecht. Firstly, I will present it against the background of Brecht’s reception in Communist Poland and suggest how the gesture of presenting multiple translations within one polyphonic book dissents from the previous tradition. Secondly, I will point to the way in which this book transposes Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt onto the act of translation itself.
"Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose": Brecht and the Syrian Refugee Crisis
Speakers at international conferences (such as UNHCR, GCIM, United Nations) about the global refugee crisis frequently use quotes from Brecht as an introduction to address what is happening now. Brecht's refugee experience that drove him ever further from his homeland decades ago seems to repeat itself in the fate of millions of people currently escaping from wars, terrorism, oppression, and hunger in many parts of the world. In Fluechtlingsgespräche, Ziffel's Lied, Die Ausnahme und die Regel and others, Brecht expresses his feelings and thoughts about the plight of refugees: their sense of loss and alienation, their need to survive in new and often hostile surroundings where familiar social and political markers that enable orientation are missing, the encounter with different languages are spoken making communication difficult. It is not surprising that reactions to and deliberations about current refugees and their difficulties to cope seem to "recycle" Brecht's thoughts on his own experience as a refugee from Nazi Germany.
Playing with Power: Historicizing Coriolanus
Lévi-Strauss spoke of mythemes, narrative segments in seemingly disparate myths, suggesting comparable thought processes across otherwise unrelated cultures. Brecht’s poetry, plays and even adapted plots contain examples of this phenomenon. Interpreting their differences, we historicize their function and confront ourselves.
‘Brecht’s Shakespeare/Shakespeare’s Brecht’
Brecht had a notoriously ambivalent attitude towards Shakespeare’s plays. On the one hand he dismissed them as ‘drama for cannibals’, which needed to be historicised, chopped up and rewritten if they were to have any value in the modern theatre. On the other hand, he understood that ‘the great realist’ could provide a model for his own ideas about a popular, progressive theatrical style. It’s telling that the last entry in his Work Journal questions whether a performance couldn’t be done ‘with [his] additions […] relying solely on good direction.’ Drawing both on my study of Brecht and my practical work as a theatre director, I will explore how Brecht read Shakespeare and how Shakespeare can help us read Brecht.
As well as literary and theatrical analysis, I’ll attempt a series of practical pointers to what a Brechtian approach to Shakespeare might look like in the modern world. This won’t be a standard academic approach, though it will have its roots in close study. As well as being a very experienced theatre director, I’ve written Methuen’s Guide to the Plays of Bertolt Brecht and Nick Hern Books’ Complete Brecht Toolkit. Margot Heinemann taught me and her work on Brecht informs some of my views.
“Die Authentizität des ersten Blicks auf ein Unbekanntes“ – Bertolt Brechts und Heiner Müllers Fatzer
Bertolt Brecht ist an Fatzer ‘gescheitert‘, der Text blieb Fragment, situiert zwischen Lehrstück und epischem Theater. Brecht nennt seinen Text “unmöglich“, auch weil er unauflösbar den radikalen Widerspruch von “Egoist“, “Unordnung“, “Unvernunft“ und “Lust“ einerseits und “Massemensch“, Mechanik und dem “Nützliche(n)“ andererseits präsentiert und zwar in einer neuartigen theatralen Konstellation von Dokument und Kommentar.
Der Fatzer-Text war mal ein ‘Geheimtipp‘ und galt als Gegenposition zu Brechts weltbekannten Theaterstücken; die Rezeption blieb lange sehr begrenzt und wiederholte die auffällige Spannung von Lehr- und ‘Schau-Stück‘. Zum einen gab und gibt es bis heute in der Bundesrepublik eine Vielzahl von Lehrstück-Versuchen mit Fatzer-Fragmenten, die sich mit dem Widerspruch von Asozialität und Sozialität auseinandersetzen. Zum anderen finden sich seit den 1970er Jahren einzelne Fatzer-Inszenierungen in Ost und West. Von besonderer Bedeutung für die Theater-Rezeption war jedoch Heiner Müller, der sich laut eigenen Angaben seit den 1950er Jahren intensiv mit Fatzer beschäftigte.
Brechts Fatzer hat großen Einfluss auf Müller, besonders die Form des Fragments veränderte seine Schreibweise. Es ist allerdings auffällig, dass gerade in Müllers Bühnenfassung Der Untergang des Egoisten Johann Fatzer aus dem rhizomatischen Material wieder eine Fabel rekonstruiert wird. Zudem sah Müller Fatzer nicht mehr – wie noch Walter Benjamin – als Keimzelle des “Revolutionärs“, sondern konzentrierte sich auf die Konstellation von Fatzer und Keuner, von Anarchie und Disziplin, als “Materialschlacht Brecht gegen Brecht“ und auf den “theologischen Glutkern des Terrorismus“.
Müllers Blick auf Fatzer hat aber auch den Brecht-Text ‘verändert‘: “Der Text ist präideologisch, die Sprache formuliert nicht Denkresultate, sondern skandiert den Denkprozeß. Er hat die Authentizität des ersten Blicks auf ein Unbekanntes, den Schrecken der ersten Erscheinung des Neuen.“ Mit Müller entwickelte sich eine neue Sichtweise und der Fatzer-Text erhielt eine neue Potentialität.
Grosse Chance—Vertan: Urban Space in DEFA Films
The planning and taking possession of urban spaces has been an ubiquitous theme in DEFA films, from restoring apartments, rebuilding shops and factories in Die Mörder sind unter uns (1946), Irgendwo in Berlin (1946), and Unser täglich Brot (1954) right after World War II, to the return to the idea of a community oriented architecture in one of the last DEFA films, Die Architekten (1990). The trauma of a missed chance, formulated as early as 1953 by Brecht in his Buckower Elegien, seems to haunt the DEFA film makers, or rather, they seem to attempt to keep alive the promise as well as its betrayal by returning again and again to what could have been and what was realized as real existing socialist urban space, which in the words of Heiner Müller amounted to ‘sleep lockers for workers.’
My paper investigates how urban social space is constructed in DEFA films from the pre-German Democratic Republic years 1946 – 1949 to the years of its winding down (Abwicklung) after the fall of the Wall. I argue that the DEFA directors use Brecht’s thoughts in his texts “Der Städtebauer” and “Inbesitznahme der grossen Metro durch die Moskauer Arbeiterschaft” and other texts on architecture as well as ex negativo “Grosse Zeit, vertan” to serve as the foil of an ideal process of urban planning that goes hand in hand with an unalienated “taking possession” (Inbesitznahme) of the urban space by its inhabitants. In their films, this ideal is put in contrast to the actual spaces that the East German citizens find in their cities. But the films also show how the individual re-appropriates these spaces in an attempt to recover a sense of unalienated urban living as Brecht had envisioned it, thus giving us hints of a new “socialist”, though utopian, identity. In this, my analysis follows the broad categories of Lefebre in The Production of Space as I show how the DEFA directors represent the perceived space of everyday life, the conceived space of the planning stages and the lived space that in my view always implies an attempt to make up for where reality falls short of the ideal of a community oriented architecture. This analysis is based on a stock of returning topoi in DEFA films: new construction vs. pre-World War II housing (e.g. in Paul und Paula), public spaces such as parks and playgrounds (e.g. in Jahrgang 45), “look-outs,” i.e. elevated spaces from which protagonists gain a bird’s eye view of their world (e.g. in Jadup und Boel and Und deine Liebe auch), space imbued with historic meaning such as the Buchenwald-Denkmal (e.g. in Denk bloss nicht ich heule), as well as the always implicit reference to the Wall that “contained” all space in East Germany.
“Hilary Mantel’s Brechtian (Re-)Vision of Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies”
In her profile of British author Hilary Mantel for The New Yorker in 2012, Larissa MacFarquhar describes Mantel’s work on her historical novel, A Place of Greater Safety (1992): “But while with facts she was cautious, with form she was experimental. She tried everything. She read a lot of plays, and she loved Brecht, so she thought maybe she could write a Brechtian novel. She liked writing dialogue, it turned out, and much of the novel came out in that form.” Even though dialogue may not be quite as dominant and the narrative form not quite as experimental in Mantel’s more recent Booker Prize-winning novels Wolf Hall (2009) and Bring Up the Bodies (2012), this paper will argue that these later works of fiction come even closer to the idea of a “Brechtian novel” because of the portrayal of a historical character that not only invites comparison to Brecht’s treatment of Galileo Galilei but also shares significant traits with other Brechtian figures such as Mother Courage and Keuner. Against the vilifying accounts of later Tudor historians, Mantel provides a revisionist narrative of Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power under Henry VIII that consistently emphasizes the contradictory aspects of Cromwell’s personality (as pragmatist, reformer, opportunist and humanist) and links them to the material conditions under which he operated. What distinguishes Cromwell from the other characters in Mantel’s narrative is his full cognizance not only of these conditions but also of the potential of a better future they entail. His gestus is that of the inscrutable “intervening thinker,” who observes carefully before enacting his next understated move. Even though this paper primarily focuses on Mantel’s novels, it will also take into account the recent stage adaptation (on which she collaborated) as well as the celebrated television adapation for the BBC (with Mark Rylance).
A Future for the Lehrstück? Andres Veiel’s Der Kick and the Recycling of Form.
This paper will examine Andres Veiel’s Der Kick (2004) as an attempt to re-define the function of the Lehrstück for the twenty-first century. Veiel subtitles Der Kick ‘Ein Lehrstück über Gewalt’, and the subject matter of Der Kick shares much with Brecht’s Lehrstücke: Veiel’s text collates documentary material from a trial in which two boys were tried for the murder of another in 2002. This paper explores how Veiel engages with Brecht’s Lehrstücke in both theory and praxis, while combining the Lehrstück with techniques learned from documentary theatre, in particular Peter Weiß’s Die Ermittlung (1965), and asks what remains of the original Brechtian Lehrstück in Veiel’s treatment. Der Kick demonstrates that the necessity of teaching dialectical thinking remains in addressing contemporary social problems; yet it redraws Brecht’s collapsing of the audience/actor divide in order to address contemporary articulations of the question of the relationship between the individual and the society in which s/he exists. I shall argue that Veiel’s treatment of the Lehrstück is a compelling example of a post-Brechtian approach to recycling the Lehrstück as a provocative theatrical form for the twenty-first century.
Brecht and the Arab Spring
Brecht’s well know poem: “Verändere die Welt, sie braucht es”, would be most relevant to the Arab Spring, even though Brecht’s dialectic teachings were not explicitly involved in the long needed cultural upheaval in the Arab World. Unlike what cognitively paved the way for the French Revolution, such as Diderot’s and D’Alembert’s Encyclopedie, which enabled a radical change of the prevailing world view and system of values in French society on the eve of the French Revolution, the recent Arab revolutions are not known to have been preceded by such a monumental enlightening work, with some exceptions though that I would come to name. Yet Brecht’s dialectic method would have been quite instrumental in helping out demystifying ideological illusions, and rationally sharpening initial intuitive claims of the revolutionary masses, thus not to fall prey to what has lead to a recycling of the social conditions which initially caused those revolutions to break out! In this paper I would deliver a tentative approach which would help recycling Brecht’s rational enlightenment in the context of the Arab Spring, that would shed light on so many frustrations of the majority of populations worldwide which unsurprisingly sympathized if not hailed the Arab Spring upheavals at its very outset.